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Chapter 3. Font Controls > Using Type on the Web

Using Type on the Web

Theoretically, you can use any font you want on the Web, but there are three distinctive ways to present text, each with its own strengths and weaknesses:

  • HTML text The text that you type in your HTML document acts, for the most part, like the text in a word processor. The advantages of HTML text are that it is easy to edit if changes are required, and it can adjust to the width of the screen on which it is being viewed. But HTML text has some severe limitations for design purposes.

    By and large, most of the textual control is left up to the visitor's browser, and you can't do things like run text vertically rather than horizontally. Even more stifling is the fact that you are limited to the fonts that are available on the visitor's machine (see "Using Browser-Safe Fonts" later in this chapter). Thus, if you have a specific font on your machine that you want to use, but the person viewing your site doesn't have that font on her machine, you are out of luck.

    CSS gives designers greater control of many common typographic features (such as line and word spacing), but even with CSS, HTML text is severely limited, particularly in the special-effects department. This is why many designers turn to text in graphics to get the look they want.

  • Graphic text Unlike HTML text, graphic text is a graphic (GIF or JPEG) that just happens to have text in it. This means that you can do anything you want in terms of how the text looks and can use any font you want, whether the site visitor has it on his machine or not.

    You also have all the limitations that go along with using graphics, such as larger file sizes (larger graphics mean slower download times) and the difficulty of editing graphic text. Graphics also take up a set amount of screen space and may be cut off if the visitor's screen is not large enough.

  • Vector text Vector text combines the best of both worlds. Like HTML text, it is easy to change and can position itself dynamically, depending on the screen size. But like graphic text, vector text allows you to apply special effects easily (on a slightly more limited scale), and you can use any font that you want.

    Currently, the only universal way to get vector text into a Web site is to use Macromedia's Flash plug-in. The World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) is working on standards that will allow browsers to display vector text (and graphics) just as they would HTML text.

    On the horizon is the Scalable Vector Graphics (SVG) format, which is now a standard from the W3C and is being pushed by its chief developer, Adobe Systems Inc. Although SVG allows the use of vector graphics integrated into HTML documents, like Flash, it relies on a browser plug-in to be displayed. But the Flash plug-in has been out for more than three years, so you can guess which format your users are most likely to be able to use.



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