W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > www-style@w3.org > April 2006

Re: Downloadable fonts and image replacement

From: Philip TAYLOR <P.Taylor@Rhul.Ac.Uk>
Date: Tue, 25 Apr 2006 11:12:35 +0100
Message-ID: <444DF613.4010600@Rhul.Ac.Uk>
To: "Paul Nelson (ATC)" <paulnel@winse.microsoft.com>
CC: www-style@w3.org

Paul Nelson (ATC) wrote:

> HTML/CSS documents on the web today seem to contain a small usage of web 
> fonts. Web fonts are defined in CSS in the @font-face style. The process 
> allows web page designers to link font files to the web page to be 
> downloaded from a URL in the same way an image is downloaded. Because 
> the font is temporarily installed on the machine for the page use, it 
> allows the page to have dynamically rendered text as opposed to a static 
> bitmap. A limited number of web pages us the .EOT embedded font file 
> format (which does support subsetting of fonts).
> It would be helpful if people can provide answers and comments to the 
> following questions to help us understand the requirements for this area.
> 1. Is there a felt need on the part of web designers for a mechanism for 
> fonts to be linked to web pages for better rendering of text instead of 
> using static bitmaps?

Yes, absolutely.

> 2. If web fonts were widely supported by browsers, how often would you 
> create content that uses a font in this way?

98% of the time.

> 3. If you used @font-face for web pages you have created, how would you 
> use the font(s)?
> E.g. titles, body text, etc.

Titles have no font; they are metadata.  Typographic devices
(textual logos) will always require a font.  Other textual regions
may or may not, depending on the customer's specification for
the intended appearance.

> 4. Fonts, especially those supporting multiple languages or East Asian 
> languages can be quite large (long download time). If subsetting 
> (providing only the needed characters) is not available would you still 
> use the technology?

Yes, where applicable.  I cannot imagine a situation in which
I would expect a user to download a font containing more than
(say) 256 glyphs.

> 5. What would be your motivating factor for using a web font as opposed 
> to creating an image or using a font that the user already has on their 
> machine?

Images are irrelevant : text is text, images are images, and the
latter should never be used as a substitute for the former.
Being able to specify the exact font to be used not only allows
the designer/implementor to achieve closer control over the final
appearance of the page, it also allows him/her to make informed
decision about the space necessary for a given textual element
(e.g., text styled as a button).

> 6. What are the areas where font support in browsers needs improvement?

Stability and consistency : I endeavoured to use downloadable fonts
years ago (using, I think, a Bitstream tool for generating downloadable
fonts) and had to give up because they worked only in vanilla documents.
Once JavaScript and style-sheets were used, downloadable fonts caused
massive problems.  Browser designers will also need to address the
concerns of typographers, who will be very concerned if downloadable
versions of their fonts can be extracted and re-used for purposes
other than those intended.

Philip Taylor
Received on Tuesday, 25 April 2006 10:13:00 UTC

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