Study of Free/Shareware Web Fonts
The Internet has a wide variety of websites that offer free/shareware fonts for users to download. These fonts are primarily in the TrueType® font format. The goal of this report was to analyze commonly available free/shareware fonts and to identify important characteristics that would be helpful in determining the quality or integrity of these fonts.
Ascender chose the website http://www.fontfreak.com because it has a collection of over 4700 TrueType fonts that can be downloaded by Macintosh®, Windows® and Linux® users. In addition to downloading individual fonts, this website has an option to download the entire collection in one .zip file for a fee of $6.95.
Of the entire collection of 4798 fonts that was downloaded there were some that could not be analyzed due to unknown technical issues with the fonts. Thus there were a total of 4572 TTF & OTF fonts that were successfully reviewed for this analysis. Ascender used a combination of proprietary and off-the-shelf font software tools to perform the tests. These software tools reference the Apple TrueType specification, the Microsoft version of TrueType specification and the OpenType font format specification.
Summary of Results
Out of the 4572 fonts tested, 4385 fonts (95.9%) failed one or more of the six tests that were performed. The individual test results are as follows:
- TrueType hinting tables - 8.9% failed (404 TrueType fonts had improper/incomplete tables*)
- Code Page 1252 character set - 80.8% failed (3696 fonts missing one or more characters)
- Mac Roman character set - 95.9% failed (4385 fonts missing one or more characters)
- Trademark string - 1.7% failed (78 fonts missing a trademark string)
- Copyright string - 68.9% failed (3152 fonts missing a copyright string)
- Embedding restriction - 30.3% failed (1386 fonts set to “Restricted” or improper fsType)
TrueType hinting table - This test checks for the presence of ‘fpgm’, ‘prep’, and ‘cvt’ tables. If all three tables are present the font passes, if any or all are missing the font fails this test. The consequence of a failure is that the font will be flagged as having errors in FontBook under Mac OS X 10.4. Fonts that have hinting information will have better screen quality in Windows than a font with no hinting information. *Note: 18 of the 4572 fonts were OpenType fonts with PostScript® outlines, leaving a total of 4554 TrueType fonts to be tested. Of this total, 404 TrueType fonts had improper or missing hinting tables.
Code Page 1252 character set - The Latin-1 character set is also referred to as Windows Code Page 1252. It covers all the popular languages of Western Europe including: Albanian, Catalan, Danish, Dutch, English, Faeroese, Finnish, French, German, Irish, Icelandic, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish. This test identifies fonts that do not contain the complete CP 1252 character set, and the specific missing characters.
Mac Roman character set - The Mac Roman character set is specific to the Mac OS environment for Western European languages. This test identifies fonts that do not contain the complete Mac Roman character set, and the specific missing characters.
Copyright string - This test checks for a valid copyright string. A blank string is typically found in a converted font, or when original identification is removed.
Trademark string - This test checks for a valid trademark string. A blank string is typically found in a converted font, or when original identification is removed.
Embedding restriction - TrueType fonts contain “embedding bits” (‘fsType’ field of the OS/2 table) that allow the type designer or font vendor to establish the font embedding licensing rights. There are four options for a type designer to choose from:
- “Print & Preview”
- “Restricted License”
This test identifies the embedding designation. A font with an improper fsType or set to “Restricted License” would fail this test, while “Print & Preview”, “Editable” or “Installable” would pass this test. This test is important because any font set to “Restricted License” embedding would be prohibited from being embedding into a document or a web page.
Complete Test Result Information
The specific test results are included in a PDF file available for free download. It is a 3.8 MB file which contains 1675 pages. Click here to download the complete report.
For more information or to comment on this study please contact us.
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