A Look at TrueType Fonts and Apple

There are of course many different types of fonts that can be used in the worlds of offline and online publishing, but TrueType fonts remain among the most popular, versatile and above all useful fonts in the computer world.

The TrueType font is an outline font standard which was originally developed by Apple Computer back in the late 1980s. The original TrueType font was developed by Apple as a direct competitor of the Type 1 fonts developed by Adobe, and the primary advantage of these TrueType fonts were that they offered developers a great deal more control over the display of the fonts, down to a pixel level, than other types of fonts.

The TrueType fonts developed by Apple and used on Macintosh computers were drawn from hand designed font files which specified the location of individual pixels at various font sizes. If the user needed to see a different sized font, the font manager would find the closest match, then apply a scaling algorithm. This method worked fine for smaller font sizes, but at larger sizes the resulting fonts tended to become blocky.

The printer fonts used on the popular Apple Laser Writer printer, on the other hand, were based on the postscript type 1 outline, providing for an excellent quality output no matter what the font size. These fonts used the Adobe Type Manager software, which did a great job but was also fairly pricey. This Adobe product had become the de facto standard for the desktop publishing business, but Apple was looking for a similar system.

One problem Apple encountered was the fact that the type 1 fonts used by Adobe were encrypted, making it impossible for Apple to determine exactly how they worked. And since Adobe made a good percentage of its income through the licensing of its software, it was not about to simply give these secrets away.

Apple decided instead to write a whole new format, which was given the code name Bass, later known as Royal. This system continued to be developed and it was eventually released as TrueType in May of 1991, along with the Mac OS System 7. These fonts consisted of four families of Times New Roman, Courier, Helvetica and a handful of others. These new TrueType fonts replaced the bitmap fonts that previous versions of the Mac OS had used. Apple also provided a TrueType extension for its previous System Software 6 for backward compatibility.

One big problem with the TrueType system developed by Apple was that it was not able to use Type 1 fonts on the screen, and this meant that the system was not very useful to those who needed it most desktop publishing professionals. These professionals had already invested a great deal of money in their Type 1 fonts, and they were not interested in replacing these fonts. In addition, there were only a limited number of TrueType fonts available at the time, which further limited the commercial viability of the new technology.

In an effort to make the technology more user friendly, and to distance itself from Adobe, Apple licensed its new TrueType technology to Microsoft, getting in exchange a license for a postscript compatible printer driver developed by Microsoft. This driver was known as TrueImage, and Apple initially planned to use it in their line of laser printers.

Apple would later extend its TrueType technology with the release of TrueType GX in 1994. One of the most significant benefits of this new technology was known as font morphing, which allowed fonts to be easily changed from light to bold and from narrow to extended. The second major benefit was substitution, in which sequences of characters could be coded to different designs. To this day these advantages continue to be enjoyed by computer users everywhere, and today the technology is widely available on Microsoft products as well as Apple.