Improvements in web typography

Added on: Wednesday 15th July 2009

Up until now, if a web designer wanted to use a certain font on a website they either had to play safe and use something like Times New Roman or use JavaScript and Flash to change the fonts when a page is loaded.

With version 3.5 of Firefox it now looks like these techniques are no longer required as all the major browsers now support font linking - a method of using fonts hosted on a web server.

This means that it is no longer the fonts on the users browser that determine how a website looks. Previously if the user didn't have the specified font on their computer then it would be substituted with a standard serif or sans serif font.

Some browsers have supported font linking for some time. (Oddly Internet Explorer was one of the first albeit requiring a proprietary format). The problem though has been one of copyright.

Most of the fonts you can download from the Internet have some form of licensing restriction so that you can't just load them on to your server and link to them.

I have just been alerted to the Open Font Library which has a selection of licence free fonts that can be downloaded and used for websites. They also encourage linking to the fonts on their site.

The good thing is that it just requires a declaration in the CSS file so many CMS systems can use this technique without any changes.

One problem I mentioned earlier is that with Internet Explorer you can only link to fonts that are in their proprietary EOT format.

However, Microsoft provides a free tool to convert True Type fonts (only works on Windows systems though)

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