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What is OpenType?

OpenType is a font format developed jointly by Microsoft and Adobe as an extension of Apple's TrueType font format. The OpenType 1.0 font specification was released in 1997. Since that time Adobe and Microsoft have continued to work together updating and refining the specification. Several other companies, including Apple and Monotype, have also contributed to the specification over the years. Currently, every major font foundry and most minor ones are developing fonts in OpenType format.

OpenType provides several advantages over older font technologies:
  • Larger glyph limit (64k)
  • Cross-platform support (Win and Mac)
  • Support for both PostScript Type 1 or TrueType outlines
  • Support for advanced typographic features

OpenType, like TrueType, is based on Unicode, the system for encoding all of the world's writing systems. OpenType fonts can potentially contain many thousands of characters. This means that an OpenType font may contain multiple alphabets (such as Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic; or kanji, kana, and romaji for Japanese use). OpenType fonts can also include typographic refinements such as true small caps, different styles of figures, and extensive sets of ligatures and alternates, as well as complete sets of accented characters and diacritical marks. Different applications have differing levels of support for all the OpenType features.

OpenType version 1.4 was contributed to ISO and became the foundation for the development of ISO/IEC 14496-22 "Open Font Format" standard. The standard was published in 2007, and is now freely available for download from ITTF website. OpenType version 1.6 is identical to the “Final Draft International Standard” version of ISO/IEC 14496-22 FDIS “Open Font Format” (second edition).

To learn more about OpenType fonts, refer to the most recent version of the OpenType specification and our FAQ page.

Last updated 7 July 2009.


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