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What's wrong with FONT FACE

FONT FACE is a very simple and easy to use extension to HTML. Unfortunately it's really too simple.

It is not an official HTML tag

Although the existence of FACE has been acknowledged by the W3C, it is not an official HTML attribute. For strictly conformist HTML coding the FONT tag should only be used with SIZE and COLOR attributes.

The following extract is taken from the HTML 3.2 Reference Specification [ext link] (WD - html32 - 960909).

Some user agents also support a FACE attribute which accepts a comma separated list of font names in order of preference. This is used to search for an installed font with the corresponding name.

Users can't override fonts specified using FONT FACE

Unlike other author-specified page attributes such as link color, text color and background color, the Web browsers that support FONT FACE don't let you switch it off (with the exception of Microsoft® Internet Explorer 3 for the Apple Macintosh). If one of the fonts listed is installed on the target computer it will be used to render text and there's nothing the user can do to stop it, except for physically removing that font from your system. If someone doesn't want Internet Explorer or Netscape users to read their pages they can specify <FONT FACE="Algerian, Playbill"> or something equally daft.

Control over font style and weight is difficult

Although it is possible to specify the exact font weight and style you want using FONT FACE, there is no built-in intelligence for the browser to pick the closest available match when the font you ask for is missing. The following example illustrates the problem:

<FONT FACE="Arial Black">
Some Text

If Arial Black is not installed on a reader's machine you would hope, perhaps, that Arial Bold would be used. Unfortunately in the absence of Arial Black the default font is used. To achieve the desired result you would need to use:

<FONT FACE="Arial Black, Arial Bold">
Some Text

This would work fine on browsers that support FONT FACE but for those that don't the text will be displayed in the regular weight of the user or browser's default font.

<FONT FACE="Arial Black, Arial">
<B>Some Text<B>

This doesn't offer a solution because if Arial Black is available the operating system will try to artificially embolden it very distorted letter shapes.

These problems and more are solved by Cascading Style Sheets

The W3C Cascading Styles Sheets standard, known by the acronym CSS, goes far beyond solving the problems of the FONT FACE tag. However, for the purpose of this guide, we've only concerned ourselves with the typographic features of the standard. The features of CSS are discussed fully in the following section, with the specific problems listed answered briefly below.

CSS level 1 is an official W3C working draft. The specification [ext link] is posted on the W3C site and anyone can contribute ideas or comments on it. It is not a standard imposed or controlled by Microsoft in any way.

CSS lets users set up their own personal style sheet of properties that can, if they wish, take precedence over those specified by a sites's designer. So if a designer decides that their site should be rendered in 6pt Algerian, the user can activate their personal style sheet that might specify 10pt Verdana, a much more legible typeface. Although the specification of personal style sheets is not fully supported by Microsoft Internet Explorer, readers can switch off CSS support if they wish.

Perhaps most importantly CSS gives the designer far more control over choice of typeface, font weight and syle. CSS has specific rules for substituting available fonts which Web site designers should be able to rely on.

this text [ext link] signifies an external link, please read our disclaimer.

this page was last updated 30 June 1997
© 1997 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved. Terms of use.
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