Frequently Asked Questions

Are Your Forms and Overlays Ready For 2021? 

Many of us will be glad to see the end of 2020, with its pandemic and economic hardships. But are you ready for 2021?

 

Do you know which forms or overlays you will have to change for the new year? There are always minor changes in the tax forms you need to send, but if you have contract workers, you should be aware that this year there is a different form for non-employee compensation (1099-NEC instead of 1099-M).

 

If you are in health care or insurance, there are new guidelines for CPT patient codes. If you have had office closures or management changes, you may also need to change the addresses or signatures on your year-end documents.

Question: What other files need to be updated when changes are made to a form or overlay?

 

Answer: It depends on the complexity of the updates. Following is a guide on the items to consider when updating assets such as overlays.

Unchanged Form Layout

If the layout of the form is not being changed, but the name of the form or overlay changes, then you need only change one of the following:

•     The AFP Form Definition;

•     The Xerox JSL;

•     Your composition system setting that calls the form or overlay and places it on the page.

Altered Form Layout

 If the layout of the form has changed, you will need to change one of the above options, plus the following:

•     The AFP Page Definition;

•     The template used by your composition system to place the data on the page.

 

New Form or Additional Information

If the new layout includes new information or design elements added on the form, in addition to the above options, or if it is a totally new form, you may need to:

•     Update the code that is creating your input data file to ensure you have all the data you need to add to the form;

•     You might also need to create new font files or images to support the additional data.

If you need help on forms or overlays, fonts, signatures, images, page definitions, or form definitions, schedule a consultation with Dr. FontZ using the button below.

Ask Dr. FontZ button.png

Custom Fonts Versus Images

Question: Our company logo is contained in a custom font. We want to update to a color logo. How can we do that? Would using an image have been better than using a font?

Answer: Back in the early days of laser printing, Xerox charged extra for the “graphics handling” feature of their printers. Creative developers discovered that they could put parts of an image into characters of a custom font. Printing ABCD or XYZ in that custom font would produce the desired logo or signature image. Many of those fonts are still in use today.

But printing has advanced greatly. Today’s printers handle images just as easily as they do fonts. And in our multi-channel world, there are some drawbacks to using fonts for logos and signatures. Today’s documents don’t just get sent to the printer to be rendered on paper. Our documents also go to web browsers and cell phones.

 

Online devices generally use different font formats than the printer. Web browsers may use default fonts selected by the user. When a default font is used in place of a custom font, your logo or signature might just look like ABCD on the webpage. If you transform your print file to PDF for online viewing, you will need to convert those custom font characters to raster images, or get a matching TrueType or Type 1 font built, and embed it in the PDF file. When the PDF file is scaled, raster images may look fuzzy and white lines may appear between the characters.

 

Things get even trickier when you want to move to a color logo. If your logo uses block shapes and only 2 colors, you can have a font built where the shapes for one color are in different characters than the shapes for the other color. With careful attention to positioning, you can line up the characters to make your logo look correct. If your logo uses gradient colors or more than 2 colors, it is better to use a color image format, rather than try to do it with a font.

Well that is a lot of different items to look out for. If you need help building a custom TrueType or Type 1 font for your PDF documents, Dr. Fontz can help.

 

We can also build images in the formats you need.

Ask Dr. FontZ button.png

Mind Your Spacing – Out In The World and In Your Documents

Question:

Does the text on your document need some social distancing? A little more whitespace?

 

Answer:

Whitespace, or negative space, is essential to the readability of documents and affects the accuracy of software that adds tagging for accessibility by screen readers. Dr. Fontz discusses the importance of whitespace for readability and accessibility.

As I have been working from home, maintaining social distancing, and being mindful of the space around me, I have been working with a client whose document designers have not always been mindful of the whitespaces around the text in their documents. Whitespace, or negative space, is important to the readability of documents, and also affects the accuracy of software that adds tagging for accessibility by screen readers.

Whitespace is used to let the reader know what groups of text belong together. Providing extra spacing between lines makes it easier for users with cognitive disabilities to track to the next line and know when a paragraph has ended.

 

Whitespace, in the form of extra line spacing between paragraphs, allow the reader to know which lines belong with one paragraph, and which are the beginning of a new concept. It is much more useful than just indenting at the beginning of a paragraph. Using appropriate whitespace in your documents increases readability and comprehension by as much a 20%. The W3.org WCAG guidelines recommend lines spacing (leading) of 1.5 within a paragraph and at least 1.5 times that space between paragraphs.

 

This level of spacing not only makes it easier for the readers to understand, but it also helps automated accessibility tagging software be able to recognize and tag paragraphs and headings.

 

Whitespace is also critical for reading tables that do not use graphical lines for separation. For columns to be recognized, there needs to be a clear channel of whitespace between the columns from the top to the bottom of the table. Allowing text from one column to run all the way up to or even into the next column make the tables harder to read and harder to tag for accessibility.

 

When designing for accessibility, you should avoid using any subheadings within a table that span across multiple columns. Screen readers read the column header before reading the contents of each table cell. If the text in the first column extends into the second column, the header of the second column will be read out loud before the last few words.

 

Whitespace between table rows is also important, especially if each line of text is not a separate row of the table. If a transaction description uses multiple lines, but the numeric value(s) are on a single line, it is sometimes difficult to determine which text belongs together, especially when some columns may be empty.

 

Margins are also a key element of document design—good whitespace margins around a block of text force the eye to focus on the text. The text should not be allowed to bleed into any graphical elements on the page, as that reduces readability.

 

Mind your spacing on your documents and in your life. Everyone, please stay safe.

Printers are essential workers!

If you have questions or need help with spacing on your forms or building a logo, contact Dr. FontZ.

Ask Dr. FontZ button.png

Kerning, Tracking, and Leading Can Help Make Your Documents More Readable

Using kerning, tracking and leading together can allow designers to make documents easily readable. Wider spacing and extra white space can be used to emphasize small blocks of important text. A quick read on the features of each.

Question: 

What are kerning, tracking, and leading?

 

Answer: 

Kerning

Kerning refers to the spacing between letters. In most digital fonts, there is a small amount of white space around each character within a rectangular character cell.  In these fonts, characters will not touch or overlap with normal settings.

But when characters are slanted, like A, V, or W, or if they have extending arms or tails, like T, y or g, the default spacing may make them appear to have more space between them than what is between the boxier characters in the same word.

 

Kerning is a process where the spacing in between characters is adjusted to allow the two-character cells to overlap slightly so that the pair of letters can be more closely spaced, for a better appearance. 

 

Some TrueType and OpenType fonts have kerning tables built in to them, but older style AFP and Xerox fonts have to be adjusted manually by adding negative character spacing between the characters.

 

The characters in a company’s name are often kerned in building a visually appealing logo.

 

Tracking

Tracking is like kerning but refers to a more overall spacing between characters. This is often done to provide right-justification to a block of text. Spreading the distance between characters can provide emphasis to a phrase but be careful not to spread characters too far apart, as that can reduce readability.

 

Leading

Leading refers to the amount of space between lines of text and is normally measured from baseline to baseline. The term derives from the strips of lead that were put between lines of type blocks in the days of manual typesetting.

 

If there is no leading between lines of type, the ascenders from one line of text may touch the descenders from the line above, making the text hard to read. Too much space between lines can also reduce readability, as well as wasting space.

 

Recommended leading is usually 120% - 145% of the font size. So lines of text in a 10 point font should be spaced 12 – 14 points apart (or 5 to 6 lines per inch). Feathering or vertical adjustment can be used to increase or decrease the leading between lines of text so that a block of text reaches a desired height, such as ending exactly at the bottom of the page.

 

Using kerning, tracking and leading together can allow designers to make documents easily readable. Wider spacing and extra white space can be used to emphasize small blocks of important text. 

If you have questions or need help with spacing on your forms or building a logo, contact Dr. FontZ.

Ask Dr. FontZ button.png

Signatures on Documents – A Little Insight into How Best to Add Signatures to Your Documents

Question: 

Should I add signatures to my documents using custom fonts or images?

Answer:

Back in the 1970s, some models of laser printers did not support images, so developers started making custom fonts for signatures and logos. This is no longer necessary, as modern printers all support printing of images. If your end goal is just printing on paper, either will work fine.

If you decide to use custom fonts, you need to be aware if your printer and your document composition tools use different font formats.

 

Most Windows design tools use TrueType vector fonts to display your page layout. But your printer may require AFP, Xerox, PCL or PostScript fonts. In that case, when you have a TrueType font built, you should have the same person or company create the printer format at the same time so that they match and the same part of the signature or logo is in the same character in both the display and the printer fonts.

 

If your documents need to meet ADA requirements (or other disability requirements for your country), then you need to think of how that signature will be read out loud by a screen reader. If you use a signature font with the signature in “ABCD”, the screen reader will read it as “A B C D”, and the listener may be confused.

If you use an image format, when the document is made into accessible PDF, an alternate text description will be assigned to the image. The alternate text will be read by the screen reader, so it could read out “signature of John Smith” instead of just “ABCD”. Since failure to make your documents accessible to your customers can lead to fines, it is recommended to put signatures and logos into images.

 

If you need help with signature fonts or images, or with making your documents ADA or Section 508 compliant, contact Dr. FontZ at COPI.

Ask Dr. FontZ button.png

Signatures on Documents – A Little Insight into How Best to Add Signatures to Your Documents

Question: 

Should I add signatures to my documents using custom fonts or images?

Answer:

Back in the 1970s, some models of laser printers did not support images, so developers started making custom fonts for signatures and logos. This is no longer necessary, as modern printers all support printing of images. If your end goal is just printing on paper, either will work fine.

If you decide to use custom fonts, you need to be aware if your printer and your document composition tools use different font formats.

 

Most Windows design tools use TrueType vector fonts to display your page layout. But your printer may require AFP, Xerox, PCL or PostScript fonts. In that case, when you have a TrueType font built, you should have the same person or company create the printer format at the same time so that they match and the same part of the signature or logo is in the same character in both the display and the printer fonts.

 

If your documents need to meet ADA requirements (or other disability requirements for your country), then you need to think of how that signature will be read out loud by a screen reader. If you use a signature font with the signature in “ABCD”, the screen reader will read it as “A B C D”, and the listener may be confused.

If you use an image format, when the document is made into accessible PDF, an alternate text description will be assigned to the image. The alternate text will be read by the screen reader, so it could read out “signature of John Smith” instead of just “ABCD”. Since failure to make your documents accessible to your customers can lead to fines, it is recommended to put signatures and logos into images.

 

If you need help with signature fonts or images, or with making your documents ADA or Section 508 compliant, contact Dr. FontZ at COPI.

Ask Dr. FontZ button.png

Signatures on Documents – A Little Insight into How Best to Add Signatures to Your Documents

Question: 

Should I add signatures to my documents using custom fonts or images?

Answer:

Back in the 1970s, some models of laser printers did not support images, so developers started making custom fonts for signatures and logos. This is no longer necessary, as modern printers all support printing of images. If your end goal is just printing on paper, either will work fine.

If you decide to use custom fonts, you need to be aware if your printer and your document composition tools use different font formats.

 

Most Windows design tools use TrueType vector fonts to display your page layout. But your printer may require AFP, Xerox, PCL or PostScript fonts. In that case, when you have a TrueType font built, you should have the same person or company create the printer format at the same time so that they match and the same part of the signature or logo is in the same character in both the display and the printer fonts.

 

If your documents need to meet ADA requirements (or other disability requirements for your country), then you need to think of how that signature will be read out loud by a screen reader. If you use a signature font with the signature in “ABCD”, the screen reader will read it as “A B C D”, and the listener may be confused.

If you use an image format, when the document is made into accessible PDF, an alternate text description will be assigned to the image. The alternate text will be read by the screen reader, so it could read out “signature of John Smith” instead of just “ABCD”. Since failure to make your documents accessible to your customers can lead to fines, it is recommended to put signatures and logos into images.

 

If you need help with signature fonts or images, or with making your documents ADA or Section 508 compliant, contact Dr. FontZ at COPI.

Ask Dr. FontZ button.png

Our document designers are changing some of the company documents from landscape orientation to portrait. Are we going to need different versions of our fonts and images to manage the rotation of fonts and images?

Is There a Difference Between Fonts for Landscape and Portrait Documents?

Question: 

Our document designers our changing some of our documents from landscape orientation to portrait. Are we going to need different versions of our fonts and images?

 

Answer: 

The way the rotation of fonts and images are handled varies based on what printing format you are using.

 

In AFPDS, fonts can be rotated in ninety-degree increments. Text in AFP can be set from left-to-right, right-to-left, top-to-bottom, or bottom-to-top, and in 0, 90, 180 or 270 degree rotations. AFP page segment images can also be set in 0, 90, 180 or 270-degree rotations (portrait, landscape, inverse portrait, and inverse landscape). So the same AFP fonts and images can be used for both portrait and landscape documents.

 

If you are printing Xerox Metacode or DJDEs, you will need separate resources for portrait and landscape documents. Xerox was able to achieve faster printing speeds early on by requiring fonts and images to be created in the needed orientation so that rotation was not required. In the original installation (A03) fonts provided with Xerox 9700, the 6th letter of the font name indicates the rotation.

 

Fonts ending in D are in landscape orientation, fonts ending in E are portrait, fonts ending in F are inverse portrait and fonts ending in H are inverse landscape. Xerox IMGs and LGOs are also orientation specific.

 

You have much more flexibility if you are printing in PCL or PostScript. PCL and PostScript allow text to be printed at any angle, not just 0, 90, 180 or 270 degrees. The document composition software you use may limit your selection of angles. If you need to print AFP or Metacode documents with text at an angle, fonts can be built where each character is rotated to the desired angle. Each individual character in an angled font is then set at an appropriate x and y coordinate to allow the text to be read correctly.

If you would like to speak to someone to have some guidance in the best way to make an update or change a font on a document, reach out to us, we are here to help.

 

If you need help with fonts or other printing resources, contact COPI.

Ask Dr. FontZ button.png

Do You See What I See?  Do You See What I See? A Star, a Star...

Or Maybe Not? What Happens When Fonts Don't Match

Listening to Christmas music this week brought back a document design memory from years ago. I had spent an entire afternoon designing a document and was anxious to get my co-worker's opinion on it.

 

But when we viewed the document on his screen, it was a mess. I had used some fonts that were installed on my computer that he did not have installed on his. The default substitute fonts his computer chose did not have the same spacing as the fonts I had used.

When you send a document to a customer or to your print service provider, you usually don't know what fonts they have installed. You have an advantage if your document is in PDF, because PDF allows you to embed the fonts you have used. But this doesn't happen automatically.

 

If you are using a PDF print driver, edit the printer options and look at the Fonts options. You will have options as to whether you embed all fonts (which does make the PDF larger) or if you only embed selected fonts. You may also have the option to subset the embedded fonts so only the characters that are used are included, and not every character in the font. Be sure to check these options when creating PDF, or your customers may not see what you see.

 

When you use stars or other special symbol characters in your documents, you should be sure to always embed those fonts. Most fonts have an asterisk character (*) that many people call a star. But if you need a character that looks more like a standard five-pointed star and less like a snowflake, then you will probably use a symbolic font like Wingdings (on Windows) or Zapf Dingbats (on Macs or in PDF).

 

In Wingdings, a filled 5-pointed star is coded as Unicode F0AB, but in Zapf Dingbats the same star character is coded as Unicode 2605. In a custom font the star may be in almost any character position, even a value normally containing a letter. If you are designing accessible documents for screen readers, be sure to listen to how the screen reader voices the star - it may surprise you.

 

If you need help with custom fonts to add stars or other special characters to your documents, contact Dr. FontZ and COPI.

Ask Dr. FontZ button.png

“Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.

Maybe Christmas . . . perhaps . . .means a little bit more!” Dr. Seuss

Electronic Forms and Overlays – Source vs. Object 

 

A User Has Questions About Changing an Electronic Form When the Source Code is Not Available  

Question:

We need to make changes to some of our forms, but we don’t have the source code, just the object code.

 

Is there a way to go from object code back to source code? We don’t want to start from scratch, recoding the forms.

Answer:

Some form design software, including packages from Elixir and Papyrus, will let you import the object code into the designer. You normally need to do a pure binary download of the form file and you may need a specific file extension on the file. From the form design software, you can make the changes you need and save the results in either a source format or as a compiled object code. 

 

The automatically generated source code will be functional but may not be easy to read. It may set each word on the page in a separate set of instructions or it may use different units of measurement than what you are used to (inches, mm, or dots). You may want to edit it to make it more readable.

 

The machine-readable object code for a form in an AFP print environment is called an overlay. It can be decompiled into a human-readable format called Overlay Generation Language, or OGL. In a Xerox print environment, the compiled form is stored in an .FRM file. The form source is created in Xerox Form Source Language (FSL) or Host Forms Description Language (HFDL).

 

If you do not have form design software that can import the object code, and the volume of forms you need to change does not justify the cost and time of getting the software and doing it yourselves, COPI can help.  

 

COPI can decompile both AFP overlays and Xerox FRMs and provide you with the source code to make your own changes, or we can make the changes you need and provide you with the source code, the compiled object code, or both.

Let us know how we can assist you.

Ask Dr. FontZ button.png

As You Prepare for the New Decade Do Not Forget Your Forms Need Updating Too

As you prepare for your holiday festivities, have you realized that in less than 6 weeks we will be starting not only a new year but a new decade?

 

Soon we will be putting 2020 on our documents and forms. Have you made a list of all the forms you need to change?

Depending on what font you use for the year, the text spacing for 2020 may be wider than for 2019. If you are right justifying the date, you may need to move it a little to the left so that the alignment is correct for the new year.

 

Question:

Yearend is on its way and with it updates to production overlays. When changes are made to the overlay sometimes other files need to be updated too. So how do you know which ones?

Answer:

Following is a guide on the items to consider when updating assets such as overlays. It depends on the complexity of the updates to what additional assets will need to be changed.

 

Here are three examples:


Unchanged Form Layout

 

If the layout of the form is not being changed, then you need only change one of the following:

  • The AFP Form Definition;

  • The Xerox JSL;

  • Your composition system setting that calls the form or overlay and places it on the page.

 

Altered Form Layout

 

If the layout of the updated form has changed from the old layout, in addition to the above three options, you may also need to consider changing either of the following:

  • The AFP Page Definition;

  • The template used by your composition system to place the data on the page.

 

Added Form Information

 

If the new layout includes new information or design elements added on the form, in addition to the above options, you may need to:

  • Update the code that is creating your input data file to ensure you have all the data you need to add to the form;

  • You might also need to create new font files or images to support the additional data.

 

If we have given you more questions than answers reach out to Dr. FontZ and the COPI Team.

 

Happy Thanksgiving to our USA readers.

 

If you need help on forms or overlays, fonts, images, page definitions or form definitions, schedule a consultation with Dr. FontZ using the button below.

Ask Dr. FontZ button.png

Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

Alternate Text Challenges Explained 

In a previous article on the WCAG accessibility guidelines, I pointed out that to be accessible, a document must be perceivable, which means that a screen reader must be able to read or describe everything on the page out loud or via a braille device.

 

So how does this work?

If the text on your document uses standard ASCII/ANSI encoding, the screen reader just reads the text.

 

But sometimes companies build custom fonts by combining a few different characters from different fonts into an “all-in-one” font. The “all-in-one” font might contain 5 or 6 lowercase ‘e’s, so they will not all be encoded as the standard ASCII ‘e’ at hex ‘65’. A screen reader may not be able to read the text in this type of font correctly.

Other things you should watch out for are logos or signature fonts. In a signature font, a corporate officer’s signature may be rendered by typing “ABC” and another signature may be in characters “DEF”. Unless the alternate text is provided for the screen reader, the signature will be read as “ABC” and not as “John Smith”.

A fix for this challenge is to convert your signature fonts to images, then you can add appropriate alternate text.

 

The images in your document need to have alternate text descriptions that the screen reader can read out loud. There is a limit to the length of an alternate text description, approximately the length of a tweet. This works fine for “Company Logo”, “Signature of John Smith”, or “Picture of customer and agent shaking hands”.

 

But if your designers decided that the only way to fit your terms and conditions on the last page of your statement was to scan an image of the page and shrink it to fit, it will be difficult to make that page accessible. The amount of text included in the image is too much to include in an alternate text description. This can also happen with marketing images where the text is included as part of the image.

 

To solve the issue of having images of text instead of readable text, you need to create or acquire correctly sized fonts and use them instead of just images.

 

We are available to help, click the button below to reach out to Dr. FontZ.

Ask Dr. FontZ button.png

Transforming Documents to PDF – Challenges with Alignment

Question:

After we transformed our documents to PDF, text that should be right-justified is no longer lining up correctly. What causes this and how can we fix it?

Answer:

When you tell your composition system to right justify a block of text, it adds up the width of each character and space in the line of text and subtracts that from where you want the line to end to calculate where the line should begin.

 

Only the beginning position is stored in the composed document file. So, if the text string is 2 inches long and you want it to end at the right margin, 7.5 inches from the left edge of the page, then it will set a starting x position of 5.5 inches.

 

When your document is transformed to PDF, a True Type or Type 1 vector font will usually be used instead of the bitmapped printer font. The characters in the PDF font may be slightly wider or slightly narrower than the characters in the bitmapped font, so the same text string may be slightly longer or shorter than in the original.

 

The text string will still start at the same x position but may not end up in the same place on the right.

 

The Fix:

The way to fix this is to use a font in your PDF that has been tuned so that the character widths are exactly equivalent to the character widths in your bitmapped fonts.

 

To do this the m values of the vector font need to be a consistent multiple of the number of dots in the bitmapped character.

 

Contact COPI if you need additional help in getting fonts with matching character widths.

Ask Dr. FontZ button.png

Audio Books - How Do Your Documents Sound?

Many of our readers listen to audiobooks during their commutes, but have you ever listened to your documents? You might be surprised by what you hear.

If a document has not been tagged for accessibility, the screen reader will attempt to read the words on the page from top-to-bottom and left-to-right. If the text is in 2 columns, the reader will read the first line of the first column, then the first line of the second column, then return to the left to read the second line of the first column. Think what your stories would sound like if an audiobook did that - very confusing!

Your company logo and any other images on the page will be ignored if they do not have alternate text tags. A white paper will leave the listener hanging if it just says “sponsored by” and then stops as the sponsors’ logos are ignored.

 

If you used underscores to draw lines on the page, the reader will read them as “underscore, underscore, underscore, underscore, underscore, underscore” and so on. It might repeat “underscore” 20 or 30 times for a signature line, or as many as 80 or 100 times if the line goes all the way across the page. To avoid this, you need to draw lines with the vector or graphics functions of your composition system, not the underscore character on your keyboard.

 

Be careful of what characters you choose for bulleted lists. If you use a lowercase “o” instead of an open bullet character the screen reader will voice the “o” as “oh!” before reading each item in the list – “Oh, Call us at …, Oh, Email us at …, Oh, Contact us …” and so on. Standard bullet characters are not voiced.

 

You may also need alternate text tags if you use initials that contain the same characters as a standard abbreviation. I once listened to a brokerage statement where the screen reader read “ML Retirement Fund” as “Milliliter Retirement Fund”. I don’t think the fund managers would be happy with that reading.

 

Do your documents start their lives on old mainframe programs? On early line printers (single font impact printers), programs often printed the same text twice to get the bold print. As these jobs moved to page printers, the double printing is not visible, so the underlying code may not ever have been changed. But the screen reader will read each word twice if it is in the code twice.

 

We are always available if you need help making your accessible documents be read properly by screen readers, contact COPI.

Ask Dr. FontZ button.png

Three Sides of Disaster Recovery –

Physical, Equipment, Personnel

This week the United States has been beset with tragedies. Our hearts and prayers go out to the families that have been affected by these incidents.

But my thoughts also go out to the employers of those affected. Disaster plans are critical for the continuation of a business after a crisis. We need to plan for physical disasters, like fires, floods, earthquakes or tornados. We also need to plan for equipment failures, like hard-drive crashes, hackers or printer failures. And last, but not least, we need to plan for personnel failures, like key employees being struck down by accidents or serious illness, or simply deciding to move on to other employment without notice.

When you made your disaster plan, did you think about what would happen if key personnel were unable to come to work? Do you even have a disaster plan? Many small companies do not have one.

 

Do you have a secondary site that can take over your print jobs in case of a physical disaster? Do they have all the needed resources available (image and font files, special paper stocks, formatting software)? Does the secondary site have the same models or brands of printers? If not, you may need to have fonts, forms, images and formatting files in alternate file formats.

 

Do you have back-up printers and servers in-house in case of equipment failure? Are the current versions of software and resource files installed on the back-up systems? Is your data being backed up to an alternate site on a regular basis? Does any critical company information reside only on a single employee laptop? If you don’t know, it is time to find out, before anything happens.

 

Do you have key employees who are the only ones who have “the magic touch” to get certain jobs to run? If so, it is time to get their methods documented so someone else can run the job if needed. Does EVERY employee have a back-up person who can take over if needed? If not, it is time for some cross-training.

 

If you need assistance to get any of your print resources made in alternate formats for your back-up site, please contact COPI. We will be happy to help. Stay safe, everyone.

Ask Dr. FontZ button.png

Changes to Overlays Due to Legal Requirements

Question:

We need to make some changes to our forms overlays due to legal requirements. What other files will we need to change?

Answer:

 

The items to consider when updating assets such as forms overlays depend on the complexity of the updates to each form. Here are three examples:


Unchanged Form Layout

 

If the layout of the form is not being changed, then you need only change one of the following:

  • The AFP Form Definition;

  • The Xerox JSL;

  • Your composition system setting that calls the form or overlay and places it on the page.

 

Altered Form Layout

 

If the layout of the updated form has changed from the old layout, in addition to the above three options, you may also need to consider changing either of the following:

  • The AFP Page Definition;

  • The template used by your composition system to place the data on the page.

 

Added Form Information

 

If the new layout includes new information or design elements added on the form, in addition to the above options, you may need to:

  • Update the code that is creating your input data file to ensure you have all the data you need to add to the form;

  • You might also need to create new font files or images to support the additional data.

 

If you need help on forms or overlays, fonts, images, page definitions or form definitions, schedule a consultation with Dr. FontZ using the button below.

Ask Dr. FontZ button.png

Flashing Lights and Color Contrast RegulatingWeb Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG)

Happy belated Independence Day to our readers in the USA and a belated Happy Canada Day to our neighbors to the north.

 

When you saw the holiday fireworks, were you tempted to add video fireworks to your documents or websites?

Be careful – flashing lights can trigger seizures in some people with epilepsy or other seizure disorders. Flashing lights can be a violation of laws regulating accessibility.

 

How about using red, white and blue to show your patronage?

 

Per WCAG 2.0, the minimum contrast ratio for text smaller than 18 point normal or 14 point bold is 4.5:1 for the AA guidelines or 7:1 for the AAA guidelines. The contrast helps people with limited vision separate the text from the background.

 

Pure red (RGB FF 00 00) on pure white is only a contrast ratio of 4:1. To get an appropriate level of contrast you need to use a slightly darker shade of red, RGB EF 00 00 for AA compliance or RGB B5 00 00 for AAA compliance.

 

You will do better with blue. Pure blue, RGB 00 00 FF, on pure white, RGB FF FF FF, has a contrast ratio of 8.59:1. 

 

Stay in compliance by checking the contrast ratios of your chosen foreground background colors at https://webaim.org/resources/contrastchecker/.

 

Contact Dr. Fontz if you need help making your documents accessible, or with fonts, forms or images.

Ask Dr. FontZ button.png

Rectangle Boxes Printing Where Blanks Should Be

Question:

Why do I sometimes see open rectangles printed on a page when I use a certain font? My logo is printing fine, but I am also seeing the rectangles printed which I do not want on my output.

Dr. FontZ:

Rectangles are often used when the data contains text in characters that are not defined in the font. TrueType (Windows) and Type 1 (PostScript) fonts usually have a character called ‘notdef’ that is used for any letter or symbol that is not otherwise defined in the font.

Sometimes the ‘notdef character is defined to just leave a space, but often it is defined to print an open rectangle. If you are using a signature or logo font, it may only have a few characters defined, like A, B, and C, or 0 and 1. If your signature is in ‘ABC’ and you type ‘abc’, you may see 3 rectangles instead of the signature. When you have a signature font made, you should always define what characters in the font you want to use for the signature. That way you shouldn't be using any undefined characters.

If you have questions on this topic or other font or overlay topics

Ask Dr. FontZ button.png

What is WCAG and Why Should I care?

WCAG stands for Web Content Accessibility Guidelines. WCAG was developed by the international World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) and is included in the laws regarding document and website accessibility around the world, including the USA and Canada.

Millions of people around the world, including many of your customers, suffer from poor vision or other impairments that make it difficult to read. Not making your documents and websites accessible is not only poor customer service, but it is also breaking the law and could lead to fines for your company.  So, what do you need to do?

There are 4 basic principles of the WCAG initiative. Documents should be perceivable, operable, understandable, and robust.

 

To be perceivable, text alternatives must be provided for image data, and content should be able to be presented in different ways (like large print or braille) without losing information or structure. The user also should be easily able to separate foreground and background (high contrast).

 

To be operable, the functionality must be available from the keyboard. (This applies mainly to websites.) It also means that navigation tools such as tabs and bookmarks are provided in accessible PDF documents.

 

To be understandable, unfamiliar words should be defined in a glossary or adjacent text, and acronyms or abbreviations need to be written out the first time they are used. The language used should be understandable for someone with a 9th-grade education.

 

Robust documents should be able to be interpreted reliably from a wide variety of devices, including screen readers and other assistive technologies, as well as tablets and mobile phones.

 

Keeping these principles in mind during the design of your documents can help your company save on expensive reengineering for accessible delivery or costly fines or lawsuits.

 

I will go more into the practical implementation of these principles in future columns. If you need help making your documents accessible, we are available to help. Click the button below.

Ask Dr. FontZ button.png

Designing Documents on iPad

Do you design documents on your iPad?

 

Or wish you could, but would like a better selection of fonts?

 

Good News:

The new Apple iPadOS will offer the ability to get custom fonts to use with your designs. 

This week, Apple announced that the new iPadOS will offer the ability to get custom fonts from the App Store to use with your designs.

 

They are also adding new gestural editing techniques.

 

In a coordinated announcement, Monotype announced that it will deliver a collection of fonts from its font library to iPad users. A font app developed by Monotype will be available in the Apple App Store later this year.

 

Users will be able to sync fonts they have already licensed from Monotype to their iPads.

 

If you need custom fonts for your mainframe or workstation applications, reach out to Dr. FontZ

Ask Dr. FontZ button.png

Redesign Requires a Larger Logo -

How to Create Without a Fuzzy Look

Question:

We redesigned our letterhead and made the logo bigger, but now it looks fuzzy. Why would this be?

Answer:

If your original logo was in a bitmap or raster format, extra dots need to be added to the image to make it larger.

 

Depending on how much bigger you make the image, software typically adds another line or column of dots every second, third or fourth row. This can cause curves or diagonal lines to look like stair-steps close up, or fuzzy at normal resolutions.

 

Dots will need to be added or removed around the edges of the design to make them smooth at the new size.

 

Fuzzy logos  will draw the ire of your company's brand police. Visit Dr. FontZ to sharpen your logo in whatever size(s) you may need by clicking the button below. 

Ask Dr. FontZ button.png

 Sans Serif Fonts for Large Print

Question: 

We are told that we must use Sans serif fonts on documents requiring large-print to support our company’s accessibility objectives. What is it about Sans serif fonts that drive this request?

Answer:

Serifs are flourishes like the little strokes or feet on the bottom of characters in fonts like Times Roman. Sans means without.

 

Sans serif refers to fonts without flourishes. Therefore, Sans serif fonts have characters with smooth or squared off ends. 

 

Many form designers prefer Sans serif because studies have shown that it is easier to read fonts that do not have extra flourishes.  

 

That easier-to-read factor is especially important for companies focused on meeting accessibility objectives for people with visual impairments.  

 

For your large print documents, choose sans serif fonts like Arial or Helvetica.  

 

If you need help with fonts or with creating large print or accessible PDF documents for your customers, contact COPI.

Ask Dr. FontZ button.png

 AFP – PageDefs, FormDefs and How They Work Together

Question: 

We need to change one of our AFP form overlays this year due to new legal requirements.

 

My developers tell me we also need to change the PageDef and FormDef for that job. I sent them what we had been using to print with, but they say they need the source, not the objects.

 

Can you explain what they want and why they need it?

Answer:

The FormDef specifies the name(s) of the overlay(s) to use, so it needs to be updated whenever there is a change to what overlay is being used. The PageDef controls the layout of the data on the page. If the change to the overlay is more than just changing a few words, you made need to change where the variable data is positioned to align with the new overlay by changing the PageDef.

AFP Page and Form Definitions are created in a format called PPFA (Page Printer Formatting Aid) script. These human-readable files are called the source. For efficiency, these scripts are compiled into machine code that is used when you run the job.

The machine code is called the object. It is very difficult to make changes in machine code, which is why your developers are requesting the source code. Because the source code is in a human-readable script, it is easier to make the changes to the script, then compile the new scripts to get the new PageDef and FormDef objects.

 

If you need to make changes to your AFP PageDefs, FormDefs or Overlays, contact COPI. We can even take your object code files and create the source code that your developer has requested. Click the button and reach out to us.

Ask Dr. FontZ button.png

 Fonts 101 – Bitmap vs. Outline Fonts

A subscriber wants to know why some of the fonts look fuzzy in her PDF documents.

Question:

When I look at my document in PDF, some of the fonts look fuzzy, while others are smooth. If I zoom in, the edges on the fuzzy fonts look like stairs. What causes this?

Answer:

There are 2 different ways fonts get made – bitmaps and outlines. In bitmap (or raster) fonts, the characters are created with black and white dots or pixels, like coloring in the squares on a piece of graph paper to make a shape. Bitmap fonts are usually designed for a particular resolution and look fine when printed at that resolution. On the screen, the fonts may get scaled, which causes them to look fuzzy or jagged.

Outline (or vector) fonts are made of instructions that define lines around the outside of the characters, and the printer or the display device fills in the middle. These outline can get stretched to different sizes and still have smooth edges.

To avoid fuzzy fonts in your PDF documents, you should try to always use outline fonts. If you need help converting your bitmap fonts into outline fonts, ask Dr. FontZ.

Ask Dr. FontZ button.png

Character Sets, Code Pages and Coded Fonts Explained

Question:

Our print shop says we need 3 files for an AFP font – a character set, a code page, and a coded font. Can you explain why?

Answer:

Traditional AFP fonts do require 3 files, as they told you.

The character set file contains the shapes for all the letters in the font. If the character set name starts with “C0”, then the file contains bitmaps for the characters in a particular point size. If the name starts with “CZ” then it contains the scalable outlines for each character. The character set may contain characters for multiple languages. Since there may be more than 256 characters, each character is labeled with a glyph character identifier or GCID. The GCIDs are usually the same across multiple typefaces, so a capital “A” is usually “LA020000” in both Helvetica and Times Roman.

The code page file usually has a name that starts with “T1”. The code page defines which character or GCID is used for each hex value in your input file. This is also called the encoding. If your input file is in ASCII, then you would need to use a code page that says to use “LA020000” or capital A whenever it sees a hex ‘41’.  If your input was in EBCDIC from your mainframe, then you would use a different code page that associates a capital A with hex ‘C1’. Code pages are usually associated with different languages, so a code page for Spanish or German would contain accented characters that might not be included in an English code page, and code pages for Greek or Russian might include a totally different set of characters.

The coded font is a very small file that contains the name of a character set and a code page. This lets you specify both aspects of the font with a single filename. The coded font file has a name that starts with “X0” for bitmapped fonts or “XZ” for outline fonts. One coded font file can specify to use a 10 point Helvetica character set with an ASCII French code page, while another one specifies to use a 12 point Times Roman character set with an EBCDIC English code page.

Need assistance - Contact COPI for help with AFP character sets, code pages, or coded fonts.

Ask Dr. FontZ button.png

Character Sets, Code Pages and Coded Fonts Explained

Answer:

In an AFP print environment, the Page Definition and Form Definition files control how the text data is laid out on the page and what paper should be used. 

 

The PageDef defines a data map that tells the printer where to place the text on the page. It sets what font(s) to use and what direction the text should go in.  The text data could be laid out into particular boxes on a pre-printed form or into the layout of a letter on blank paper. The PageDef can even look at special characters in your data to change the layout from page to page.

Ask Dr. FontZ button.png

Question:

I was told that I would need a PageDef and FormDef to print my data on our AFP printer.

What are they?

The FormDef defines printing parameters, like what size paper should be used, what tray to pull the paper from, and whether you are printing simplex or duplex.  It can control if you want to print multiple logical pages on one physical sheet of paper or if you need to add static text, lines or images with an AFP overlay.

 

Contact COPI if you need help creating or updating your page and form definition files.

Signature: What Is Needed to Have a Signature Digitized​

Question:

I have IBM and Ricoh AFP printers and I need to get some signatures digitized. What information do I need to send you?

 

Dr. FontZ:

For digitized signatures, logos, and graphics we need the following:

  • Type of printer/software you are using;

  • Whether you want page segments (Image – S1…) or a font character sets (C0…);

  • How tall do you want the signature to be when it prints;

  • Have the signature person sign their name 3 times with black ink on a white paper;

  • Put an “X” next to the best signature and email it to ADMIN@PrintSupport-COPI.com

Logo to Mainframe Page Segments (PSegs)

Question:

We are in the process of a major corporate rebranding, and our company logo is being revised. Can we provide an existing mainframe page segment (PSeg) and have your font specialists match the graphic size, placement and surrounding white space of the new logo to the old logo?

 

Dr FontZ:

This depends on the proportions of the logos. If the old logo is square or squar-ish and the new logo is an elongated rectangle (or vice-versa), then our team could probably match the height or width, but not both. It would be best if you could give our team the exact dimensions of what you want generated, with a copy of the old page segment as a reference.

Logo: Black and White and Color Logo

Question: Can you digitize my color logo as both black & white and in color?

Dr. FontZ: If you want the logo digitized as a graphic: All that is needed is a high-quality color print out of the logo.

 

If you want the logo digitized as font: That requires more definition of the application and the characters desired. Call us to schedule a project review call.

 Font:  Size Specifications​

Question:

I have fonts I need to be converted to TrueType fonts and I need them to be a specific point size. Can this be done?

 

Dr. FontZ:

Yes, it can be done. Once the font is converted to TrueType format it is scalable to whatever size you want.

Signature Font in 240dpi AFP Format

Question:

Can you create an AFP 240 dpi signature and include the order (Font Identifier, Code Page and Coded Font) in which the font is to be? 

 

Dr FontZ:

For AFP applications the standard method is to create a signature as a Page Segment rather than as a font since PageSegs are easier for you to use.

 

However, if you need a coded font, our team can do provide the font with the code page, character set and coded font (font identifier). We need the height or point size for the desired font and whether the associated code page needs to be EBCDIC encoded.

 

Come back weekly to read our newest FAQs.

If you have any questions that we haven't answered, we would love to hear from you.

Please complete the contact us form below and a member of our team will be in touch.

FONTS transparent no tag.png
CODES transparent no tags.png
OVERLAYS transparent no tag.png

 Address: Houston, TX

Telephone: 713-532-8638

Call Us at 713-532-8638

Or fill out the short form below with your inquiry

Business Hours:

Monday to Friday

8:30 AM to 5:00 PM CT

Contact Us