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Frequently Asked Questions

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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

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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.

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

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