Naming and grouping for usability

litton's picture


I've searched everywhere for some good answers on why so many fonts are "badly" named. But found no good answers, so I hope the experts here can put some light on this issue :D

When using a font manager a lot of fonts do not group into families. This has been very annoying for me over the years. Thanks through this forum I found some help on how to change the names so the fonts show up in a more convenient way. I used TTX and the book O´Reilly - Fonts and Encodings as reference. It was tedious work, so I only changed some favorites. Yes DTL OTMaster would probably be a much faster way but it was to expensive.

I found out that many fonts are named [Name] [Weight] and some are even named [Name] [Weight] [Style] in every name ID filed. That results in very long lists (almost no grouping) in any font manager and a lot of clicking when using the fonts in for example InDesign. Instead of using the drop down for the font you are using you also have to jump between different sets of the same family.

I wonder why are so many fonts named in this way?
A result of automated converting?
Why not just name them [Name] and then style, weight, etc under the designated
ID field?
For backward compatibility?

This is very annoying to me, non logic, cluttering, not following technical design standards and resulting in more work when using them.

Nick Shinn's picture

The reason for including the style in the font name field is to ensure consistency of name, and correct appearance of the font, between different applications. Otherwise, there are too many different interpretations of the many font name fields.

This problem is fundamental to digital fonts, enshrined in Microsoft's original sin of defining a typeface family as four styles only.

Té Rowan's picture

s/digital fonts/Microsoft's TrueType/

litton's picture

Thanks for your quick replys.

Amazing that Microsoft has messed up even this.
When will the digital world be healed?

How do you deal with the your long font list (that could be shorter if everything worked)?
Just live with it or do you have most fonts deactivated?

John Hudson's picture

Contemporary fonts contain several different name sets that are compatible with different versions of various software. The Windows 4-style family is only one of those name sets, it just happens to have been around longer than most of the other name sets, but really there's no reason to think of it as the basic naming any more than any one of the other name sets, and I can imagine future font tools relegating this to a legacy, backwards-compatibility set. FontLab already goes part way to doing this by enabling one to view the Fonts panel contents by either 4-style or OT name set. Once the 4-style family ceases to be the default naming set in the Font Info panel too, it will be easier to think about names in fresh ways. Note that even Microsoft have moved on from the 4-style family in DWrite, although the 4-style family is obviously going to remain an important support issue for some time to come.

oldnick's picture

Amazing that Microsoft has messed up even this.

Says who? Microsoft began--and remains primarily--an business-oriented operating system. As such, pigeonholing font choices to those most likely to be used in business applications--regular, italic, bold and bold italic--makes perfect sense, and needs not apologize. With the advent of Windows 2000/NT4--with native support for PostScript fonts--Windows encroached on the Macintosh's traditional territory (graphic design) so effectively that Apple rather quickly abandoned its dead-end "classic" OS. And, just recently, Apple abandoned its "superior" Motorola architecture, switching to Intel processors. An old Mac Addict bumper sticker slogan proclaimed, "Intel inside, idiot outside." Oops. Hell, even Adobe finally gave up on its disinformation campaign against TrueType (developed jointly by Apple and Microsoft, a fact which amazed many hardcore Mac fans) and surrendered to the inevitable. CFF fonts have PostScript Type 1 outlines, but they're package inside a TrueType wrapper.

The point is, things change. Anyone want to buy a Jetson-style OS 9.3 iMac?

litton's picture

I guess this is even more complex than I first thought.

And this was not intended to turn into a Apple vs MS debate.

It's more interseting if you have come up with methods to handle this problem.
How do you practically solve this in your workflow?

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