Windows Management and Maintenance : The Windows 7 Control Panel (part 8) - Fonts

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10. Fonts

The first version of Windows to include a unified system for displaying and printing text across all Windows applications and printers was Windows 3.0. This was an attempt to catch up to the Macintosh, whose integrated support for PostScript font and graphics rendering gave it a big lead over earlier versions of Microsoft Windows. When Microsoft Windows 3.1 was introduced along with a new scalable font technology known as TrueType, Windows users had font capabilities on a par with the Mac. With the development of OpenType by Adobe and Microsoft, which integrates PostScript and TrueType support into a single font format, publishing and graphics users have never had it so good.

Windows 7 follows in this tradition, using the same TrueType and OpenType font outline technologies supported natively by Windows XP and Windows 2000. However, the font previewing and management tools in Windows 7 are better than those in either Windows XP or Windows Vista.

Fonts 101

The Fonts folder can be accessed from the Appearance and Personalization category of the Control Panel and is also available in Large Icons and Small Icons views. Use the Fonts folder to view fonts, preview fonts, print font samples, and access special characters.

The word font, as used in Windows, refers to a typeface. Those people in typesetting circles believe the term is misused in PC jargon, and you should be calling, say, Arial a typeface. But, oh well. There goes the language (again). Fonts are specified by size as well as by name. The size of a font is measured in points. A point is 1/72 of an inch.

Note that all fonts except some raster fonts (see the following Tip) are scalable to any size needed. Technically, the OpenType and TrueType fonts installed on a Windows system are font outlines: Windows scales the font outline as needed for display and for printing. Although you can content yourself with picking a standard font size from a menu in Microsoft Word, CorelDraw, or Adobe Photoshop, you can enter any size you want in the Font menu or dialog box for a TrueType or OpenType font. If you need a 131.76 point font, you’ve got it! And, you can see it onscreen.

Windows 7 includes about 130 font families, most of which are OpenType fonts. (A few TrueType fonts are included in that number, as are a small number of fonts.) A font family might include only a single style, or several styles (Roman, Italic, Bold, and so on). If you have installed Microsoft or third-party office suite or graphics packages, you may have additional fonts installed.


To determine whether a font is OpenType or TrueType, open a font family icon, then double-click one of the typefaces to see a sample. The font sample dialog box indicates the type of font.

As you can see from Figure 14, the Fonts folder in Windows 7 is nothing like its predecessors: you now see a preview of the Roman (standard weight) typeface in a font family, and you also see fonts designed for languages different from your currently selected language. These fonts, shown in gray, are hidden—they will not show up in font menus.

Figure 14. The default Large Icons view of the Fonts folder. Fonts in gray are hidden from view in applications’ Fonts menu.

Figure 15 shows a typical preview of a font family that includes multiple styles. As you can see, Windows 7 has uncluttered the Fonts folder by grouping styles together in the main fonts folder and showing you the different styles only when you select a family.

Figure 15. The Arial fonts family as installed in Windows 7 has five members (Black, Bold, Bold Italic, Italic, and Regular).

Font Types

The two primary categories of fonts are serif and sans-serif designs. Serifs are the little embellishments (often called “feet”) that extend from the main strokes of the character. Serifs often are added to improve readability. As the name implies, sans-serif fonts lack these embellishments, making for a cleaner look. Sans-serif fonts tend to work well for headlines, whereas serif fonts are traditionally used for body text. Combining one serif and one sans-serif font in this way will look good together, but two sans-serif fonts or two serif fonts will clash. Times New Roman is a serif font, whereas Arial is a sans-serif font.


Aligning text in emails can be tricky. Although numbers in most proportionally spaced fonts are monospaced, each press of the spacebar when a proportional font is in use moves the cursor only a small increment. Even if you use tabs to align text, different email clients may interpret tabs differently or might use a proportional font and replace tabs with spaces, throwing off alignment. To help align columns of text in emails, send email in HTML-based (rich-text) format if the receiver can handle it, or attach a document in a common format, such as Microsoft Word that contains properly aligned text.

The next major classification of fonts has to do with the spacing between characters. In monospaced fonts such as Courier New, every character occupies the same amount of horizontal line space. For example, l and W get the same amount of linear space.

By contrast, proportionally spaced fonts give differing amounts of line space, depending on the character. A W gets more space than an l or an i. The advantage of using monospaced fonts is that they allow you to easily align columns of text or numbers when you’re using a simple word processor such as Notepad or sending email. You can use the spacebar to align the items in the columns, as you would on a typewriter.

Two other categories of fonts (after headline and body text) are ornamental and nonalphabetic symbols. Ornamental (sometimes called display) fonts have limited application. They are often fun in the short term, or for a one-shot deal such as a poster or a gag. They often attract attention but are too highly stylized to be suitable for body text, and they can distract the readers’ attention from your message. Windows 7 doesn’t include ornamental fonts, although it includes a few script fonts (which mimic handwriting). You should use ornamental fonts sparingly and only when you want to set a special mood.

Symbol or pi fonts contain special symbols such as musical notes, map symbols, or decorations instead of letters, numbers, and punctuation marks. Good examples are Symbol, Zapf Dingbats, WingDings, and WebDings (the last two are included in Windows 7).

Font and Font Information Sources

The Microsoft Typography website ( provides a wealth of information about fonts, including tools, utilities, and links. Click the Font Foundry List link (under Resources) to find a list of all commercial, freeware, and shareware type foundries.

Some of my favorite commercial font foundries include

  • Adobe Systems (—Features low-cost font libraries for educators and the Adobe Font Folio collection of more than 2,200 typefaces.

  • Bitstream (; sales at—This site also features WhatTheFont, a font identification service.

  • Monotype Imaging (—Home of many Windows fonts, including Times New Roman and Arial.

Save money and find some unusual fonts with these low-cost font sources:

  • BuyFonts (—Starter and professional fonts (for Windows only)

  • The Scriptorium (—Features a huge variety of historic and specialized fonts

You can also find a lot of low-cost or free fonts online or in CD collections at retail stores.

Font Substitutions

In a perfect world, everyone working with a particular document would already have the correct fonts necessary to view and print it just as the originator intended. Unless you use only the basic fonts that every version of Windows from 3.1 to the present has included as standard (Arial, Courier New, and Times New Roman) or embed the fonts you use in a document (a feature not all applications or all fonts support), mismatches between installed fonts on the system used to create the document and on the target system are likely to happen.

To enable a document created with missing fonts to display and print in a reasonable facsimile of the original, font substitution features in applications and printer drivers are used. For example, in Microsoft Word, to determine whether font substitutions are taking place, choose Tools, Options, Compatibility, Font Substitutions. Some applications, such as CorelDraw, display a warning dialog box and provide the opportunity to select a substitute font if you open a file that contains fonts not present on your system.

Another kind of font substitution pertains only to PostScript printers. Because PostScript printers have internal fonts, printing is faster using them than forcing Windows to download a similar font file into the PostScript rasterizer and then commence printing. For example, the Windows Arial font and the PostScript Helvetica font are virtually identical. So, you can tell your PostScript printer driver to use only the Helvetica font in the printer whenever you print a document formatted with Arial. Likewise, Times can be substituted for Windows’s Times New Roman.

A font substitution table is responsible for setting the relationship of the screen and printer fonts. In Windows 7, you can find this table on the Device Settings tab of a printer’s Properties dialog box.

Font Installation and Management

In Windows 7, font management is performed by right-clicking any empty space in the Fonts folder and selecting from the View, Sort By, or Group By options. You can view, sort, and group by the following default categories: font name, font style, hide/show, designed for (alphabets), category (text, symbol/pictograph, display), designer/foundry, embeddability, and font type (OpenType, TrueType, Raster). You can view all of this information at once in the Details view, and you can add additional sort options, such as size, collection, and others. Unfortunately, Windows 7 does not offer the helpful List Fonts by Similarity feature found in Windows XP.


Although Windows 7 font management is (mostly) better than its predecessors, if you’re serious about using fonts to make your documents and websites look better, you need better font-management tools than the Fonts folder. Here are a few possibilities; check with these and other vendors for versions that are compatible with Windows 7:

Windows 7 uses a new method for installing fonts. To install the font, right-click the font file in Windows Explorer and select Install. If prompted, provide the necessary UAC credentials, and the font is installed into the Fonts folder.

To remove fonts from your system, open the Fonts folder, right-click the font family or the individual style, and choose Delete. The fonts are removed permanently from your system.

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