File Under: CSS, Fonts

Typotheque’s Web Fonts Rock, But Old Machines Can’t Learn New Type Tricks

Font foundry Typotheque has introduced a new web font system that gives web authors a new set of font embedding options for their website designs. However, as cool as Typotheque’s new tools are, they can’t overcome some larger problems with the @font-face rule in CSS and the state of type on the web in general.

Typotheque, a Netherlands-based font foundry, recently unveiled a set of web licenses and an easy cut-and-paste solution for web developers looking to take advantage of the CSS3 @font-face support in modern web browsers. The solution is particular nice because it doesn’t require the overhead of loading JavaScript libraries like some other proposed solutions we’ve covered, such as TypeKit. Typotheque’s system requires only a CSS file and a simple @font-face stylesheet rule.

Also working in Typotheque’s favor is a web-only license, which is issued and controlled by the company, that’s considerably cheaper than licensing the actual font files.

Unfortunately, in the real world, @font-face’s results aren’t always what you expect. As BoingBoing recently discovered when it tried a redesign using @font-face to embed custom fonts, CSS3′s @font-face rule doesn’t always render correctly on older PCs.

While it’s nice to see font foundries like Typotheque embracing both web licenses and simple embedding tools, the results are decidedly mixed. So long as your site’s users are running a modern OS like Mac OS X, Windows Vista or most Linux distros; and they have modern browsers like Firefox or most of WebKit-based browsers, the @font-face and Typotheque’s new embedding system work wonderfully. The only minor issue is a quick flash of unstyled text appearing when the page loads in Firefox, but that can be addressed with a simple JavaScript workaround.

However, for those users still using Windows XP, embedded fonts are not, by default, anti-aliased and results in jagged, ugly fonts that aren’t going to make you or your visitors happy.

To see how things looked in various browsers, we loaded Typotheque’s Fedra Sans font up in a test page at 72 pixels and then looked at it in various browser/OS combos:

Fedra Sans in various browsers. Click the image for a larger view.

As the image above demonstrates, the results are just fine in Firefox on Mac OS X and Linux, acceptable in IE7 in Windows XP and downright ugly in IE6 on XP. Given the considerable percentage of web users still browsing with IE6 in Windows XP, @font-face clearly isn’t going to work for every site.

Still, for those that just want to experiment with @font-face, Typotheque’s new system is the simplest, cheapest system we’ve tested. There’s even a free month-long trial available for testing purposes. For more details, head over to the Typotheque website.

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