What makes an OpenType font a "Pro"?

Answered by Jay Nelson, Editor and Publisher, Design Tools Monthly

I'm confused. I thought that the OpenType font format was going to simplify the font world. But Adobe is providing "Standard" and "Pro" versions of some OpenType fonts. What makes an OpenType font a "Pro"?

OpenType has simplified the font world in one way: it's cross-platform. Unlike PostScript or TrueType, the same OpenType font file can be used on Mac OS or Windows. But beyond that, it offers infinite complexity. Here's why:

The OpenType format does not guarantee that the font contains anything more than the basic set of characters that were present in TrueType or PostScript fonts. In fact, anyone can convert a TrueType or PostScript font to OpenType format by using a simple utility. The result is an "OpenType" font that contains a TrueType or PostScript font inside. While Adobe's "Standard" OpenType fonts have been reprocessed to be true OpenType fonts, they do not contain more characters or abilities than their TrueType or PostScript predecessors. Only the "Pro" versions do.

Adobe's OpenType "Pro" fonts contain more glyphs (characters) than their "Standard" siblings, often including the characters found in earlier "Expert Sets". They also contain a kind of intelligence that professional design software such as InDesign or QuarkXPress can access. For example, when their advanced features are enabled, these fonts may provide different glyphs depending on their surrounding characters.

The "Standard" and "Pro" labels were made up by Adobe to differentiate their two kinds of OpenType fonts. These same labels are not necessarily used by any other font developer. When buying fonts from other developers, you'll need to check to see which features are included in each font. Thankfully, these companies will often proudly list these features next to any OpenType font they make.

This question was answered by Jay Nelson, Publisher & Editor, Design Tools Monthly. We love DTM's tips and advice and think you will, too. For a free sample PRINTED issue, contact Design Tools Monthly at 303-543-8400, e-mail info@design-tools.com, or go to their website: www.design-tools.com.
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