Phasing out “PostScript” Type 1 fonts
Recently, I’ve spoken at a couple of conferences, and made presentations to several key customers, about Adobe phasing out sales of Type 1 (“PostScript”) fonts. This posting is adapted from my talks and presentations on the subject.
[Update 14 Oct 2007: We still haven’t stopped selling Type 1 fonts yet, although probbaly 85-90% of our sales are in OpenType. But pretty much everything else I’ve written below remains true. I sure wouldn’t buy a font in Mac or Windows Type 1 or Mac TrueType format today unless I had a very specific reason for it. – T]
Here’s a brief introduction to set the scene. This is all discussed at much greater length in my article on article on font formats.
Type 1 is the original multi-platform scalable outline font format, introduced by Adobe in the mid-80s, with the format made fully public around 1991. Because Type 1 was initially supported only by PostScript devices, the format is sometimes itself called “PostScript,” which ignores the fact that there are other font formats supported by PostScript (including TrueType), and that since 1991 it has been possible to print Type 1 fonts to pretty much any printer as well as scale them on-screen.
TrueType was developed by Apple and licensed to Microsoft, and introduced around 1991 as well. Apple and Microsoft wanted to have an outline font format that they owned, which would be WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) on screen, and was specially optimized for the low-resolution monitors and black-and-white text imaging of the time. Plus they didn’t have to pay Adobe royalties on the technology.
After a long period of conflict between the two font formats, often referred to as the “Font wars” (cue heroic music here), Adobe and Microsoft decided to bury the hatchet. In 1996 we announced OpenType, which was intended to supercede the older formats. Taking the table-based structure of TrueType, OpenType offers several key features:
- cross-platform, single-file fonts
- up to 64K glyphs per font
- potential for extensive multi-lingual support in a single font, using a Unicode encoding
- options for advanced typographic features, whether needed for linguistic reasons or just for fine typography
As part of the same transition to OpenType, Adobe licensed its ATM rasterizer code to Apple and Microsoft at no charge, giving them the ability to offer system-level support for Type 1 and OpenType CFF (“PostScript flavored OpenType”) fonts. They started doing this in Mac OS X and Windows 2000.
What’s wrong with Type 1?
Well, Type 1 does not allow for more than 256 glyphs to be encoded in a single font. The special CID flavor of Type 1 gets around this, but only by defining rigid “character collections.” Type 1 also doesn’t use a Unicode encoding. It doesn’t have typographic extensions to deal with various languages that require them and to support advanced typography. The font files are not cross-platform, and there are multiple files required to represent a single font. OpenType addresses all of these problems. So, from a technical perspective, Type 1 is a thoroughly obsolete format. However, that doesn’t mean we’ll stop supporting it tomorrow or anything (see below).
Phasing out Type 1
Adobe stopped developing new Type 1 fonts in 1999, and introduced its first OpenType fonts in 2000. As we converted our type library to OpenType, we made the corresponding Type 1 fonts much less prominent on our web site. Now that we have out whole library in OpenType, people really have to go out of their way to get Type 1 fonts. This has been true for several years now.
As a side note, we stopped selling the multiple master flavor of Type 1 fonts several years ago, and stopped active tech support for multiple master fonts at the end of 2005. However, MM fonts still work in Adobe applications, though I wouldn’t want to guess on the likelihood of bug fixes in this area going forwards.
In any case, the overwhelming majority of Adobe font sales today are in the OpenType format, and our Type 1 sales continue to decrease. Nonetheless, we are well aware that there is still a very large installed base of Type 1 fonts.
People expect their fonts to continue to work forever. But when thinking about Type 1 eventually going away, it’s worth keeping in mind the value that customers have gotten from their Type 1 fonts over the years. What other software do you have that you bought in the late 1980s that still works today? It’s amazing that these things have had such a long lifespan. We still get occasional tech support calls for an issue that we fixed in two Type 1 font families in 1993!
Of course, a lot of people don’t think of fonts as software, but that’s really what they are: little plug-ins to your system software. The operating system vendors now have the Type 1 rasterizer code in their OSes, and it’s up to them whether they support it moving forwards.
What is Avalon? Avalon, the code name for what is now called Windows Presentation Foundation, is Microsoft’s next-generation graphics and text system, which will ship as part of Longhorn (Windows Vista), and at the same time as Windows Vista. But it will also be made available for Windows XP. Most news reports suggest Avalon and Vista will ship in the second half of 2006.
Technical specs and a public beta version of Avalon are available now, and it does not support Type 1. It will, however, have a native rasterizer for OpenType CFF fonts – that is, PostScript flavored OpenType fonts.
So, what does it mean that Avalon won’t support Type 1? It means that if you have an application that is written to take advantage of Avalon – on either XP or Longhorn – installed Type 1 fonts will not show up in that application’s font menus. Note that no applications today use Avalon; an application has to be written specifically to take advantage of Avalon.
Now, GDI (Graphics Device Interface) is the main predecessor to Avalon, and it’s through GDI that Type 1 is supported in Windows today, and will continue to be under Windows Vista. Existing and future GDI applications installed on XP or Vista will continue to use Type 1 fonts as they always have. Also, Adobe applications that use our own shared font engine can continue to support Type 1 regardless of Avalon or other OS support.
So, when we talk about Type 1 support going away, it’s more accurate to talk about Type 1 not being supported in Avalon. After all, Avalon can be installed on XP, and Vista continues to support Type 1 in GDI, so saying that Windows Vista won’t support Type 1 is not exactly true. Now that you understand all this, you can have the fun of explaining it all to other folks, as I do.
Adobe & Our Customers:
So, looking at this situation, the main thing Adobe sees as a type foundry is if we keep on selling Type 1 fonts, starting in a year or two there will be a bunch of applications that won’t support them, at least on Windows. At the same time, we’ve been moving away from Type 1 sales for many years.
So our current plan is that no later than when Windows Vista ships (late 2006?), Adobe will stop retail licensing of Type 1 fonts for Mac and Windows. This is subject to review and change based on market conditions, but it’s our current best estimate.
Adobe recognizes the huge investment our end users have made in Type 1 fonts over the last 20 years. We want to help our customers as much as possible. This is why we have been taking the rather unusual step of getting this information out sooner rather than later. We believe that for customers licensing fonts today, unless they have a very specific reason for getting Type 1 fonts, they should license OpenType fonts as their best long-term investment for the next two decades.
We’ve also made extensive information available online, notably matching old Adobe Type 1 fonts to our corresponding OpenType fonts. The intention is to help our users with migration from Type 1 to OpenType.
Adobe expects to continue to offer technical support for our existing Type 1 fonts well after the end of sales. We also expect to continue to support Type 1 fonts in our major publishing applications for years beyond that. We currently expect that Type 1 fonts as embedded in PDFs will be supported as long as those versions of PDF are supported – which right now looks like “indefinitely.”
Because I like to keep our lawyers happy, I offer the following caveat to my comments above:
This posting includes “forward-looking statements” within the meaning of the safe harbor provisions of the United States Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Words such as “expect,” “estimate,” “project,” “budget,” “forecast,” “anticipate,” “intend,” “plan,” “may,” “will,” “could,” “should,” “believes,” “predicts,” “potential,” “continue,” and similar expressions are intended to identify such forward-looking statements. Forward-looking statements in this presentation include, without limitation, Adobe’s future actions with regards to the Type 1 and OpenType font formats, and other matters that involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties and other factors that may cause actual results, levels of activity, performance or achievements to differ materially from results expressed or implied by this presentation. Actual results may differ materially from those contained in the forward-looking statements in this presentation. Additional information concerning risk factors is contained in Adobe’s most recently filed Forms 10-K and 10-Q.
Adobe undertakes no obligation and does not intend to update these forward-looking statements to reflect events or circumstances occurring after this presentation. You are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, which speak only as of the date of this posting. All forward-looking statements are qualified in their entirety by this cautionary statement. fnord.