Old Optima and ITC Eras in Type 1

Here’s an obscure problem that won’t die, because fonts last forever: Old versions of Optima and ITC Eras in “PostScript” Type 1 format from 1989 don’t work properly in many Adobe applications (don’t show up in the menu), but versions from 1993 or later are fine. If you’re having problems like this, check the copyright notice in the font.

How can you check copyright notices for the date? On Windows, if you double-click on a font file you’ll get a sample sheet that includes the copyright notice. On Mac, you can get the same info from FontBook. If you use some other font management application, it can likely show you the copyright info and creation date. (Note: this is not the same as the file modification date!)

Why is there a problem? These two families were briefly available as “hybrid” fonts, which are not supported in our core font engine these days (shared by InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop, among other applications).

What are hybrid fonts, and why did we make them? Back in 1989, we had the problem that fonts had to image well both on low-resolution devices such as 300 dpi printers, and on hi-res devices such as imagesetters. Hybrid fonts were the solution: have one font with two sets of letter outlines (“glyphs” in font-geek-speak), one set intended for lower-res devices and one intended for higher-res devices. Only ITC Eras and Optima ever got the “hybrid” treatment. The low-res versions of the fonts suppressed subteties of these designs that wouldn’t work well on 300 dpi devices without edge enhancement: the very slight slope of the Eras shapes, and the very slight flaring of the Optima shapes.

Of course, today even the cheapest laser printers are 600 dpi – and most of those also use edge enhancement techniques for curves and diagonals. So such techniques are no longer needed in the least. I have finally seen a drop-off in questions about the hybrid fonts in recent years, but it is always amazing how long old fonts stick around.

5 Responses

  1. PECourtejoie says:

    Thanks for the info! For those having the old fonts, what should they do? (not my case, just wondering)Optima is one of my favorites![Folks who have the old fonts, and applications they don't work in, can contact Adobe customer service for assistance. You can also replace them with newer versions of the Adobe-made fonts in Type 1 format from any other source - you have a legit license, so it's not piracy. - T]

  2. Paul says:

    Hi Thomas,Interesting about hybrids.I missed your Connect session on Acrobat fonts etc. a couple of weeks back – and I don’t believe it was recorded?Are you planning to do another one?Thanks[It was recorded, but there were some kind of technical difficulties with the recording. The slides should be posted even if the talk was not, however. - T]

  3. David Lemon says:

    Of course, while printers all use higher resolutions these days, there’s another low-resolution environment that matters a lot: your screen.It’s not coincidental that Adobe phased out the hybrid fonts at the same time ATM (Adobe Type Manager) was introduced. ATM included some advancements in rasterization (i.e. the way fonts are turned into black & white images), and many more have followed since. As a result, the hybrid approach was no longer needed, even at low resolutions (if ATM was in use).Some of you will remember that ATM was the first technology that allowed the actual fonts to scale correctly on-screen (followed in less than a year by TrueType, which also enabled this feature). Nowadays, ATM code is incorporated in Mac OS X and Windows ME & later, so few people need to run it as a stand-alone utility any more.

  4. J.Fred Decker says:

    Aha! Thanks for clearing that up. My own take is that now fonts must work on a much wider range of resolutions, i.e. approx. 10px squares up to–what–80,000 pixel squares? The way forward is well lit by, for example, Warnock Pro with decent rejiggerings for text, captions and titles–albeit all assuming high resolution print.[I might dispute that last point. The same outline changes that are needed for small sizes in print are pretty much what you want for low res on screen as well. Any remaining changes are in the rasterizing (potentially including hinting, depending on your technology). - T]Next step: extend the families in a standard way, say add “wristwatch” as a new ultra low end below “caption”. Display sizes-resolutions could ascend from there: “gameboyBig” or “handwide” up to “SD-TV” and “HDTV”, each with its complement of reg, bold, condensedBlack, etc.Hmmm. Birth of the two-hundred face font family?

  5. Werbeagentur says:

    Hi Thomas,Many thanks for the interesting and usefully informations.Many greetz from Germany,Werbeagentur Medienstern

Comments are closed.


Thomas Phinney

Adobe type alumnus (1997–2008), now VP at FontLab, also helped create WebINK at Extensis. Lives in Portland (OR), enjoys board games, movies, and loves spicy food.

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