Font rivals Microsoft and Adobe agree on new type standard

In a move that should end the PC and Web font wars, Microsoft and Adobe have announced plans to jointly develop a new font format that combines the True Type and Type 1 font sets.

Dubbed OpenType, the hybrid font technology will find its way into future releases of the Windows operating system and Adobe's extensive graphics, publishing, and Internet software products. It is expected to draw a number of followers from other software vendors.

"It's the end of the font wars. Microsoft and Adobe both realise that we can do more for the customer by working together," says Alec Saunders, product manager in Microsoft's desktop and business systems division.

Microsoft and Adobe will cross-license the True Type and Type 1 font technologies and will make the resulting OpenType specification available to other operating system and Internet-based vendors, the companies say.

Adobe will ship Open Type fonts by the end of the year, initially in the next version of its Acrobat file viewer.

Microsoft will support the new font format in Windows following the roll-out of Windows NT 4.0, according to Saunders.

"In the meantime, we will have developed bits that are redistributable for delivery in ISV products, or will post things on the Web that can be downloaded. We're still deciding," he says.

The unified font format will free Windows users from having to load the Adobe Type Manager, which has offered poor integration with Microsoft's True Type, according to Saunders. Open Type will be backward-compatible with Type 1 and True Type fonts, he says.

"In the end, fonts should just work," Saunders says.

The companies combined efforts in the past when they agreed on PostScript printer drivers for Windows, Saunders says.

The planned font specification's Internet-specific features will include compression technologies geared toward efficient, high-quality representation of fonts on the Web, the companies say.

For Internet use, OpenType will also sport type subsetting, which allows users to download only those fonts relevant to the Web pages they access, rather than having to download the entire font set, according to Saunders.

The font partners this week will present a proposal based on the OpenType initiative for a standard mechanism to embed fonts in HTML documents on the Internet at the Fifth International World Wide Web conference in Paris, say the companies.

The two will also submit the specification to the World Wide Web Consortium for consideration as a formal standard, they say.

The collaboration supersedes independent HTML font technology and standards efforts by Microsoft and the trio of Adobe, Netscape and Apple.

According to Saunders, the companies' collaboration on OpenType dates back several months. He says the specification exists as a complete architecture, the details of which will be hammered out shortly.

Microsoft can be reached at http://www.microsoft.com/. Adobe can be reached at http://www.adobe.com/.

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