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TC Notes: A Message from the Editor

Message 3 - August 19, 1997

Embedded Fonts

An Overview of Embedded Fonts and Their Use in TC

A year ago Netscape and Microsoft introduced the FONT FACE tag, enabling Web users to view foreign language texts in their original script for the first time (see TC Notes 2). All TC articles and reviews that include Hebrew, Greek, and other languages written in non-Roman script have been encoded in a transliterated version and in a version that utilizes the FONT FACE tag. To this point, any user who wanted to see the original script versions of the articles would have to download the free Scholars Press fonts and install them in the appropriate location on his or her local computer. Embedded fonts simplify the procedure for viewing foreign language texts.

The latest Web browsers from Netscape and Microsoft allow Web page creators to embed any fonts in their pages and have them appear on a user's computer screen without requiring the user to download the fonts. In other words, the problem of displaying foreign language fonts is now completely transparent to the user. Readers of TC should note one important change, however. Because of technical issues related to embedded fonts, all accesses to TC Web pages should use the new TC address; this address is a Persistent URL that will resolve to (there are other reasons that compelled us to change the TC Web address--see TC Notes 4 for more details). Attempts to view embedded fonts using the old address ( will not work if the user does not have the Scholars Press fonts already installed on the local computer.

Users may still, of course, download the Scholars Press fonts for their own use, and these are the fonts that should be used when submitting articles to TC, but it is no longer necessary to have these fonts installed on a computer for it to display the original script versions of TC articles correctly. The tags in all existing TC articles have already been updated to take advantage of this new technology, but people using older browsers who have already installed the Scholars Press fonts should still be able to view the original script articles as before. In the near future, the TC table of contents pages will link by default to the original script versions of articles, although the transliterated and text versions will still be accessible from those articles.

Known Problems with Browsers that Display Embedded Fonts

Netscape Communicator on Windows 95

The new version of Netscape Communicator on the Windows 95 platform does not properly display Web documents that use the FONT FACE tags but do not at the same time use embedded fonts (the FONT FACE is ignored, and regular Roman characters appear). Netscape works fine with these documents on the other platforms that we tested. Since all TC original script articles now use embedded fonts, users of Windows 95 should not have a problem viewing them.

Netscape Communicator and Microsoft Internet Explorer on MacOS

Both Netscape and Internet Explorer work as advertised on the Mac, but users who have downloaded the Scholars Press fonts and viewed TC original script Web pages in the past should be aware of an important difference in the display procedure. Because embedded font technology uses TrueType fonts, the bitmap fonts that are included in the Mac versions of the Scholars Press fonts will be ignored when displaying files with embedded fonts. Limitations with the resolution of current computers screens means that TrueType fonts, which print beautifully, do not display nearly as well as carefully designed bitmap fonts. The display problems will be most apparent when viewing small characters like Hebrew vowel points and Greek breathing marks and accents. If the non-Roman fonts in a Web document are difficult to read, the user can solve the problem by increasing the size of the default fonts in the browser.

Incorporating Embedded Fonts into Web Pages

Web page creators who have used the FONT FACE tag to display text in a particular font will not have to change their current procedure drastically for creating pages that use embedded font technology, since the FONT FACE tag is used in exactly the same way (see TC Notes 2 for more information on the FONT FACE tag, or look at any of the original script articles in TC for examples of the use of this tag). However, HTML encoders who look at the newly updated original script articles in TC will notice a new tag that appears in the HEAD section of each article: <LINK HXBURNED REL="fontdef" SRC="../SPfonts.pfr">. This tag points the browser to the Portable Font Resources file (residing in the TC home directory) that contains the information necessary for displaying embedded fonts. The encoded font file was created with a program called HexWeb® Typograph. This is a commercial program, and at the moment I am not aware of any shareware programs that will create the files necessary for using embedded fonts; such programs will certainly be available in the near future, however. Because the encoded font file contains a record of the URL of the server on which it is intended to be used, it will not work if it is copied to another computer (for the same reason, since the file was created to work on, users who use the old address will not be able to view the embedded fonts--as noted above, however, the Persistent URL will work properly). Users who want to set up their own Web servers capable of using embedded fonts will have to add a MIME type to their server setup, application/font-tdpfr, which is associated with the PFR file extension. For more information on embedded fonts, see Netscape's documentation on Dynamic Font Support.

Benefits and Limitations of Embedded Fonts

The ability to use embedded fonts is the most useful innovation yet designed for multilingual Web pages, but it should still be viewed as only a transitory solution. The reliance on the public domain Scholars Press fonts is not the optimal solution that users could wish for, and, more importantly, right-to-left text processing is still not possible in HTML, the language of the Web. Web browsers of the future promise to be Unicode compliant; that is, they will dispense with the limited 8-bit ASCII character set (with 256 characters) now almost ubiquitous on the world's computers and use the 16-bit Unicode character set (with 65,536 characters) that will be standard on operating systems of the future. Unicode compliant browsers will also display right-to-left texts properly, eliminating the need for convoluted workarounds now necessary to display Hebrew texts properly in HTML. For more information on these and other character display problems and their relation to material published in TC--as well as other technical, cultural, and philosophical issues dealt with in the production of TC and other electronic journals--see James R. Adair, "TC: A Journal of Biblical Textual Criticism: An Experiment in Electronic Publishing."