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The ins and outs of licensing and using fonts!

OTF or TTF: Which Font File Format Should I Download?

After purchasing your fonts you’ll be presented with several font formats you can download. Read on to learn more about the formats, and more importantly, when to use each.

Desktop Fonts

If you’ve downloaded a desktop license, most fonts allow you to download both the OTF and TTF files. You should install only one format at a time. Installing and using both simultaneously could cause unexpected collisions.

This begs the question, “If I should only install one format, should I download the TTF or OTF files?”

Try OTFs First

In most cases we recommend that you download the OTF files. By default, clicking the download button will download these.

In the rare case that the foundry hasn’t provided us with OTF files, clicking the download button will instead download the TTF files. If the OTF files are unavailable there won’t be a dropdown arrow next to the download button.

If you need OTF files, ask our support team for OTF files and we’ll try to acquire these for you.

Check out our support articles for installing fonts on Windows and installing fonts on Mac.

Advantages of OTF Files

  • OTF files may contain additional alternative characters and typesetting features, including contextual alternatives, that can be used in supporting applications. Read more about Opentype features in our article OpenType 101 and blog post Typographic Feng Shui And OpenType.
  • OTF files tend to be significantly smaller than their TTF counterparts.

When Should I Use TTFs?

While most programs support OTFs, some software (especially older programs) only support TTFs or exhibit strange behavior when using OTFs. If you’re experiencing issues with an OTF font, we recommend that you completely uninstall the OTFs and try the TTF fonts instead. To download the TTF files, click the dropdown arrow next to the download button and select the option labeled “Download TTFs”.

Screenshot of the Font Download Modal with the Download Dropdown Visible and TTFs Selected

We recommend that you restart your computer after installing the new fonts since some software won’t refresh their font cache. If you’re still experiencing issues, contact our support team.

In many cases you can still access the alternative characters and typesetting features available in the OTF fonts, however you have to search through their table of glyphs and copy the specific characters instead of using the more user-friendly OpenType controls.

What’s the technical difference between OTF and TTFs?

OTFs

OTF stands for Open Type Format, a format for vector fonts developed by Microsoft and Adobe Systems in the mid-1990s. The format was based on the TTF format and intended to succeed it. Open Type Fonts (OTFs) can contain approximately 65,500 glyphs, supports the Unicode character encoding, and is supported cross-platform.

The glyph outline data within an OTF font can either be in the Compact Font Format (CFF) or TrueType format.

  • The CFF Format is based on the PostScript language. People sometimes refer to this format as OpenType PostScript or OT/CFF. This format uses cubic Bézier curves to describe the glyph outlines. As the name “Compact File Format” implies, these files are much smaller than files that use the TrueType format.
  • The TrueType format, sometimes referred to as OpenType (TrueType Flavor), uses the same method of describing glyph outlines as TTF fonts. This format describes the glyph outlines using quadratic Bézier curves.

The CFF format is far more popular. While foundries who sell through Fontspring are free to use either format, most OTF fonts have been produced in the CFF flavor.

TTFs

TTF stands for True Type Format and was created by Apple in the late 1980s. It describes the glyph outlines using quadratic Bézier curves. This requires more points than cubic Bézier curves to describe the same line, but is simpler and faster for the computer to process.

TTF fonts also allows type designers a high-level of control over how the rasterizer converts the mathematically-defined glyph paths into pixels. This allows for crisp fonts at small point sizes when displayed on low resolution displays. However these days smarter rasterizers and higher-density displays have minimized the benefit of manual hinting. Most platforms today ignore much of the hinting information provided.

TrueType-Flavored OpenType Files (OpenType TT) may use the TTF extension instead of the OTF extension to distinguish them from PostScript Flavored OpenType Files. OpenType TT files (regardless of whether they use the TTF or OTF file extension) are backwards-compatible with programs that support Windows TrueType fonts.

Web Fonts

Our basic webfont kit comes with the WOFF and WOFF2 file formats which have wide support across all modern browsers. View the browser support for WOFF and WOFF2. @font-face allows multiple fallback files to be listed, so if a browser doesn’t support WOFF2 it will download WOFF instead.

If you need to support legacy browsers, we also provide EOT, TTF, and SVG web fonts for download.

Read more about our web font download options.

 

Updated on March 24, 2020