BOOT CAMP ARCHIVE 2002

  

 

BOOT CAMP 223 (30/04/02)

 

FONTS OF WISDOM

 

Movie producers looking for a exciting true-life storyline filled with plenty of intrigue, double-dealing and larger than life characters could do worse than look at the history of typography, with particular reference to the last quarter of a century. A monumental behind the scenes struggle involving Microsoft and Apple – you’ll not be surprised to learn – took place for control of a feature of the modern PC we now take for granted. It’s known in the trade as ‘wizzywig’, more accurately WYSWYG or ‘what-you-see-is-what-you-get’, which basically means that what’s displayed on the computer screen, is what will appear on paper when it is printed out.

 

The key element in a wizzywig display is the ‘scalable’ font, essentially printed and displayed characters that can be continuously varied in size, without loosing structure or definition. The upshot of all this is that from the beginnings of typography in the 15th century until the early 1990s Western civilisation managed to scrape by with just a few hundred commonly used fonts and typefaces, now there are millions of them and you can add to the pile using readily available (and often free) font creation software. 

 

Whether or not this is a good thing is open to debate, on a practical level it means that your PC probably contains well over a hundred fonts and once you’ve installed a few applications that number can easily double or treble and it’s not unknown for some PCs to get close to Windows theoretical limit of 1,000 fonts. Fonts consume a significant amount of your PCs resources, they increase the time it takes Windows to boot up, significantly so once you get past 300 fonts, and corrupt font files are a common cause of crashes.

 

To see how many fonts are loaded on your PC open Windows Explorer and go to C:\Windows\Fonts or go to Run on the Start menu and type ‘Fonts’. You can see an example of what each font looks like by clicking on the file icon, there’s also a Print button. In Microsoft Word, fonts are also displayed in Font on the Format menu and the drop-down font list on the Toolbar (Word 2000 and above). Another easy way to see what you’ve got is to download a ‘viewer’ program like FontLister (http://www.theill.com/fl/) or Free and Easy FontViewer (http://styopkin.mastak.com/

details_free_and_easy_fonts_viewer.html)

They’re both freeware and the zip files are only a few hundred kilobytes.

 

If your Fonts folder contains more than 300 or so fonts and boot up seems to be taking an eternity you may find that culling a few of them will speed things up appreciably, it might even fix a few problems. However, this procedure is only for Windows 9x and it’s not for novices because removing important ‘system’ fonts could make your PC misbehave. The best way to avoid problems is to make a copy of your fonts folder on your hard disc drive then you can easily reinstall any critical ones if Windows or one of your applications asks for it. (100 fonts takes up approximately 10Mb of hard disc space).

 

Windows will not let you copy system fonts directly the trick is to use DOS, which operates outside Windows. Start by creating a new folder on your C: drive in Windows Explorer (highlight the C: drive icon and click File > New), rename the new folder and call it ‘Fonts’ then restart your PC in DOS mode (Start > Shutdown > Restart in MS DOS mode). 

 

At the C:\ (or C:\Windows) prompt key in the following command ‘cd\windows\fonts’ (without the quotes), and press Enter this changes to the Fonts directory in Windows. Next type ‘Copy *.* C:\ fonts’ which tells the computer to copy the entire contents of the Fonts folder in Windows to your newly created Fonts folder on drive C:\. A list of the fonts should now scroll down the screen, be patient this could take a few minutes. When it has finished you can restart Windows, which you can usually do by typing ‘Win’ and press Enter.

 

With all of your fonts safely backed up you can now use your font viewer to delete the ones you don’t want or need in the C:\Windows\Fonts folder. However, before you start be warned that there are 30 or so System fonts that must be on your PC for it to function correctly, so on no account remove any of the following:

 

Arial, Bookman, Book Antiqua, Century Gothic, Comic Sans MS, Courier, Garamond, Georgia, Haettenschweiler, Impact, Lucida, Microsoft Sans, Modern, Monotype, MS Outlook, MS Sans Serif, Palatino Linotype, Roman, Script, Small Fonts, Symbol, Tahoma, Times New Roman, Trebuchet, Verdana, Webdings, Wingdings.

 

If you have any other Microsoft software on your PC you should also check the font lists at http://www.microsoft.com/typography/fonts/default.asp, before you delete anything.

 

If you receive any error messages regarding missing fonts you can easily re-instate the lost file by opening the Fonts folder in Windows. Select Install New Font on the File menu. Simply change the directory to your backup fonts folder and again be patient, especially if there are a lot of them in there as it can take a couple of minutes for the contents of the folder to be displayed. Incidentally, this is the correct way to install any font, Windows may not recognise font files if they’re dragged and dropped or copied into the Font folder.

 

WEB LINKS

FREE FONTS

http://www.fontfreak.com/

http://www.highfonts.com/

http://www.1001freefonts.com/

http://www.downloadfreefonts.com/

 

DIY FONT SOFTWARE

http://www.high-logic.com/fcp.html

http://users.iclway.co.uk/l.emmett/

http://www.fontlab.com/html/scanfont.html

http://www.fontlab.com/html/fontlab.html

 

FONT HISTORIES

http://www.webreference.com/dlab/9802/

http://www.truetype.demon.co.uk/

 

Next week – Icons

 

JARGON FILTER

 

DOS/MS-DOS

Disc Operating System, a program that runs independently of Windows responsible for controlling disc drives, organising data and memory resources.

 

SYSTEM FONTS

Fonts used by Windows and other core programs found on most PCs

 

ZIP

Type of compressed file, requires special program (Pkunzip, WinZip etc) to expand or decompress the file

 

TOP TIP

If you use Microsoft Word it’s worth remembering this very useful keyboard shortcut for quickly increasing or decreasing the font size of a selected letter, word, paragraph or even a whole document. Simply highlight the text then press and hold the Ctrl and Shift keys, to increase the font size (in 1 point increments) repeatedly press  ‘>’ (right-facing open arrow) and to reduce size press ‘<’. The size of the highlighted text will be shown in the toolbar display.

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