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FLASH-- Font embedding is not dead, it's just been Flashed.

I know, that's overdramatic, but it's not untrue. Microsoft's WEFT is used by no one because it's insecure and only works on IE (Windows). TrueDoc is limping along, and supposedly does'nt work under Netscape 6 (I don't know, because I haven't been able to get Netscape 6 to work on my computer).

So where does that leave anyone who appreciate the power and beauty of type? Well, not much further along than we were three years ago. There's still GIF (preferrable to JPG which just makes fonts look messy, yet somehow many designers still haven't figured that out), and Flash.

Yes, Flash. That's the magic font embedding word of the moment, and probably the future. Flash embeds fonts compactly, beautifully, and securely. The anti-aliasing is excellent (I've never heard anyone complain about it), and because it's smart and just saves a character shape ones, you have have a lot of text in and still have very fast loading files.

Flash also lets you store text in an external file, which means you can use a Flash shell as a place to display formatted text which is easily changed by merely changing a text file. Some search engines now even read and index text inside Flash files.

Still, there are drawbacks. While over 90% of people on the web can view Flash files, 10% still can't. And some people who build Flash interfaces seem determined to use 8 point white type on black backgrounds that's virtually unreadable.

Normally you can right-click on a Flash file to zoom in. I find myself doing this just to read the text. And then some Flash developers outsmart us all by turning off that right click feature, so you can't zoom in, and you can't read. Not very smart.

The bottom line: It's time to learn Flash and consider using it for text you want to be highly formatted. It's smaller and more efficient than GIF files, it can be read by search engines, and it works with virtually any font. I don't recommend you build your entire site in one Flash file, because there's no way to bookmark it, but if you put the Flash files right into the HTML, one per page, then you have have full font embedding that works for 90% of web visitors--platform independant.

IE4 Font Security Flaw!

Font foundries and designers have been vocal in their fear of font embedding on the web, and now it seems their fears were well-founded, at least in the case of Microsoft’s Internet Explorer 4 & 5. The browsers OpenType font embedding feature has a fatal security flaw that makes it easy for any user, even those without technical knowledge, to capture embedded fonts from a web site and install them into their system for use with all their software. You don’t have to be a hacker to accomplish this. No one other than myself has yet uncovered the simple steps to do so and I will not reveal the steps here, because I don’t want people pirating fonts. Read more about it.


Bitstream announces DocLock, technology that ties fonts to domain names so other sites can't use them. Microsoft may add "digital signatures" to OpenType in the future.

Does one format look better than another? Not really--it's subjective.

TrueDoc supports both TrueType and Adobe PostScript Type1 fonts. Microsoft's current TrueType embedding will only support TrueType now, Type1 support may follow later this year.

The truth of the matter is that some typefaces simply don't look good on-screen, no matter how great the hinting is. Designers will have to choose wisely or readability will suffer.

Microsoft's TrueType embedding will work for Windows and Mac users. TrueDoc support both Windows, Mac, Unix, plus hand-helds, PDAs, TV set-top boxes and Oracle's NCs (Network Computers). The real ke may be authoring tools.

Competition is good. But so is compatibility. It's important that the HTML codes required for these two systems are compatible, not mutually exclusive.

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Copyright 1996 Daniel Will-Harris, www.will-harris.com