An Interview with Bill McCoy
Adobe's Director of Core Technologies
With the recent
Microsoft/Adobe announcement, the game has changed. Both
Microsoft and Adobe are saying this new announcement
superscedes their previous announcements.
Even so, the
"Compressed Font Format" (CFF--now called
"Type1c") that Adobe developed for Acrobat and
the web, will at least be used in Acrobat 3 if it
doesnt also become a part of OpenType. So its
important to know more about the new format.
But I recently spoke
with Bill McCoy, Adobe's Director of Core Technologies to
discuss the new format.
Since Adobe is perhaps
the largest vendor of digital typefaces, it makes sense
that they're eager to see real typefaces available on the
The new format will make
it's appearance in the next release of Amber, the new
version of Acrobat. Fonts will be embedded into Amber
files using a new version of the Distiller which should
enter beta in the near future.
DWH: Why has Adobe
created a new font format?
BM: First, It
would be more accurate to call it a compressed font
container rather than a new font format. We are just
providing a way to package glyph sets and encoding.
The main benefit of our
compressed font container is that it's smaller than other
formats, including the subset TrueType fonts Microsoft is
proposing [dwh: these are basically normal TrueType
fonts with character sets reduced to contain only the
characters used rather than the normal 255 characters].
We wanted to provide web fonts that worked well with
today's slow modems.
Type One fonts start out
almost half the size of TT to begin with, (TT includes a
program while T1 just describes character shapes and
hinting). Our new compression gives us another
compression of 4X over TT. A TT subset of half of
Helvetica might be 20K, in our new format the same might
be just 5K.
Because Type One fonts
are already compressed, we had to pull some tricks to get
another factor of 2 out of that. We also have technology
for auto-generating hints on the fly, so we could further
optimize file size if we decided to remove hints. But for
now our format is lossless and contains the original
hints, because our customers have told us that quality is
DWH: So this new
container has a 4:1 compression over TrueType. What is
the compression compared with standard Type One fonts?
BM: CFF vs. Type
One is approximately 2:1. This scales linearly with the
number of characters used.
DWH: Will your new
format support TrueType as well as Type One fonts?
BM: We don't want
to start a font war. You can start with a TT font and
turn it into our web font format. We will provide
translation software. Want a universal format that meets
the needs of everyone.
DWH: Is it true that
this new system will also be more universal in that it
will support 2-byte encoding for full language
DWH: I know the first
appearance of this technology will be in Amber/Acrobat.
But Adobe has also announced that it will work with
Netscape to make this format part of the HTML standard.
How will that work?
BM: The first
step is through Acrobat. As for HTML, fonts will be
served from regular a HTTP server. You'll reference them
like a GIF image. We expect Netscape's browser to support
the new format later this. We're not ready for that
detailed discussion of exactly how it will work.
DWH: How will
designers put existing fonts into this new container?
BM: Then we
expect to make some kind of stand-alone translation tool
available. It might even be available on our web site.
The specifics of distribution and pricing haven't been
set but we learned with Acrobat that if you want to make
something into a standard you don't charge for it.
DWH: What about
protecting the fonts? The current version of Acrobat
doesn't handle this very well-if you open an Acrobat file
with embedded fonts those fonts become available to the
entire system as long as that file is open.
BM: With the new
system fonts aren't be available to other apps-because
we're using an embedded rasterizer rather than
system-wide ATM-so fonts are never installed into the
We're saying that
"trying to protect font intellectual property by
limiting the distribution of electronic documents isn't
the way to go." If you own a font and you decide you
want to put up a PDF for that font, it is up to us to
ensure that the font is safe and it isn't easy for a user
to circumvent it unwittingly.
DWH: What about font
vendors who don't want their fonts embedded no matter
BM: It's up to
typeface vendor to decide about legality. TrueType has
"embedding" bits that tell the system if they
can be embedded or not and I believe we will abide by
As for Adobe's own type
library, we've chosen to say it's OK to embed fonts for
viewing and printing That's just the way it's going to
go. Some vendors may want to charge for viewing and
printing but that's not sustainable technology.
DWH: Will the new
format support multi-byte encoding for non-Latin