What is the difference between good and bad fonts?

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This article is part of the FAQ series.
Installation Usage PDF issues Fonts DTP Other

Here are some basic rules:

  • Use of Adobe/PS fonts (Type 1) will usually result in better output (print), but mostly will look ugly on screen in many applications (Scribus turns all fonts to vectors, so this doesn't affect display in Scribus). OpenType (OTF) tries to finally keep the promises given with TrueType (equally good output on screen and in print), and it is really better than TrueType. Unfortunately, many printers and publishers are a bit reluctant with the adoption of OTF. There are lots of TT fonts with printing issues, but you can find some really good ones as well (the free Gentium font is a good example for a TT font with excellent results in printing). The reason many publishers still reject TTF and almost exclusively rely on PS fonts is that too many slovenly designed TTFs have been created and distributed since the introduction of the format. Scribus will do a font check on startup that should eliminate most really faulty fonts, but you should still be careful with your font choices.
  • Quality can also be measured by the number of glyphs provided. Do you need to write Greek or Hebrew? Do you need German or French quotation marks, umlauts, or other accents? Good fonts usually have all or most of them (for that reason many of the fonts shipped with SuSE are quite useless, unless you only write English texts).
  • A good font family will offer you at least 3 varieties for regular, italic and bold fonts, because in real typesetting you don't and generally can't use the "fake" italics and bold letters as most people are used to from their word processor (that's, of course, not true for artistic or some ancient fonts). You should ideally also be able to get more weights, such as demibold, black, and light, to give you some more flexibility with headings and similar.

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