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Multiple Master

Adobe recently announced a new font technology called Multiple Master, which should make everyone who uses fonts happy. Current PostScript Type 1 fonts have a single outline file that allows you to scale a font’s size. A Multiple Master font can be scaled similarly, but it has a number of outlines that allow much more flexibility, such as the ability to change the weight, width, and style (the difference between serif or sans-serif). The fonts will be no slower to image and will be completely compatible with all PostScript printers (though not necessarily PostScript clones, like TrueImage). The font files will be somewhat larger than current font files, not surprisingly, but will probably take up less space than if you had all the versions of a current font family.

So what are these fonts going to be useful for? Lots of stuff, probably. One use will be to prevent the ugly appearance of a file that uses a font that you don’t have installed (preventing ugliness is an important task in today’s society). A Multiple Master font will emulate the original font’s character spacing and widths so the document will be formatted correctly again. Graphic designers will also appreciate being able to tweak the character weights and widths to fit a text run into a specific position. I know I’ve played with the leading and kerning in PageMaker for hours at various times, trying to get a text block to fit between some graphic elements. On a larger scale, book designers will be able to tweak the fonts to ensure that the book will have an exact multiple of 16 pages, which will cut down on paper waste and reduce book costs (well, OK, book prices probably won’t go down even if they do save money).

It will be a while before Multiple Master fonts come out. Adobe’s talking about releasing the first few of them this summer along with new versions of ATM for the PC and Mac. Some sort of added software will be necessary to manipulate the Multiple Master fonts in applications – probably an INIT or desk accessory. The INIT would almost certainly be easier to use and more integrated, but might run afoul of non-standard font handling practices such as those used by Microsoft Word. Other companies such as ITC, Bitstream, Agfa Compugraphic, Monotype, and Linotype will also manufacture Multiple Master fonts, so there should be no shortage of them in a year or so.

It’s unclear how TrueType fits in with all of this. From what I’ve seen and heard recently, the TrueType INIT is a bit of a pain to use (you can’t use older LaserWriter drivers with it, which means you’ll have to reinitialize the printer each time someone prints with a different driver) and isn’t quite as fast as ATM. That very well may change when System 7.0 comes out, since any INIT that patches the current system won’t be as fast as something built into the system. So it looks like the low-end will have TrueType (since everyone who uses System 7.0 will have it), whereas graphic designers will probably stick with PostScript for serious work, particularly when Multiple Master comes out. TrueType could implement an optical scaling scheme like Multiple Master, but it would take some time and would require interest on Apple’s part to compete with PostScript on the high-end. I hope that everything get along happily when all of this is over with, if it ever will be.

Related articles:
MacWEEK — 19-Mar-91, Vol. 5, #11, pg. 20
MacWEEK — 12-Mar-91, Vol. 5, #10, pg. 1
InfoWorld — 11-Mar-91, Vol. 13, #10, pg. 5
PC WEEK — 11-Mar-91, Vol. 8, #10, pg. 1

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