Creative professionals are creating action plans to manage the retirement of PostScript Type 1 fonts. And some people believe they’ve found one easy solution: font conversion.
With just one Google search, you’ll find about a million font conversion software options that promise to convert PostScript fonts into OpenType fonts—some even for free.
Sounds tempting, doesn’t it? Converting your fonts may seem easier than auditing your entire font collection, less expensive than buying new font, or another way to update an old font to a more modern, flexible font.
The idea to convert PostScript fonts is quite popular. According to customer survey responses captured in our infographic “What Is The Future Of PostScript Fonts?”, 30% of creative professionals said they plan to use font conversion software to convert their PostScript Type 1 fonts.
But converting a font is not as easy (or as legit) as you think it is. Here’s why.
Every piece of font conversion software works differently depending on what type of font you’re converting or why. But generally, font conversion programs attempt to do two things.
First, a font conversion program works to duplicate a font’s specific glyphs to maintain the distinct look and feel. Simultaneously, it adjusts the font’s code so that it can be accessed by a different operating system, a specific application, or used for a specific purpose.
Some examples of font conversion include:
However, fonts are a complicated piece of software with lots of little nuances and—for more modern fonts—years and years of updates. And not all font conversion software is created equal, which can create quite the spectrum of results, from nearly perfect to…well, not so much.
One of the most worrisome results of a poor conversion is that it could end up damaging integrity of the font. You may convert a PostScript font to an OpenType font and find that the Adobe application still won’t except it, or that it drastically changes the layout of your project.
You may also find that your conversion software doesn’t copy vital information about the font exactly as you need it, such as the font menu name. This can make it challenging for font management software that uses font auto-activation. If the font’s internal name has been changed, the system may not recognize the font anymore (gulp!).
Also, converted fonts can be very hard to keep track of, which can become a logistical nightmare, especially given the size of most business’ font collections. Imagine a client asking for proof of purchase of a font, only to end up with a converted font type without realizing it. This could become problematic if font conversion goes against a font’s EULA (we’ll go over that in a minute).
The impulse to convert PostScript fonts into OpenType fonts is often driven by financial reasons. For some, it’s out of frugality, (“I spent a bunch of money on all these fonts, now you want me to buy brand new ones? Why re-buy what I already have?”) For others, it feels more like a business decision (“My clients want me to use PostScript fonts and their business matters to my bottom line.”). But have you considered the potential long-term costs of font conversion?
Based on conversations with some of our own customers, converting PostScript fonts to OpenType fonts may not actually save that much time or money compared to buying and downloading new fonts.
Our consumer research, highlighted in our blog, “The Hidden Risks Of Font Licensing Mistakes,” estimates the average business font collection is made up of about 4500 fonts. And according to estimates highlighted in our blog, “How To Prepare For The End Of PostScript Type 1 Fonts”, around a quarter of those are PostScript fonts. That’s over 1100 PostScript fonts that need to be replaced, one way or the other. Is it worth individually converting 1100 fonts? Whose job will that be? How will you keep track of the converted fonts? And what happens if the conversion doesn’t work, and the programs don’t accept the new font?
You may not pay upfront for a whole new set of fonts. But you might pay in things like resource requirements, workflow interruptions, and project delays, which can be just as financially painful.
If paying for new fonts has you wincing, consider who you’re actually supporting. You’re paying a typeface designer for their work—a creative professional, just like you and your teammates. And as the idiom goes: The cost reflects the amount of time and effort that goes into the result. It can take years to build a font (particularly a font that is interoperable across applications, operating systems, and in multiple mediums). Shouldn’t independent artists like that be fairly compensated for the work they create?
Let’s think of it another way: Whether you are a designer, a co-worker that works with designers, or you employ designers, you understand how frustrating it is when a designer’s work is copied and reused for someone else’s monetary gain without permission. So as one creative professional to another, it’s better to practice good habits (and good karma) by paying our font designers fairly, rather than pirating their fonts through conversion.
With that in mind, many foundries and font resellers have specific rules in their end-user licensing agreements (or EULAs) that don’t allow font conversion to protect the integrity of the foundry’s work. Illegally converted fonts could lead to very expensive lawsuits, as some of these high-profile brands can attest to.
Think of all the software you use daily to keep your businesses running. Consider all the updates necessary to keep your team working efficiently, creatively, and in-line with industry best practices.
Fonts are just another kind of software. The only difference is that PostScript fonts really haven’t changed much since their introduction to the world. They served as a launch pad for more flexible fonts that can keep up with the demands today’s creative business needs. Does it really make good business sense to work with a piece of programming that hasn’t changed in 30 years? How can you stay competitive with discontinued technology?
Font conversion may be an easy answer, but it’s not the only solution to handle the end-of-support for PostScript fonts.
Don’t let the easy answer get you into more trouble. Converting your PostScript fonts into OpenType fonts may seem like the fastest (and cheapest) solution, but the potential time and expense of dealing with poor conversions could end up costing your more than you bargained for.