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Relatively new to LaTeX and am confused about fonts. I understand that with XeLaTeX, I can use any OpenType or TrueType font I have installed on my computer. I'm less clear about the current relevance of longer established font formats and their related machinery (fonts with mf, tfm, pk extensions, MetaFont). My lack of familiarity is probably obvious in how I'm asking that--sorry!

Am I missing anything by limiting myself to OTF and TTF fonts? Would going beyond those give me access to "better" fonts in some way? Is (Xe)LaTex limited in its ability to do its layout magic (kerning, etc.) with OTF/TTF fonts?

Lastly, if it is worth going being OTF/TTF fonts, what is a good current information source from which I could start learning more? The community has produced some great documentation over the years, but its hard for a newcomer (at least, for me) to figure out what has been overtaken by later developments.

Thank you.

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We are talking about how to produce a PDF, not a DVI and not a *.ps file. To produce a PDF with fonts which are installed on your computer, the typicall otf or ttf fonts, you can use XeLaTeX or LuaLaTeX. For a very short introduction to the terms see e.g. here: https://tex.stackexchange.com/a/296623/4736.

The alternative to Xe- or LuaLaTeX still is pdfLaTeX, which uses the fonts installed with your TeX-system, e.g. texlive or MikTeX. There are hundreds of fonts available, e.g. see here: http://www.tug.dk/FontCatalogue/

You will be missing something by limiting to your localy installed ttf or otf fonts, if you use a low quality fonts. There might be a font with poor kerning or whatever issues.

But the professional otf or ttf fonts offer much more font features, so you'd be better off to stick to Xe- or LuaLaTeX. Please have a look at section 10 of the fontspec manual, you get it after typing texdoc fontspec on the command line / terminal / console.

One advantage of pdftex to me was its velocity: pdftex is fast, while Xe- or LuaTeX used to be a lot slower. But the situation improved a lot, recently I compiled something using LuaTeX and felt suprised about its speed.

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You are not missing anything unless the non-*tf fonts contain symbols that are not available in the *tf fonts. This is less likely than it once was, due to the availability of specialty *tf fonts (such as math fonts) in TeX.

It is possible to open the older fonts in a font editor such as FontForge, then export them as *tf. Then you would call the exported font like any other *tf font.

Once I became familiar with how to use fontspec (in LuaTeX) I never went back.

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