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The below expands on the themes briefly represented in a question from several years ago.


Historically, TeX and its descendants have distinguished themselves as being accessible to non-commercial users while yet being able to produce results comparable to the best commercial typesetting. Among their distinctive features absent from common consumer software, such as word processors, is the use of optical sizes, mimicking historical typesetting, though, at least in the case of Computer Modern, created via a software rendering method.

Meanwhile, general font software solutions have improved considerably, and many TeX-family users, feeling limited by a single font family, or small group of families, have increasingly embraced variously the use of fonts imported into TeX definitions from other sources, and the use of newer processor families, such as LuaTeX and XeTeX.

These solutions, despite making an enormous variety of typefaces available to TeX-family processors, would apparently carry the liability of lacking optical sizing, Scalable fonts have been widely sold as an innovation afforded by the digital age, perhaps without due consideration of the reduced quality of finished results. Some users, excited by access to more typefaces, express particular enthusiasm for the newer processors, LuaTeX and XeTeX, suggesting that late advancements, such as kerning, in digital font definitions, have effectively made TeX’s older font-definition system obsolete and inferior. Yet this group seems not generally to mention the question of optical sizing versus scaling.

Yet a further concern is raised by the proliferation, especially in the last decade, of fonts described by their creators as optimized or adapted for web use, which appears to carry distinct concerns compared to publication in printed matter. Note of course that this category, which might loosely be called web fonts, refers not narrowly to fonts distributed in Web Open Font Format, but rather to any digital asset describing fonts that were created with the intention of use in display of web content. In principle, it would be easy to ignore such fonts in searching for ones appropriate for print, but in practice it is made hard by their inundation into almost all current distribution channels.

A few examples I have found encapsulating these issues are the following:

  • The BaskervilleF project adapts Libre Baskerville font definitions, intended for web use, into native TeX definitions, although the package itself contains TeX definitions as well as definitions in common formats, such as Type 1 and Open Type Format (which may in fact be used by the LaTeX package, though my understanding is limited).
  • The Libre Bodoni Font Family, though apparently a striking adaptation of a classic design, is described by the designer as "specifically adapted for today’s web requirements".

The above issues lead me to raise three broad questions to the community:

  1. What are the liabilities of using common, digital, scalable fonts, such as those widely distributed in True Type Font format and Open Type Font format, compared to classic TeX fonts, in publishing printed documents? Where might one find an appropriate balance between the limited variety of fonts created specifically for TeX, versus the near-boundless variety available in common formats?
  2. What are the liabilities of using so-called web optimized fonts, in creation of printed publications, compared to using the earlier generation of digital font definitions, created principally for print?
  3. And finally, have the above concerns been adequately considered by the greater number of users migrating away from native TeX fonts and toward newer solutions, such as the use of OTF font definitions by the XeTeX processor?
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    About your third question, .otf fonts can be made with optical sizes (e.g., Adobe’s Minion Pro Opticals, or, on the free side, Coelacanth). But much of your post would be difficult to answer, since matters of preference and the demands of particular documents figure into it.
    – Thérèse
    Oct 14 '19 at 16:24
  • I realize that no one can give a fully objective, universal answer, but informed and reasonable opinions being better than guesses from the laity, I seek the former from anyone able and willing to provide. W.r.t. support for optical sizing in OTF, I am principally considering the overwhelming composition of the font definitions in active use, including by TeX users. Wide use of this feature by designers would be wonderful, but appears to be lacking currently.
    – epl
    Oct 14 '19 at 16:31
  • The problems don’t seem specific to TeX. I’d look at typophile.com/node/73859, etc., and perhaps ask at graphicdesign.stackexchange.com
    – Thérèse
    Oct 14 '19 at 16:36
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    Latin Modern Roman and the TeX Gyre fonts come in optical sizes. XeTeX and LuaTeX also support the optical sizes and all font features of the professional fonts you buy.
    – Davislor
    Oct 14 '19 at 21:46
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    I suspect that this is "too broad" a question for this site. Oct 14 '19 at 21:47

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