Recently I've been messing around with different fonts in LaTeX and tonight got set up with the fontspec package which allows you to use .otf fonts in your LaTeX documents (in my case compiling with xelatex instead of pdflatex). Given the presence of online .ttf to .otf converters, this opens up a world of opportunity in terms of font usage -- particularly with the availabliliy of high-quality free fonts available from sources such as The League of Movable Type.

My only concern with this is that, well, it sounds a little too good to be true. One of the reasons I use LaTeX is because the basic typesetting is just so good. Sometimes people mention that one of the reasons this works is that LaTeX font files contain more information than basic .ttfs which allows LaTeX to fine tune character placement. I'm worried that using .otfs through the fontspec package might compromise typographical quality.

So I have two questions, and my naive answers.

First question (.otf): Will the use of original .otfss through fontspec result in lower typographical quality than using, say, the default Computer Modern? By "original" I mean .otf files created by the type designers themselves, rather than automated conversion software.

My naive answer is no ... mainly because I want it to be no! But I did install Linux Libertine, and the first thing I noticed was a ligature (Th) I'd never even seen before:

enter image description here

This gave me hope!

Second question (.ttf): Will the use of .otfss created through automated conversion software from, say, .ttf files result in worse typography?

My naive answer to this is yes. This is because of the partial attributions of LaTeX's good typography to the complexity of its font files, implying that default Microsoft Word font files simply didn't contain enough information to place the fonts correctly.

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    About your second question: You can use .ttf fonts directly without any conversion with XeTeX and LuaTeX. I think however, that .ttf fonts do usually include less detailed typographic information than .otf fonts.
    – doncherry
    Oct 9, 2012 at 20:49
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    No. (I have to write some more characters for this comment to be accepted) No typographic drawbacks. Just many, many, many, many advantages if the font is designed and constructed well enough.
    – topskip
    Oct 9, 2012 at 21:24
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    @doncherry: The file extension does not show, whether a font is an OpenType font or not, cf. the Wikipedia entry: OpenType.
    – Speravir
    Oct 9, 2012 at 21:30
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    James, see my comment to doncherry. There’s no need for converting TTF to OTF. It won’t get OpenType functionality either. The linked online converter doesn’t say anything about the scripts in the background. Perhaps they use ttfautohint, so you would get better hinted OTF files, but actually this is not related to TTF vs. OTF.
    – Speravir
    Oct 9, 2012 at 21:42
  • pdftex can use truetype fonts directly as well.
    – cfr
    Jan 1, 2014 at 0:40

1 Answer 1

  • Regarding Metafont CM vs. Latin Modern OTF: One can argue that one of the main virtue of Metafont is the rasterizer - that is with Metafont you can get bitmap fonts targeted for a specific device and a specific font size, while the bitmaps from OTF fonts will only benefit from hinting. On the other hand LM's glpyhs have been improved over CM's.
  • Regarding TTF vs. OTF: Technically TTFs are OTFs, so there is no conversion needed. For PFBs (Type 1) only some encapsulation is needed.

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