Fonts & Encodings
From Advanced Typography to Unicode and Everything in Between
Publisher: O'Reilly Media
Final Release Date: September 2007
Pages: 1038

This reference is a fascinating and complete guide to using fonts and typography on the Web and across a variety of operating systems and application software. Fonts & Encodings shows you how to take full advantage of the incredible number of typographic options available, with advanced material that covers everything from designing glyphs to developing software that creates and processes fonts.

The era of ASCII characters on green screens is long gone, and industry leaders such as Apple, HP, IBM, Microsoft, and Oracle have adopted the Unicode Worldwide Character Standard. Yet, many software applications and web sites still use a host of standards, including PostScript, TrueType, TeX/Omega, SVG, Fontlab, FontForge, Metafont, Panose, and OpenType. This book explores each option in depth, and provides background behind the processes that comprise today's "digital space for writing":

  • Part I introduces Unicode, with a brief history of codes and encodings including ASCII. Learn about the morass of the data that accompanies each Unicode character, and how Unicode deals with normalization, the bidirectional algorithm, and the handling of East Asian characters.
  • Part II discusses font management, including installation, tools for activation/deactivation, and font choices for three different systems: Windows, the Mac OS, and the X Window System (Unix).
  • Part III deals with the technical use of fonts in two specific cases: the TeX typesetting system (and its successor, W, which the author co-developed) and web pages.
  • Part IV describes methods for classifying fonts: Vox, Alessandrini, and Panose-1, which is used by Windows and the CSS standard. Learn about existing tools for creating (or modifying) fonts, including FontLab and FontForge, and become familiar with OpenType properties and AAT fonts.
Nowhere else will you find the valuable technical information on fonts and typography that software developers, web developers, and graphic artists need to know to get typography and fonts to work properly.
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oreillyFonts & Encodings

(based on 3 reviews)

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Useful book about font

By Zenjia

from Taichung, Taiwan

About Me Designer

Verified Reviewer


  • Concise
  • Easy to understand
  • Helpful examples


  • Not New Enough

Best Uses

  • Intermediate
  • Novice
  • Student

Comments about oreilly Fonts & Encodings:

I am trying to create a font by my own hand, and find this book via fontforge website as a related book. I find that this book is quite handful about things around creating fonts, and the introduction about applications to create a font is in detail.

The only problem is that the content was published in 2007, not new enough to go after those applications' changes recently. Some options or commands has been changed or improved, and you have to learn by yourself.

(11 of 11 customers found this review helpful)


Great reference, but some bits are no longer up-to-date

By Ulrik Vieth, TeX Users Group

from Undisclosed

Comments about oreilly Fonts & Encodings:

Yannis Haralambous is well known in the TeX community, not only for his work on Omega, a proposed successor to TeX, but also for his numerous contributions as a developer of fonts for various languages. It only seems fitting that Yannis has undertaken the task of writing a comprehensive book on the topic of fonts and encodings.

This book is quite impressive, not only regarding its size, but also regarding the broad range of topics covered as well as the depth of the coverage and the level of detail. It covers everything you ever wanted to know about fonts and encodings, including the messy bits you don't really want to know.

Considering the size of the book, it is understandable that several years have passed from the time of writing the original manuscript in French to the publication of the English translation. Unfortunately, because of thi delays, some chapters are not as up-to-date as one could have wished.

While this is not much of a problem for most of the reference chapters about encodings or font file formats, it is very regrettable for the TeX community that the chapter about fonts in TeX has completely missed or overlooked some very important developments of the last few years, such as pdfTeX, the Latin Modern and TeX Gyre fonts, or XeTeX (which is a TeX engine that offers support for Unicode and OpenType fonts).

To be fair, one has to admit that the success and importance of these recent developments in the TeX world could not have been foreseen at the time of writing. Nevertheless, it could have been possible to include some additions and/or revisions by the time of the English translation of 2007.

It is rather unfortunate that the opportunity for updates was missed, which would have made the book even more useful and valuable for TeX users. Despite these shortcomings, the book remains a valuable resource for anyone deeply interested in font technology and encodings.

(10 of 10 customers found this review helpful)


Backdate your computer knowledge

By B Kiefer

from Undisclosed

Comments about oreilly Fonts & Encodings:

I've learned quite a lot about "the way things are" in computing by reading the first 50 pages of this entertaining book. Haramlambous' work is translated by P. Scott Horne. I'm not sure what language the original work is in, but this is a very readable book that covers the fundamental tryst between fonts and encodings. Encodings help us understand characters while fonts make those characters familiar glyphs (letters and symbols).

Haramlambous has shed light on every corner of this problem. He starts with a refresher in type setting and a primer in the language of fonts. From there, he discusses the history of encodings including an illustrative expose comparing the punchcard and EBCDIC and how they share the same encoding scheme.

As a first edition, there are plenty of errata issues that need to be addressed, but this massive tome will be a long-lived reference in my library.

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