What Are Fonts?

Have you ever wondered what font is? What makes it so special in the world of computers and what makes a font unique? Or why do some people say that if you write a sentence in italic means you are using a font different from the same font but without italics? Do you want to know more about fonts and where do you find them in Windows or the Internet? In this guide, we’ll try to give you answers and explain what are the small details that together make a font. We will also explain what a family of fonts means.

A short font history

From a historical point of view, the word font, meant a set of different characters that were carved in wood or molded into hot metal shapes. The first font appeared with the development of the first printing technique. This happened in eastern Asia, somewhere between 206 and 220 BC, when Chinese craftsmen began to use wood blocks to print on fabrics and paper. Until the end of the 11th century, a hand press with a printing press was invented in East Asia, and by the end of the 13th century; Korea had developed manual press with metal lettering. Chronologically, the next important step was the invention of the mechanical printing press by Johannes Gutenberg in Europe somewhere in 1450. This was the time when Gutenberg hired a scribe to help him draw and create the first Western-style font. According to Wikipedia, it had only 202 characters, but they served to print the first printed books in Europe. Not long after, Gutenberg created a second 300-character font, which he used to create the first printed Bible in the world. It is known as the Gutenberg Bible, or the Bible with 42 lines, the Bible Mazarin or B42. Regardless of the name it carries, it marks the beginning of the era of the printed book in Europe and generally in the world.

After that time, many types of fonts appeared, but the most significant period of their growth was the 20th century, when printing became an industry, and industrial printing presses became common. This was the period of the spread of printed books and newspapers, and so many fonts appeared.

Finally, starting with the last part of the 20th century, people began to switch from reading to paper to reading on screens. Due to Internet expansion, reading news and discovering new information in general have become increasingly popular on computers, tablets, smartphones and similar devices. People not only began to pay more attention to what the screens show, but more and more people started to create fonts. So, at present, it’s probably almost impossible to know how many different fonts there are in the world.

What is a font?

A font is a character set that usually contains letters, numbers, punctuation marks, and other symbols. Fonts are characterized by the size, thickness and style of their characters. Some fonts are bigger than others; some are bold or italic, and so on. All of these features apply to the fonts we use today, except that we now use and see the fonts mainly displayed on the screens. At the same time, we have come to depend on less and less paper and other similar materials. Fonts used on computers, web browsers, document editing applications, or any other application are all defined by the same features: size, thickness and style. Let’s look at these three main features, one by one, and see why they are so important. Perhaps everyone has heard of the Arial font, so we’ll use it as an example.

What is the size of a font?

The font size is defined in points, which in turn is equivalent to the pixels on the computer screens. For example, a 12-point Arial font means that the font you use is called Arial and has characters (letters, numbers, and other symbols) of a size or height of up to 12 points.

What is the thickness of a font?

Fonts are also characterized by the thickness of their characters. The thickness of a font refers to how thick the lines of its characters are. For example, a font may be normal, bold or thin. Normal thickness means standard characters. A thin font means it has characters that are thinner than the standard ones. A bold font has more pronounced characters than the standard font of that font. There are other intermediate thicknesses that a font can have. Sometimes the thickness of a font can be specified even in numbers. For example, a font may be 100 thin or 600 bold. But the regular user probably will only work regularly with standard or bold fonts.

What is the style of a font?

Finally, the third essential feature of a font is its style. The fonts can be italic (or oblique), condensed (or narrow), compressed, expanded, and so on. For example, the characters in italic font will all have a distinctive tilt. Characters in a condensed or narrow font have lower character spacing than normal, and an expanded font will have larger than normal spacing between its characters.

In addition to the three main features that define a font (size, thickness and style), is also characterized by other things like its design, the method by which its characters are represented (using points or using vectors) or by orienting them (for example, many Arabic fonts are designed for reading from right to left instead of left to right, as is the case with European languages).

What is a family of fonts?

A family of fonts is a collection of fonts that share similar design features. Fonts belonging to the same family may vary in size, thickness and style, but always have the same design. For example, when people think about Arial, they actually refer to the Arial font family, not to all the fonts it contains. For example, the Arial font family contains many different fonts. But although they all differ from each other, they still have the same design features that make them look the same. The letters, for example, may have different thicknesses or may be more inclined or straight, but in the end they will still resemble each other.

Fonts and how they are stored as files on your computer

Fonts are stored as files on our Windows computers or other operating systems. This means that everyone has a name, an extension, a dimension, and so on. Just as executable files almost always have the extension “.exe” in Windows, so fonts have some common extensions. The most common font extensions are “.ttf” and “.otf”. “.TTF” is an acronym for TrueType fonts, a font format created by Apple and Microsoft in the 80’s. For this reason, this format is now the most used font format on Windows computers. “OTF” comes from OpenType and is a font format built on the principles of TTF or TrueType. And OpenType is also a Microsoft product, but this time with Adobe instead of Apple. OpenType fonts are used on Windows computers as well as on web sites on the Internet.

Fonts are often underestimated: although you can radically and positively modify your documents, presentations, or how your web site looks, many people do not consider them important. But the way one looks at it can have a major impact, sometimes even stronger than content, whether you like it or not. The good part of the Internet is that you can find just about anything you want, free or at a very low price. This also applies to fonts, and there are many sites that offer very good free fonts. Instead, many of these sites are difficult to navigate or worse, the fonts they distribute are tampered with adware or malware. That’s why we thought it would be a good idea to look through these sites and make a list of some of the best that would be safe and not bring computer viruses or other things you do not have.

1. DaFont

DaFont is probably the most popular free fonts site in the world. There is a good reason for this: the site is extremely easy to use. You can use the search function or you can search for a font that you like by navigating through the various available categories. One thing you will surely appreciate is that you can see, with a simple click, how any text you want when you write it with a specific font that interests you.

2. FontSquirrel

FontSquirrel is a web site that is probably found in the free fonts resource list of any web designer. It’s easy to navigate and get a preview of a font is something fast and uncomplicated. Owners say they are doing their best to include only 100% free fonts, even for commercial use, great work. If you create your own web site, you’ll be impressed with the fact that FontSquirrel also offers you a web font generator where you can upload and convert your fonts for inclusion in web sites.

3. Google Fonts

If you prefer to get free fonts from a known software developer, you certainly cannot be wrong if you use the Google Fonts service. Google Fonts gives us a lot of free fonts that you can find by searching or selecting different criteria. The fonts offered by Google are open source and can be used both personally and for commercial purposes, on any web site, in any document, or even on a T-shirt, if that’s what you want.

4. FontSpace

FontSpace is a web site where you can find a ton of free fonts, shared by thousands of designers around the world. Finding the font you want is easy: use the search box if you already know the name of the font you are looking for or browse through the various available font categories. You can also tap the random link in the top menu to see a list of 10 random fonts. Be sure to read the license terms for each font you download because some of the fonts are free for personal use, and some fonts are not free for commercial purposes.

5. Urban Fonts

Urban Fonts sells premium fonts, but it also offers free fonts that anyone can download and use. The site has a simple design, making it easy to find what you are looking for. You can search for a specific font or navigate through the different font categories. You also have font previews, so it’s easy to see how a particular text will look like when it’s written with a particular font.

6. 1001 Free Fonts

1001 Fonts is probably the oldest resource for free fonts in this list. And although it may have originally only offered one thousand and one fonts, the site now has tens of thousands of free fonts available for download. Like most of the other sites I’ve mentioned so far, 1001 Fonts offer a search function, but you can also navigate among the free fonts in the different categories. Most fonts should be able to use them as you like, but there are also some shareware fonts. It is best to check the licensing terms for each font you download so you can avoid any legal issues.

These are the best web sites I’ve found for downloading free fonts that do not involve security risks for their users. We all like it all and we’re sure they’ll give you a helping hand anytime you’ll need a new font to use on your new website, documents, or even your next t-shirt. If you think there are other free font resources that we should add to the list, do not hesitate to tell them in the comments section below. Hopefully, in this article, we’ve been able to shed some light on what fonts and font families are.

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