Postscript is no more, long live TrueType and OpenType

Postscript has virtually disappeared, and today new font standards like TrueType and OpenType reign supreme. That's how we moved from desktop PostScript in the early 80s x to today.

When the Mac first launched in 1984, it radically changed the way we create and manage print and type. Gone are the days of hand-setting type on a printing press or hand-creating graphics on a designer's easel.

The Mac features WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) design and layout using (at the time) revolutionary software such as Aldus Pagemaker and Adobe Systems, Inc. Illustrator.

In 1986, Apple released the Mac Plus, an updated version of the original Mac – now with 1 MB of RAM. The company also launched the LaserWriter, the world's first mass-market desktop laser printer.

Both apps were hits and instantly became killer apps for the Mac. Designers, print and news outlets bought the Mac and LaserWriter, and designers could now create print publications, import text and graphics, and place objects on pages on the screen simply by clicking and dragging.

Adobe's original graphic design products still exist today: Illustrator is still the primary professional vector illustration application for designers and print publishers, and one of Adobe's other applications, InDesign, is effectively the successor to Aldus Pagemaker.

Adobe bought Aldus and then bought another company from the 1980s and 1990s called Macromedia, which made the now-defunct Flash and other applications. Aldus also had a presentation design app called Persuasion, which was a bit like today's Apple Keynote.

Several more versions of the Mac followed, including the SE, SE/30, Mac II (the first color Mac), Iici, and many later color machines.

Adobe PostScript enabled it all

At the beginning In In the 1980s, Adobe Systems was already working on a page layout and description language called PostScript. Apple and Aldus have adopted PostScript, as have many laser printer manufacturers.

Each Apple LaserWriter came with a built-in PostScript interpreter, as well as ROMs containing a limited set of Adobe PostScript fonts, called Type 1 fonts. Additional Type 1 fonts could be installed into the Fonts folder of the original Mac OS, along with suitcase-only font bitmap files for the screen.

When you go to print a file on the LaserWriter, Mac OS loads any additional required Type 1 fonts into the printer's memory, and the PostScript interpreter rasterizes them into text on the page.

Original Type 1 fonts: Type 1 “outline” fonts at the top, a “suitcase” font bitmap file for screen display, and Adobe Font Metrics files.

Unfortunately, the original Mac OS did not directly support PostScript in its API.

Adobe's early success was largely based on PostScript and Illustrator, which was followed by many other products. Adobe made billions from PostScript licensing fees that Apple and other printer manufacturers had to pay to install PostScript in their printers.

Third-party providers of Type 1 fonts soon emerged. The desktop publishing (DTP) market exploded, and Apple and Adobe were on their way to mega-success.

Apple and Mac were in dire need of a killer application at the time, and it was a combination of LaserWriter, Mac Plus, and PostScript. In fact, if it weren't for desktop publishing and LaserWriter, Apple might not have survived.

One ​​of Adobe's first software products for Mac is Type Reunion.

PostScript describes pages, vector graphics and fonts

PostScript is a very easy to read English language that describes objects to be drawn on a page. The commands are short and simple and typically describe paths (called Bezier paths in mathematics), path attributes, colors, line (stroke) sizes, fills, and other objects.

The Type 1 font standard did the same thing, but for fonts – complex Bezier paths were used to draw the outlines and thickness of the font, as well as graphic objects (which we'll get to in a moment).

Because PostScript was short and text-based, vector image files and fonts could be described while keeping file sizes small.

Illustrator is based on the same concepts – using PostScript to draw and display shapes, although when displayed on early Mac screens, objects had to be converted to the Mac's crude bitmap-based drawing engine called QuickDraw. The original Mac never had true WYSIWYG, but it came close.

Steve Job's second company, NeXT, Inc., starting in 1989, produced new computers that actually used Display PostScript for true WYSIWYG display on the screen and on the printed page. NeXT also manufactured and sold its own small PostScript-based laser printer.

One of the first applications ported to NeXT machines was Adobe Illustrator.

This was followed by several additional LaserWriter models from Apple, each with more features, more internal memory and fonts, as well as higher performance and lower prices.

Mac users loved the ease with which fonts could be installed, uninstalled, and downloaded to and from the Mac. The whole system was simple, seamless and just worked.

Adobe later released and sold additional software for Mac PostScript, such as Adobe Type Manager (ATM), Type-On-Call CDs with unlockable fonts, and font collections on 3.5-inch floppy disks, which fit early Mac floppy drives.

The original floppy disk containing Adobe Type 1 Galahad fonts and Adobe Type Manager 4.0 for Windows.

ATM essentially tried to add Display PostScript to early Mac computers with graphics to develop applications with varying levels of success. It read and displayed Type 1 fonts on the Mac display using vector graphics converted to bitmap fonts, or had the corresponding bitmap fonts installed alongside the Type 1 fonts for printing.

While this improved fonts on the Mac display in many cases, there were downsides, namely performance, and sometimes the font placed on a page with ATM did not match exactly when ATM was turned off.

Apple, Adobe, Illustrator and NeXT

The original Mac models did not directly support PostScript fonts, and later users could install both bitmap screen fonts and PostScript fonts that were downloaded to the laser printer. during printing. This is where the Fonts folders in macOS originally came from.

Adobe Systems co-founder John Warnock, who died in August at the age of 82, initiated the PostScript project at Adobe.

Users loved the Mac font system, but as more and more fonts were distributed, the font storage system quickly became out of control. To make matters worse, most Type 1 fonts had multiple variants or styles within each font, quickly making the Mac font menu unwieldy.

Fifth Generation Systems later released a Mac utility called Suitcase and Suitcase II, which made font management easier. Symantec bought Fifth Generation Systems and Suitcase, and then another company (Extensis) bought Suitcase from Symantec.

You can still get the “definitive version” of Extensis Suitcase Fusion on their website as a download for macOS.

3rd version of the Suitcase from Symantec on a floppy disk around 1996.

PostScript itself is very easy to understand just by reading it. Most PostScript files store their content (code) as plain text. Here's a small example:

/$F2psDict 200 dict def

$F2psDict Begin

$ F2psDict /mtrx matrix put

/l {lineto} def binding

/m {moveto} def binding

/s {stroke} def binding

/n {newpath} def binding

/gs {gsave} def binding

/gr {grestore} def binding

/clp {closepath } bind def

Splines and Bezier curves

Bezier curves are based on splines—paths described by polynomials and “knots,” or points. Each path is described by two or more points with two ends and one or more points in between. Splines interpolate a path along points to achieve a smooth, continuous shape.

A font described using splines, as detailed on the FontForge website.

Several modern font tools, including FontForge, allow you to create and export font files in a specific way. similar to drawings in Illustrator.

Adobe chose splines for PostScript because, regardless of screen or print resolution, splines can describe shapes at any scale. The data for splines is very compact because instead of describing entire shapes, you only need to store points.

Adobe Illustrator allows designers to add, delete, cut, paste, and reshape splines by dragging control points along them to change their shape.

At the time, although the original Mac's display had a very low resolution (72 dpi), laser printers were already printing at 300, 600, 1200, and 2400 dpi. The Mac's built-in font system was raster-only, while Adobe used vector graphics, described mathematically.

Just as Adobe released Illustrator, Aldus released its own spline-based drawing program called Freehand, which was also wildly popular among designers.

An early version of Aldus Freehand, similar to Illustrator.

System 7, TrueType and QuickDraw GX

In the late 1980s, Apple realized the limitations of its font system and what Adobe had achieved, and created a new standard for called “SFNT”. At the same time, a new TrueType font standard was developed, which Mac still supports today.

SFNT was designed as an open container for other font types and supports PostScript, TrueType, OpenType, Web Open Font Format (WOFF), and others.

However, due to early use of C programming language code and design decisions, the maximum number of characters that can be included in an SFNT table is 65,536 (the maximum value of an unsigned short integer variable in C).

After Apple released System 7 in 1991, which also included color on the Mac for the first time, users could now install TrueType fonts by simply dragging them into the Fonts folder inside the System folder or into suitcases.

Apple's System 7 – sold retail on floppy disks. Note the TrueType font icon in the lower left corner.

In this video, Apple employee #8 Chris Espinoza, who joined the company at age fourteen, introduced System 7. Chris still works at Apple.

Before System 7, Mac users had to use the Apple-provided Font/DA Mover application to install and remove fonts.

TrueType simplifies the Mac font system. TrueType, a scalable standard for vector or outline fonts, eliminates the need for separate bitmap fonts and stores fonts in a single file.

Gone are the days of having to worry about installing the corresponding Type 1 font files for every bitmap font installed on your Mac.

Microsoft soon added TrueType support to Microsoft Windows, which is still supported today. In response to TrueType becoming the new open font standard, Adobe announced that it would also open up the Type 1 standard.

Adobe founder John Warnock called TrueType a cheap imitation of Adobe technology.

Apple also later developed an additional type standard for its new version of QuickDraw called QuickDraw GX. Called TrueType GX (later known as Apple Advanced Typography), it never fully caught on, and like QuickDraw GX, it was overshadowed by several new rendering technologies of the mid-1990s, such as OpenType, OpenGL and others.

Apple also had a related 3D rendering technology called QuickDraw 3D, which also failed.

Since most AAT features are now supported in OpenType, continued development of AAT was not considered necessary.

Unicode, WorldScript and ATUSI

About the same time a then-new open standard, Unicode, was introduced to combat globalization, non-Western languages, and right-to-left languages ​​such as Arabic and others on computers.

Apple created Apple Type Services for Unicode Imaging (ATUSI) for Mac OS 8.5, which shipped as a system extension in the OS and provided rendering in international languages ​​using Unicode.

Before ATSUI, Mac OS used a special Apple standard called WorldScript, which included non-Western languages ​​and fonts in System 7.1 through “Language Sets,” which were additional software components that could be plugged in and provide support. for other languages.

Apple Japanese Language Set.

Apple discontinued support for ATSUI and WorldScript in Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, as well as support for ATS.framework for Mac OS X (Apple Type Services) in Xcode 4.6 in 2012. Today, most text processed in macOS and iOS is processed by Apple's Core Text platform.

Mark David, one of the developers of WorldScript, helped found the Unicode Consortium, which still exists today.

OpenType and Open Web Font Format

In 1996, Microsoft developed its own font standard called TrueType Open (not to be confused with ClearType), which was later renamed OpenType and still exists today. In 2005, OpenType began the process of becoming an open standard and is now detailed in ISO/IEC 14496-22 (MPEG-4 Part 22), which is now officially called the Open Font Format.

There are also additional standard extensions for Asian fonts (CJK), which tend to have more complex glyphs (shapes) than Western languages. Early on, Adobe created its own font extensions for the Japanese language, known as Adobe-Japan1.

Back in 2002, Adobe converted its entire collection of Type 1 fonts to OpenType. As a result, TrueType and OpenType continue to be the de facto standards for fonts on computers.

Adobe even has a free download page for some fonts on their website. The Creative Cloud software also has a font store from which you can purchase fonts to download.

In 2015, Microsoft added OpenType support for color fonts, emoji, and scalable vector graphics (SVG) to the standard.

In 2009, the Web Open Font Format (WOFF) was submitted to WC3 by the Mozilla Foundation, Opera Software, and Microsoft for approval as an open web standard. Designed to eliminate font loading delays and conflicts with locally installed fonts, WOFF also provides font compression for faster page rendering.

WOFF is an SFNT-based wrapper font format based on TrueType and OpenType.

Font Collections

Since version 1.4, OpenType supports font collections, which can contain multiple font families in one file (similar to the original Mac suitcase files).

macOS started supporting font collections several years ago, and if you look in the /Users/~/Library folder in modern versions of macOS, you'll see both a Fonts folder and a FontCollections folder.

The /Library folder at the root of your boot disk also contains a Fonts folder.

If you install fonts in the Fonts folder in /Library, they will be available to all Mac users. If you install them in the Fonts or FontCollections folders in a user's /Library folder, the fonts will only be available to that user.

If you double-click a .otf (OpenType) or .ttf (TrueType) font file in the Mac Finder, it will open in the Apple Font Book app and appear in its own window. You can also use this window to replace fonts.

You can also view, edit, and create font collections in the Fonts app. Font Book works much the same as the original Suitcase app that ran on Mac Plus and SE, but better.

Font Book has many more cool little features, such as the ability to view fonts by date added, type, name, pattern, language, or type of font, and you can also view each font variation in the font collection.

You can also scale font samples using the slider in the window.

The Apple Font Book app in action.

FreeType and Graphite

In 1996, David Turner started the FreeType project, which is a rasterization technology for rendering fonts into bitmaps, similar to Microsoft's ClearType. Apple later sued FreeType for infringing certain TrueType-related patents, but those patents had already expired.

FreeType is also used in Android, ChromeOS and the Windows 95 clone operating system ReactOS. It is also used in some parts of Oracle's Java Development Kit.

Graphite is an intelligent font rendering technology based on TrueType, but which contains advanced features such as context-sensitive rendering, glyph replacement, and built-in rendering information, meaning that rendering in any language in Any device only needs the fonts themselves.

Graphite is primarily used on Windows and Linux systems and is available on macOS, but it is not widely used on Mac because Core Text provides similar support.

The End of PostScript

In 2022, Adobe Systems announced it would end support for PostScript Type 1 fonts. This has been a long time coming, given the dominance of TrueType and OpenType as font standards.

Adobe also has new shared rendering engines (RIP) for file printing and sharing, as well as commercial printing, called the Adobe Embedded Print Engine and Adobe PDF Print Engine, respectively.

Adobe Type 1 support officially ended in January 2023. You can use Font Book to see if you still have any Type 1 fonts installed on your Mac.

In 2023, Apple removed almost all PostScript support from macOS 14 Sonoma and iOS. The Preview app no ​​longer has the ability to open or display PostScript (.ps) files, or print them directly.

From a developer perspective, almost all API-level paths to PostScript have also been removed. CGPSConverter Core Graphics has been deprecated and NSImageRep subclasses no longer support PostScript or EPS (Encapsulated PostScript) files.

PMPrinterPrintWithFile no longer accepts PostScript files for print queues, and drawing contexts no longer support PostScript display.

For now, there are still a few things you can do with .ps files. For example, both Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator can still import .ps files, but if you do, they are converted to graphics and you lose all text as text.

Oddly enough, the Mac printing system still supports some PostScript features – no doubt because many PostScript printers are still in use and will be in use for some time. In the standard macOS print dialog in apps, you can select Save as Postscript from the pop-up menu at the bottom, which will create a .ps file that you can save to disk.

You can still print documents to .ps files on macOS.

If you have a PostScript-enabled or PostScript-emulated printer, you can still print .ps and EPS files to it by dragging and dropping them to the Print Center queue window from the macOS desktop.

To open the print queue on Mac, you need to select your printer under Printers & From the Scanners tabin System Preferences, select your printer under Printers, then click the Print Queue… button to open macOS Print Center .


One company, Artiflex Software, Inc., has its own PostScript interpreter and GhostScript libraries that are over thirty years old. and still run on most modern computing platforms, including macOS, Windows, and other UNIX-based systems.

GhostScript is independent of Adobe and Apple and is a standalone product. It can also print PDF files.

You can download GhostScript from its website or install it on your Mac using the Homebrew package manager.

Additional Resources

Apple has a full list of fonts included in macOS Sonoma, and the list is now quite long . . You can add and remove fonts using Font Book.

Apple's developer site has complete information about TrueType in the TrueType Reference Guide.

You can also view all of Apple's original SFNT developer documentation in the Internet Archive, which contains all the original information about font tables, four-character codes, file types, and TrueType GX.

Adobe also initially published several books on PostScript in the late 1980s through Addison Wesley Publishing.

For an interesting look into the original world of Macintosh design, including Quickdraw and fonts, visit Andy Hertzfeld's Andy worked on the original Mac and helped define and code the Finder and desktop metaphor as we know it today.

He also wrote an excellent book, Valley Revolution: The Crazy Great Story of How the Mac Was Made, which can be purchased on Amazon.

In fact, there are many other font formats and standards available today, and we have only touched on the main ones. The topic of computer typography is vast and complex. Learning the entire history of computer type and the technical details of typography and printing is no easy task.

PostScript and Type 1 fonts revolutionized the way we design and print documents and changed the world. Nothing lasts forever, and while PostScript was an amazing technology, things have changed over the decades – and TrueType and OpenType are now the undisputed font standards on modern computers.

PostScript will go down in history as one of the most amazing technological achievements in the world.

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