Just what is a font, anyway?

Simply, a font is a set of characters that share common design features, such as height, pitch, and spacing.  But don't confuse a font with a typeface.  A typeface is a related set of fonts, like Garamond.  Within the typeface are many fonts to choose from:  Garamond regular, Garamond italic, Garamond bold, etc. 

So, what are the font file types?

There are three main categories of fonts:  OpenType fonts, TrueType fonts and Postscript (or Type 1) fonts.


PostScript (also called Type 1) fonts have two files. One file contains the information to display the font on screen and the other file is for printing. When PostScript fonts are delivered to the printer, both versions (print and screen) must be provided.

The screen font is a font suitcase containing all the information necessary to render a scalable font on your computer monitor. Often the name of this file will be the full font name (Futura-Bold).  

The printer font contains vector outlines of the font and is often named with an abbreviation of the full font name (FuturBol). 


TrueType fonts were designed to eliminate the need for multiple files. They contain both the screen and printer versions of the font in a single file.

When packaging your file, you will not see two files for each font as you will when you use PostScript fonts. 

TrueType fonts make up the majority of the fonts that have come automatically installed on Windows and Mac operating systems for years.


In 1996, Adobe and Microsoft surprised the entire industry by announcing that they would jointly develop a new font format that would merge the two main font technologies, PostScript and TrueType. This new technology was codenamed OpenType. 

OpenType is the new standard for digital type fonts. It contains in one file, all the information necessary to render fonts correctly both on screen and in print. The main benefit with OpenType fonts is that they are cross-platform; the same file will work on both a Windows and Macintosh system. It will also support rich typographic features such as small caps, old style figures, and ligatures — all in a single font.  

When packaging your file, you will not see two files for each font as you will when you use PostScript fonts.

Which Font is Which?

You can tell what most font types are by looking at the extension.


.ttf = TrueType

.ttc = TrueType Collection

.pfb and .pfm = PostScript

.otf = OpenType with PostScript Content

.ttf = OpenType with TrueType Outlines


.ttf = TrueType

.ttc= TrueType Collection

.otf = OpenType 

.dfont = a version of TrueType

No extension = either a TrueType or PostScript font for TrueType fonts, Mac Type is .FFIL or .tfil for PostScript fonts, Printer Font Mac type is LWFN. Suitcase Mac type is FFIL

Another way to tell which type of font you are using in InDesign is to open your file and click Type > Find Font. A window listing all the currently used fonts will open. 

The OpenType fonts appear with an "O" icon next to them, the PostScript fonts have a red "a" icon and the TrueType font icon has a gray and a blue "T."

A third way to tell is by using font management software.  Such programs should list the type of font next to its name.

Sending the Correct Files to Print

Packaging your file in InDesign will create a folder containing all the information necessary for a commercial printer to print your document. Inside this folder will be another folder for fonts, and one for links (images). Sending your printer this folder will bring you one step closer to being Prepress' new best friend.