Fun with typography and Office2010

Nothing earthshaking here, but a little fun for those who care about typefaces and typography and who don’t automatically sneer at me because I use Word instead of a Proper Desktop Publishing Program…

I knew Office2010 offered more sophisticated typographical options. At first, it seemed as though most of them (in Word2010) weren’t really available in any typeface I had; turns out I just needed to convert the documents from Word2007-compatible to native Word2010 (same .docx format, but more options). And, to be sure, needed appropriate typefaces.

For purposes that may eventually become obvious, I’ve been going through my collection of typefaces and identifying those that (a) are serif text faces that might be suitable for body text, (b) are likely to be on most computers with Windows7/Office2010 (and, for most of these, earlier Office and Windows versions as well). I determined (a) by inspection in the Word typeface (ok, sigh, “font”) pulldown and (b) by going to the Microsoft Typography site and seeing whether the typeface was in the list. (I still have a bunch of typefaces that came with Corel’s Bitstream-supplied 500-typeface CD, and the licensed copy of Berkeley that I paid for.)

I found 22 in all. Without arguing aesthetics (is Times New Roman too familiar? Are Georgia and Lucida Bright and Cambria too ‘screen-oriented’?), I divided them into five groups:

  1. Nine typeface families with good kerning (checking such pairs as To, Wa, Vo–“Vo” as in “Vortext” seems to be problematic in lots of cases) and complete families supplied (or at least Roman, Italic and Bold–you can bold an italic without too much damage, but slanting Roman is always strange).
  2. Two typeface families with somewhat inadequate kerning.
  3. Six typeface families with either no kerning or very inadequate kerning.
  4. Three singletons with good kerning.
  5. Two singletons with inadequate kerning or no kerning.

As I was preparing samples of each typeface, I decided to turn on many, if not all, of the advanced typography features, specifically all ligatures.


Oh, not most of the time–most of the typefaces didn’t show any ligatures in the sample I prepared.

But then there was Palatino Linotype (which, unfortunately, has incomplete kerning: specifically, the “Vo” combination in Roman and Bold has an awkwardly wide space, and the “To” isn’t great either).

But the ligatures…well, more than I’d really use in modern text (the Word Font/Advanced dialog box includes five choices for ligature usage, and “standard” is probably what you’d normally use, not “all”), but, well… And, for that matter, old-style numbers are available, although the default is lining numbers (unlike Constantia’s default old-style).

Here’s the paragraph I used. See what you get with your system. Apparently, Prof. Zapf had some fun when preparing this version. Now, if only the kerning was more complete…

The Quick Brown Fox Jumped Over the Lazy Dog. 1&2#3$4%5 6?7 “89”. Kerning: Wasted Torpid Florid florid offensive Vortex. The Quick Brown Fox Jumped Over the Lazy Dog. 1&2#3$4%5 6?7 “89”. Kerning: Wasted Torpid Florid Vortex. The Quick Brown Fox Jumped Over the Lazy Dog. 1&2#3$4%5 6?7 “89”. Kerning: Wasted Torpid Florid Vortex. Ours is a noble old house, and stretches a long way back into antiquity. The earliest ancestor the Twains have any record of was a friend of the family by the name of Higgins. [Mark Twain’s (Burlesque) Auto-Biography via Project Gutenberg]


Added at 2:05 p.m. April 5, 2011: Just for fun, I opened the same paragraph in LibreOffice (OpenOffice, basically) in Palatino Linotype. As anticipated, the ligatures are all gone–LibreOffice Text doesn’t have any of those advanced typographical features. On the other hand, the most egregious kerning problem (Vo) seems to be at least partly fixed, that is, it’s at least reasonably kerned. I find that very strange…mysterious, even.

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