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On picking a DOS font engine.

Unlike the Macintosh and other machines with "font-aware" operating systems, DOS-based PCs lack a common system-level engine for displaying and printing typographical output. Bitstream, Agfa-Compugraphic, URW, Atech, Glyphx, MicroLogic and several other companies have helped fill this gap by creating proprietary font engines that support graphical applications. Even Windows sometimes serves as a font-handling solution for DOS applications (though Windows' font-handling features are still relatively crude).

But font engines aren't a commodity product; in fact, there are often huge differences in technology, pricing and licensing terms, third-party font compatibility, and output quality. We recently asked Amy Hensiek, a Bitstream marketing manager who has dealt extensively with third-party developers, to describe some key issues that developers face when they add font support to a graphical application:

* What level of functionality is required? For sophisticated graphical and publishing applications, says Hensiek, on-the-fly font scaling (like Bitstream's Speedo technology) is usually the most appropriate solution. But for less-demanding applications-- for example, character-based word processors that rely on a preview mode to display fonts--bit-mapped font generation may be adequate. A key issue is performance: If a technology is so slow that the refresh rate of the screen is painful, you're below an acceptable threshhold."

* Is there enough testing time in the development schedule? Hensiek says developers often assume they can wait until the last minute to add font-handling features. In fact, integrating font-handling code is a tricky process; there hasn't been one software company that understood all the issues from the beginning." Bitstream and other font companies typically offer a certication process that tests a developer's implementation, "but it's hard for us to do the job right if they're ramming the product through at the last minute. And usually, we find something that needs to be fixed."

* What are the licensing terms? "A lot of people don't understand that fonts are a form of intellectual property," says Hensiek. Developers who acquire fonts should expect to pay royalties, and may have to negotiate special terms if fonts are included in run-time copies or site license contracts. We have to pay royalties on some fonts ourselves, so there may be situations where the licensing gets very complicated."

* How important is compatibility? If a product has been targeted at an installed base that already relies on one vendor's font standard, says Hensiek, licensing an alternative font-handling technology may be unwise. You certainly don't want to make your customers go out and buy a second set of fonts just to run your software."

* What's the product's future in international markets? Overseas markets may require special character sets and support for printers that aren't commercially important in the U.S., she notes. Also, it may be important for fonts to be available in local retail channels. "Can users in France, Sweden, or Germany find add-on package--and in their native character sets?"
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Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:guidelines for selecting a font generator for graphic applications under MS-DOS
Publication:Soft-Letter
Date:Mar 7, 1991
Words:472
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