In A History of Font
Technologies, I talked a bit about font technologies on the
Mac. If you are unfamiliar with terms like "bitmapped" or "outline"
fonts, you might want to read that article first. Here I am going
to discuss the fonts that Apple has shipped with the Mac. I am on
my way to an unusual suggestion that I hope you will consider.
When the Macintosh first shipped, it had a number of bitmapped
fonts. Back in 1990, when I started working with Macs, there were a
number of standard fonts that are still familiar today, such as
Chicago, Geneva, Helvetica, Palatino, and Times. These shipped with
But early Macs
also had a bunch of funky fonts that gave the Mac loads of
character. There were dingbat fonts (picture fonts) like Cairo and
Mobile. The San Francisco font, which looked like a ransom note,
lent itself to playful documents. The Venice font was a favorite of
many since it was an easy to read script-like font.
In 1991, System 7 introduced TrueType fonts that were scaleable
to any size. Apple did not make TrueType versions of all of the
funky fonts, but they did make versions of the more businesslike
fonts such as Helvetica and Palatino. After a few years of
transition nearly everyone uses only outline fonts like TrueType or
In System 7.5, Apple
introduced its last bitmapped fonts - Espy Sans and Espy Serif.
These fonts were designed to look good on screens. Apple made these
fonts for its Newton PDA and used them for its fated online service
called eWorld. Around that time there were screen shots of the next
generation Mac Operating System; it used Espy Sans Bold for it's
system font instead of Chicago.
You might be saying to yourself, "Wait! I've had System 7.5 on
my Quadra for years, and I've never seen any Espy Sans font." This
font wasn't installed in the Fonts folder inside the System Folder.
Instead, it was inside the Apple Guide and could only be released
for general use by using a program like ResEdit.
With Mac OS 8,
Apple introduced an alternative system font named Charcoal. It was
a TrueType font that looked a little bit like a cross between
Chicago and the Espy Sans Bold - people were expecting Espy as the
new System font. Hidden inside the Appearance Manager that provided
Charcoal, was the hint of future system fonts that finally showed
up in System 8.5 like Gadget, Capitals, Sand, and Techno. The
Gadget font was my personal favorite, and a survey I suggested on
ResExcellence showed that it was the favorite of readers of that
site. These fonts reintroduced some of the character that the Mac
used to have back in System 6.
Before I give my unusual suggestion, let me ask you a question.
Do you print pages from Low End Mac? If not, my suggestion is to
use Espy Sans and Espy Serif for everything. (Download espy.sea [24K].)
I have two reasons for suggesting this. First, the Espy fonts
are fabulous screen fonts. As a Peace Corps Volunteer, I taught
some word processing to teachers at my school. I saw four teachers
in a row drawn to Espy fonts because they were so easy to read.
Second, bitmapped fonts like Espy display slightly faster than
TrueType fonts, especially on older Macs like the Macintosh Plus, SE, or Classic.
To go even farther, you
might throw out a bunch of your TrueType fonts. Start with the
fonts you never use. If you have an 80 MB or smaller hard drive
(common on early Macs), you might gain a megabyte or two of hard
drive space. You can keep the bitmapped versions of the fonts
(which have 1 A on their icon instead of the 3 A's on a TrueType
If you do print, I still suggest that you weed out your font
folder. You might keep Palatino and Helvetica because they are
TrueType fonts that print great, but they also have bitmaps that
are optimized for your screen. You might toss out New York (doesn't
print as well as Palatino) and Times (doesn't look as good on the
screen as Palatino). If you have fewer fonts, you will be faster
with your Mac since you won't have to scroll through as many font
options. I know that many Mac users are font fanatics - I used to
be one of them. But in the end most people keep returning to few
favorite fonts. Why not get rid of the fonts you don't use?
A caveat about this suggestion: don't throw out something unless
you are sure that you won't want it in the future. You might just
move fonts out of the font folder instead of trashing them.
In my next article I'll talk about a how you can use Espy for
Sources for Espy and Espy-like fonts
- Boston Omnis
FTP Download Index for Espy Sans and Espy Serif.
- Download espy.sea from
Low End Mac.
- The Nu Font
Pack by Marty Pfeiffer. Nu Sans and Nu Serif are based on Espy
Sans and Espy Serif, respectively. Available in both TrueType and
Postscript versions. Shareware.
Epsy Sans, TrueType and Postscript Type 1 adaptations of
Apple's Espy Sans font. Free.
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