Table set in FF Hydra and FF Hydra Extended A while ago I explained on The FontFeed what the suffixes SH and SB – found in Scangraphic Digital Type Collection fonts – meant. Yet there are a lot more abbreviations which are commonly used in the world of typography, and especially digital fonts. Some relate to glyph sets and font formats, others to design traits and foundries, and so on. Their meaning may be obvious for the seasoned type user, but I can imagine that many type novices – and even regular users – can be confused by a good number of them. Here’s a comprehensive overview*. I think I’ve got all of them, but if you encounter any that aren’t included please feel free to contact me and I’ll add them to the list. Abbreviations of type styles and weights will be covered in a FontFeed post. (*) If you are looking for a specific abbreviation scroll down to the bottom of the post for an alphabetical list.
Glyph Sets Thanks to Unicode 5.0 and the OpenType format nowadays fonts can accommodate up to 65,535 graphic characters. The PostScript Type 1 format – the previous professional standard – on the other hand is limited to 256 glyphs per file. This may seem sufficient, but actually is just enough for the alphabet in upper and lower case, numerals and punctuation, accented characters for a number of European languages and a number of specials like currency and mathematical characters. So no refined features like small caps, oldstyle numerals, additional ligatures, swashes, ornaments and so on. Those have to be stored in additional font files, which are identified by specific abbreviations. All abbreviations below are found in PostScript Type fonts only.
Exp | Expert Set
Depending on the foundry Expert Sets can hold different configurations of glyphs. The naming implies that those fonts provide all the characters missing in the standard fonts that a typographic expert may have need of. Originally Expert Sets included only small caps, oldstyle or hanging figures, additional ligatures, often super- and subscript letters and numbers, plus some additional special characters and sometimes swashed characters. Normal height capitals were absent, and their slots were occupied by other expert characters. This made Expert fonts rather unwieldy, as converting capitalised words to small caps meant one had select the lowercase characters separately and switch them to the Expert fonts.
SC | Small Caps | OsF | Oldstyle Figures
Small Caps and Oldstyle Figures fonts were the solution to this problem. The Small Caps fonts have the exact same glyph set as the standard fonts, with small caps substituted for the lowercase characters, and oldstyle or hanging figures for the lining figures (or vice versa, depending on the foundry). This allows for selecting complete words and sentences in order to convert them to small caps. Because in traditional typography no small caps were provided in italic faces – nor in bold weights in most cases – those styles only have an Oldstyle Figures variant. So currently most “high-end” PostScript fonts have both SC (and/or OsF) fonts with the small caps and oldstyle figures, and Expert Sets holding the remaining expert characters. The system is an improvement but not ideal yet. To obtain oldstyle figures in a font which has a SC variant but no variant with OsF only, one has to select all the numbers and manually switch them to the SC font.
LF | Lining Figures | TF | Tabular Figures
As I explained above there are not enough character slots in PostScript Type 1 fonts, so some choices have to be made. The first PS1 fonts only had tabular lining figures which had become the standard in photo typesetting. Emigre were the first to include proportional oldstyle figures by default in their text faces; see for example the 1989 classics Triplex and Matrix. FontFont also adhered to the philosophy that oldstyle figures should be the default, as they blend in better with the surrounding text in upper and lower case. Instead of needing OsF fonts those type families had to be augmented with Lining Figures and Tabular Figures variants. See also Figuring It Out: OsF, LF, and TF Explained
Language support Another downside of the limited character set of PostScript Type 1 fonts is that it can only accommodate accented characters for a limited number of languages. The “standard” fonts cover roughly speaking all Western and Southern European languages, and the Scandinavian languages. But as soon as you start moving eastwards towards and past the central part of Europe new and different accents are needed, and Greek and Cyrillic even use different alphabets. This is why additional fonts are needed for these extra languages. The supported languages may vary a little depending on the foundry. Some language denominations are written in full, others are usually abbreviated. See also Europaschriften.de for an interactive map
Depending on the foundry different languages are supported.
MacCampus offers a range of language specific fonts, each with their own letter code.
BS | Basque
IC | Icelandic/Faroese
FR | Frühneuhochdeutsch (Middle High German)
Med | Maltese
PQ | Welsh/Irish
RO | Romanian
SA | Saami
TU | Turkish
Translit | Transliteration (accented Latin characters for transliterating languages using non-Latin alphabets)
D | Display (URW++)
URW++ identify their Display fonts by adding the letter D after the font name.
SB | Bodytypes (Scangraphic Digital Type Collection)
The Scangraphic Digital Type Collection offers all of their fonts in headline and body text versions, with about two thirds of them in both. Bodytypes are spaced and kerned looser than the Supertypes versions. Carefully added ink traps make sure that the inside corners in Bodytypes don’t fill up with ink and stay “sharp”.
SH | Supertypes (Scangraphic Digital Type Collection)
Diacritics are positioned closer to the capitals in the Supertypes, and those versions also have a number of alternate capital forms with the accents integrated in the characters. This allows for all cap headlines with very tight leading, specifically in German.
Font Formats Currently three categories of font formats are offered to our customers, and each have their own abbreviations.
PS · PS1 | PostScript Type 1 font
The PostScript Type 1 font format is pretty amazing. Of course it has certain limitations and OpenType fonts offer numerous advantages, but PostScript Type 1 fonts are the only pieces of software developed more than 20 years ago that still work on today’s machines and operating systems (providing you still have a device that can read the floppy disk ;).
TT · TTF | TrueType font
Because the cost of licensing the PostScript Type 1 format was considered very high at the time, Apple decided in the late 1980s to develop their own font format TrueType. Microsoft added TrueType to the Windows 3.1 operating system, and it became the preferred font format on PC systems.
OT · OTF · TTF | OpenType font
OpenType is the most recent font format, and emerged at the beginning of the new millennium. The format was initially developed by Microsoft, which were later joined by Adobe. OpenType fonts are cross-platform, and come in PostScript flavour (OTF) and TrueType flavour (TTF).
OpenType Formats All OpenType fonts have advanced typographic features and language support built-in, but some OpenType fonts are more equal than others.
Std · OT | OpenType Standard
OpenType Standard fonts support the basic range of languages. Some foundries use the abbreviation Std, while others simply use OT. In the latter case OT identifies both the font format and the language support. Some foundries do include Central European (CE) and Turkish in their Opentype Standard fonts.
Pro | OpenType Pro
OpenType Pro fonts support a broader range of languages than OpenType Standard fonts, typically Central European (CE) and Turkish, and sometimes Greek (Gr) and/or Cyrilic (Cyr). It is important to understand that Pro always includes all accents needed for CE languages, but does not guarantee the presence of the Greek nor the Cyrillic alphabet. Always check the complete character set on the FontShop website before making the purchase.
Min | OpenType Minimum
FontFont offers OpenType Minimum fonts which are only available for display typefaces. They support the same languages as OpenType Standard fonts, though some non-essential glyphs (such as mathematical operators and mathematical Greek characters) may have been omitted.
Com | Communication
Linotype offers OpenType Com fonts which have been optimised for international communication and for use with Microsoft Office applications like like Word, Excel, Powerpoint, … Those TrueType flavoured OpenType fonts are targeted to corporate customers rather than to the professional prepress market. Linotype has defined an extended character set for these fonts, the Linotype Extended European Character set (LEEC) which support 48 Latin languages.
E1s | C1s | C1
LucasFonts offers OpenType versions of Corpid – his corporate identity face – with different language support: E1s | Supports standard Latin, Central European, Turkish, Baltic, Greek, Cyrillic; includes small caps C1s | Supports standard Latin, Central European, Turkish, Baltic; includes small caps C1 | Supports standard Latin, Central European, Turkish, Baltic; no small caps
Font volumes Fonts can be purchased individually, but packages or volumes always offer the best value and performance. All the foundries on FontShop.com offer discounted packages containing complimentary fonts which ensure you get all the styles you need for professional typography. Different foundries use different nomenclatures to identify these packages; only two of them are abbreviated.
Foundries All the foundries* in the FontShop catalogue have their own abbreviation, but some of them also use them in the names of their fonts. Additionally some foundries digitised fonts from other manufacturers. Although the abbreviations don’t really have an inherent meaning, they may be important when choosing which version of a font to purchase. A classic example is Futura, whose digitisation can be quite different from one foundry to another. (*) The list below is not the complete list of foundries offered by FontShop, just those abbreviations found in font names.
Great list! One addition which comes to mind: WTC, meaning World Typeface Center, the now defunct, pre-digital type foundry founded by Tom Carnase. The abbreviation WTC was included in their font names, e.g.: WTC Neufont, WTC Thaddeus, WTC favrile, etcetera.
20.01.2009 - 18.02.46
Posted by Bert Haagsman
Great compilation, Yves, thanks!
Related: Abbreviations for type styles and font vendors [in German]
Thanks for taking the time to put this list together, Yves. Must have taken quite some time. Great reference.
20.01.2009 - 23.07.32
Posted by johno
It indeed took me far longer than I expected. I thought I was almost done by the time I was doing the rundown of foundry abbreviations, but then I stumbled upon some more general ones. But it's worth it, because I know of people who ordered the wrong font because they misinterpreted pre- and suffixes. Offering a lot of alternatives is a double-edged sword. On the one hand it allows people to purchase the best and/or most cost-effective combination of styles and formats; on the other hand one sometimes can't see the forest for the trees.
23.01.2009 - 09.26.08
Posted by Yves Peters a.k.a. Unzipper
some of the "...BT" font appear to be fonts originally designed or re-designed by the former company of H. Berthold AG, could it be that BT may indicate Bitstream or Berthold?
23.02.2009 - 16.58.58
Posted by Gernot Hiirsinger
Indeed -- Berthold also uses the abbreviation BT, but as FontShop doesn't carry Berthold fonts this one isn't included in our list.
23.02.2009 - 23.14.25
Posted by Yves Peters a.k.a. Unzipper
I have added some abbreviations from new foundries, so you rest assured this list will always be up to date. Changing the graphic is too much work though; I hope you understand.
03.11.2009 - 15.54.28
Posted by Yves Peters a.k.a. Unzipper
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Thanks for your understanding.