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Evaluating the IBM and HP/PANOSE font classification systems

Doyle, John R. 2005. Evaluating the IBM and HP/PANOSE font classification systems. Online Information Review 29 (5) , 468- 482. 10.1108/14684520510628873

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Purpose – The purpose of this article is to introduce, describe, and critically examine the IBM and Hewlett-Packard PANOSE systems of (electronic) font classification. Microsoft's TrueType Font (TTF) file format allows font developers the option of classifying their fonts according to one or both systems, and writing that information into a special location in the TTF file for use by other software. Design/methodology/approach – A comprehensive survey of 13,000 TTF files was examined for information about their use of either classification system. Findings – The classification systems are intended to help perform font substitution, as used when (part of) a document asks to be displayed in a font that is not present on the user's computer system, in which case the next nearest font is automatically chosen. However, of the nine sources of font compendia examined, only three had supplied adequate information about their fonts’ classifications in order to make this process workable. The other six sources had almost no coverage. When a font was classified by both classification systems, the two systems mapped poorly on to each other, suggesting that at least one system must be ill-specified. PANOSE, the more detailed and slightly more popular system, showed poor internal consistency. Research limitations/implications – Sampling of the universe of fonts was opportunistic, and avoided expensive font developers who may be more conscientious adopters of the classification systems. The reliance on historic secondary data means that it is not always possible to distinguish between limitations of the systems per se and limitations of the users of the systems. This article's arguments are based on data derived from difficult-to-picture distinctions. Practical implications – Fonts are rarely classified at the source of manufacture or distribution. To compensate for this shortcoming, software tools are required that can classify TTF files at the point of use (i.e. on one's own system) and fill in the information which is missing from the TTF files found there. Furthermore, a better classification of fonts is required, in particular one that does justice to the variety and richness of display fonts. This should break free from the hard-to-perceive minutiae of traditional, historically-derived methods. Instead, it should be psychologically grounded in the distinctions that people (i.e. the users) see in fonts, rather than those taught to graphic designers. Originality/value – Provides an examination of font classification in TTF files from three angles and calls for an empirically-driven font classification.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Business (Including Economics)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Classification, Computer applications, Computer software, Graphical programming
Publisher: Emerald
ISSN: 1468-4527
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2017 01:46

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