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Typographer’s Glossary

Typeface: FF Clifford

Here’s a glossary of common type terminology, which along with the FAQs may answer many font related questions. If the information you need isn’t here, call us.

Abbreviations
Many fonts have abbreviations in their names. Some relate to glyph sets and font formats, others to design traits and foundries, and so on. A comprehensive list of these abbreviations and their explanation can be found in The Abbreviated Typographer from Unzipped.
Accents
See Diacritics
Adobe Type Manager (ATM)
A font utility published by Adobe that allowed computers to use PostScript Type 1 fonts. Since Microsoft Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Mac OS X natively support PostScript and thus do not require ATM, this PostScript font rasteriser has become obsolete on current computer systems. However, ATM Light is required for previous versions of Mac OS, including Mac OS X Classic, and for previous versions of Windows, including Windows 95, 98, and NT 4.0.

ATM Light 4.61 for Mac (.hqx / 3.43 MB)
ATM Light 4.1 for Windows 95/98/ME/NT4 (.exe / 12.11 MB )
AFM (Adobe Font Metrics)
A text file related to PostScript fonts that stores font metrics information such as character widths and kerning pairs. This file is often not needed as long as there is a PFM file (Windows format), so some fonts may come without an AFM file.
Alternates
Different shapes (or glyphs) for the same character in a typeface, for example small caps, swash characters, contextual alternates, case-sensitive forms, etc.

When alternates are built-in as OpenType features, certain (older) operating systems and applications will not be able to access them.

Anti-aliasing
Blurring the edges of a font on screen to soften the look of bitmapped type. Anti-aliasing is usually desirable at large point sizes (16 points or above).
Antiqua, Antikva
The common German and Scandinavian names for serif faces, as opposed to "Grotesk" which means sans serif.

The common German and Scandinavian names for serif faces, as opposed to "Grotesk" which means sans serif.

Aperture
The aperture is the partially enclosed, somewhat rounded negative space in some characters such as ‘n’, ‘C’, ‘S’, the lower part of ‘e’, or the upper part of a double-storey ‘a’.
Ascender
Any part in a lowercase letter that extends above the x-height, found for example in b, d, f, h, k, etc. Some types of ascenders have specific names.

Axis
An imaginary line drawn from top to bottom of a glyph bisecting the upper and lower strokes is the axis.