[texhax] Fonts for Beginners

Reinhard Kotucha reinhard.kotucha at web.de
Thu Jul 26 00:37:55 CEST 2012

On 2012-07-25 at 16:48:12 +0100, Paul Stanley wrote:

 > [...] I'm merely looking for a text, be it a web document, a TeX
 > file, or an accessible PDF (a bit of a contradiction I know)
 > detailing the very basics of fonts, how they are structured,
 > designed, the terminology and so forth,taking nothing for granted
 > about the reader's prior knowledge of the subjet matter.

Hi Paul,
though the PostScript Type 1 font format is only one of many, it's
probably the best one to explore the structure of fonts in general.
The advantage is that glyphs are described by a programming language.
Actually, a Type 1 font is a program and a glyph is a procedure.

The Type 1 reference manual can be downloaded from Adobe:


It contains a few graphics in order to illustrate things which are
already described in the text very well.  Many of them are only for
convenience, hence I think this manual is useful if you can read the
text.  You can skip many chapters since it's not necessary to know how
the binary files are created and how they are encrypted.

If you want to investigate a particular font, you would disassemble it
anyway.  With TeX Live under Unix, for instance,

  t1disasm `kpsewhich cmr10.pfb`

displays the PostScript source code.

Similar to TeX, metric information is in separate files.  The Adobe
Font Metrics file format is described in TechNote 5004:


It's a simple ASCII file format and you can locate AFM files with

  kpsewhich cmr10.afm

, for example.

TrueType fonts are binary files and consist of data structures.  IMO
they are more complex and thus more difficult to understand.

They are described here:


There might be other resources available in the internet, especially
describing terminology, but I fear that most of them make heavy use
of bitmap graphics.  


Reinhard Kotucha                                      Phone: +49-511-3373112
Marschnerstr. 25
D-30167 Hannover                              mailto:reinhard.kotucha at web.de
Microsoft isn't the answer. Microsoft is the question, and the answer is NO.

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