Fonts

The done gone and broke it

Before I begin, let me take a moment and acknowledge my absence of over a year and a half. So here are the obligatory remarks about how busy I am, how sorry I am, and about how much better I will be moving forward. But c’mon…chickens, ducks, a day job, and a toddler need I say more?
 
Moving forward. Because I went AWOL, I’ve been absent while Microsoft released PowerPoint 2016. Which means I’ve been radio silent about a major bug that affects typography. This is why I only recently (begrudgingly) migrated to PowerPoint 2016. In fact, I stalled rollout at my agency of the entire Office 365 suite for over a year because of this bug. 
 
Why may you ask? Because Office 2016 apps do not support third party fonts well. This essentially breaks my agency’s brand. Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time I’ve ever seen this bug. Custom font support broke several yers ago on Windows machines. I can’t let you quote me on this because I don’t have the records to substantiate my claim. I think it was with Microsoft Office 2013, and they fixed it several months into the release. But this time I see very little movement. I’ve been watching this ‘bug’ for almost two years now.

The lack of third party font support is confusing if you don’t understand file linking. Luckily for you, I already explained font linking in one of my previous posts. Given the number of posts I’ve written…how lucky is that? So if you have no idea what font linking is, take a gander at this post first. Done reading? Back now? Great, here we go.

Visual of how Avenir and Helvetica don’t style link correctly in Word 2016

So here is the thing, if you select a font and then hit “B” or “I”, they will apply a fake bold and/or italic. But they don’t style link to the correct font. In some fonts this fake effect is fine—the fake effect may accurately mimic the true weights. But select a font that links to a much heavier weight, and you have an issue. Here is a screenshot I took in October of 2015, and unfortunately I can still recreate these issues today.

Do you work in a Mac only environment? You’re fine, you can select the weights in the font menu. Work in a Windows only environment? All good, because style linking still works in the Windows. But if you work across OS devices, you have a big issue on your hands. Here is what most cross platform users re experiencing right now. If you use font weights only via the menu on a Mac (ignoring style linking), your fonts will substitute on Windows. Leave them correct so they work on Windows OR bring a well formatted file from Windows, and the fonts won’t be the correct weight on Mac. So pick your poison here folks…and I see that you have three good options.

  1. Leave it alone. It’s correct on Windows, but not on Macs.
  2. Redesign your deck. Take out the fonts that utilize style linking or switch fonts.
  3. Get sneaky. Hire the original font designer to edit the font tags so they all show up on Windows machines. Unless you are designing a new PowerPoint deck, this is going to sound like the smart option. But believe me, it’s scary. Now you a variation of the same font installed on your employee’s machines, you need to clean up. And you will also have decks floating about that look similiar enough to cause confusion.

I’ve been on the phone with tech support. I’ve submitted feature requests. I’ve awaited the early release of PowerPoint ever month for about two years now. I’m not sure they are fixing this soon. So the best option I can tell you is this.

  1. Do not use ‘third party’ fonts in Microsoft. I have seen them break it twice in quite major ways within the past eight years. That is twice we had to adjust our brand ID to accommodate Microsoft. Honestly, they have both been in regards to cross platform style-linking so…
  2. Simplify your document. If you want to use ‘third party fonts’, great but don’t use weights that would use bold or italic.
  3. Try a new Office Optimized font. Several foundries have them. Check out H&CoFontFont, or myfonts. My only caveat is that they are also optimized for style linking. HOWEVER, they usually simplify the number of weights in a family, so in certain fonts, the faked bold or italic may be acceptable.

Good luck to you. If you need me, I’ll be banging my head against the wall and downloading the next early release of PowerPoint.

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