OTF VS. TTF Font Formats – What’s The Difference?


Ever downloaded a font from the web? If you have, you might’ve also noticed that the file that’s being downloaded has either a “.otf” or a “.ttf” extension.

Ever wondered what these extensions are and how they’re different? Of course, you have. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here searching about them.

Allow us to take care of the explanation as we take you through our knowledge of both font formats and teach you about the key differences between the two, in addition to which font format you should be opting for according to your line of work.

If you have a presentation coming up or are just learning the basics of graphic designing, read till the end of this article because we’re about to clear the air when it comes to these two different font formats down below and which one you should use.

What is .TTF?

TTF File
TTF File

In the olden days before the 1980s, there was only one font format that ruled them all, the Type 1 format. However, in the late 1980s, Apple and Microsoft came up with a new font format that improved and modified the original Type 1 format into something more cohesive.

Thus, TrueType fonts were born. TTF stands for TrueType format and is still popular to this day. The format itself uses a two-file structure.

As every download consists of a font file that contains all the actual glyph outlines, and a metric file that contains information about the spacing and kerning of the glyphs.

This separation into two files allows for more precise control over the spacing and layout of the text. Created by Microsoft and Apple, TTF fonts are compatible with both Windows and Mac operating systems.

To this day, TTF is the preferred font format for working professionals when it comes to digital typography due to its wide support, simplicity, and ability to render well in small sizes.

What is .OTF?

OTF File
OTF File

OTF stands for OpenType Format and was developed in the 1990s by Adobe and Microsoft to correct the shortcomings of the TTF font format, which dominated the 1980s.

The underlying problem with TTF was the lack of space for file information storage, as well as cross-platform compatibility.

Thus, OpenType font was created as a modification of TTF to counter those underlying problems. Anyway, refocusing on OTF itself, the font format can store up to 65,000 characters, including special characters, glyphs, letters, and digits, with additional typographic features.

OTF fonts stand apart because of their advanced typesetting features, which can be included inside the font file, e.g., small caps, alternates, ligatures, etc.

Another excellent feature of the OTF font format is that it’s vector-based and thus entirely scalable. It can be resized while maintaining its quality.

Bitmap vs. vector fonts
Bitmap vs. vector fonts

The format, just like its predecessor, can be used on both Windows and MAC operating systems. Some of the advanced typographic features OTF supports are ligatures, alternate glyphs, and small caps.

OTF can be stored in either TrueType or PostScript format, which allows them to be used with various applications and output devices.

The font format is most commonly used in graphic design, web design, and digital publishing. All popular graphic design programs support OTF fonts including Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Corel Draw, etc.

Key Differences Between OTF and TTF

Significant differences in OTF and TTF
Significant differences in OTF and TTF

Created as a modification to the original TTF font format, it’s only natural that OTF would have an extensive list of features that TTF does not, and would be the preferred option for working professionals all over the world.

That said, there are still plenty of professionals that have stuck to using TTF due to its simplicity and its superior rendering ability.

Keeping these preferences in mind, we’ve come up with a few key differences between the two font formats that might put an end to the debate once and for all:

  • The significant difference between the two types is that a .ttf file separates into two files once it’s downloaded. Whereas a .otf file maintains its own single file structure, which can include both TrueType and PostScript font data.
  • OTF is the newer font format of the two and thus contains more advanced typography features, such as ligatures, small caps, swashes, and alternative glyphs.
  • TTF fonts take up less space on the hard disk when they’re originally downloaded. However, OTF contains a “font subsetting” feature that allows the user to reduce the file size by including only the glyphs that are needed and used.

OTF is the Font Format of Choice for Graphic Designers

To put it as simply as possible, OTF fonts provide graphic designers with a lot more freedom to edit their work. This is primarily due to OTF supporting a wider range of languages and scripts than TTF fonts, which in turn is because they can store more glyphs than TTF fonts, making them suitable for international typography.

On top of that, as we mentioned before, OTF fonts also contain more advanced typographic features, a few of which we’ve listed in the section above. This gives graphic designers more freedom to create visually appealing and sophisticated designs.

OTF fonts also provide designers with greater flexibility as OTF fonts can contain both TrueType and PostScript font data, allowing their fonts to be used in a wider range of applications and output devices.

Glyph Tables vs. CCF Tables

The most underrated difference between the two font formats that usually goes unnoticed is the fact that TTF uses only glyph tables to define how each character looks.

OTF uses Compact Font Format (CCF) tables, as well as the standard glyph tables, to define its characters.

CCF is programmed to use fewer points to define a character’s looks compared to the quadratic bezier splines TTF operates on.

While these quadratic Bezier splines are easier to mathematically process, which allows TTF fonts to render quicker, they use more points than the cubic Bezier CCF tables use, which makes them less detailed or sophisticated than OTF fonts.

Is OTF Better than TTF?

OTF Good for Print TTF Good for Digital Content
OTF Good for Print TTF Good for Digital Content

From a pure creativity and freedom standpoint, we would have to say OTF fonts definitely take the cake over TTF fonts. OTF’s advanced typography features and the wide variety of languages and scripts they support give graphic designers a lot of wiggle room when it comes to showing their creativity.

However, despite this fact, TTF fonts are still the more popular choice of the two primarily because of their simplicity.

Not everyone can be a graphic designer or even want to be one. For laymen who just want to add some extra panache to their presentations, the simplicity and easy rendering of TTF fonts make them the logical first choice.

We’re still sticking with our statement of OTF being better than TTF because that’s exactly what OTF was built up to be; a modification or improvement on TTF fonts.

Final Thoughts

The distinguishing feature between OTF and TTF files is the different outline formats used in each of them. Moving on to each of their practicalities in real life, TTF fonts are notoriously better for digital display or soft copies, while OTF is better for print and hard copies.

That brings all the knowledge and information we had to an end. It is now time for you to decide which works better for you, because the choice between OTF and TTF depends on the specific needs of the project and the requirements of the output device or software.

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