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Q: Are Macintosh and Windows fonts compatible?

A: It would be nice if Macintosh and Windows only used the same type of font files. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Even though most font formats are "crossplatform," they often need to be converted to work on both platforms.

The following are the three most popular font formats:

  1. TrueType - .TTF file extension. TrueType was developed by Apple but is also supported by Microsoft Windows. This font format has been around since the 1980s and is the most common type of cross-platform font. Mac TrueType fonts only work on the Mac, while Windows TrueType fonts work on Windows and Mac OS X. Therefore, a Mac TrueType font will need to be converted to the Windows version in order for it to work in Windows.
  2. OpenType - .OTF file extension. OpenType font files are also cross-platform and are based on the TrueType format. They merge all the necessary components required for Macintosh and Windows files into a single file. The Macintosh components (which includes the .AFM file) and the Windows components (.PFB and .PFM files) are all included in an OpenType font file, which means you can install and use the same font file on both Windows and Macintosh computers. For more information on OpenType fonts, view Adobe's Introduction to OpenType.
  3. PostScript - Mac: .SUIT or no extension; Windows: .PFB and .PFM. This format was developed by Adobe and is used to ensure accurate representation of fonts both on screen and in print. Mac OS X includes native support for PostScript Type 1 fonts, while Windows XP may require additional software or drivers to fully support all PostScript fonts. Because there are Mac PostScript and Windows PostScript font files, the same file will not install on both platforms.

Of the above font types, only the OpenType font format includes all the necessary files to be used on both Macintosh and Windows platforms. Mac OS X will recognize most Windows TrueType and PostScript fonts without requiring conversion. Mac OS 9, on the other hand, will not install most Windows fonts. Windows will only recognize Mac TrueType and PostScript fonts in Windows if they are converted using a program such as CrossFont.

Updated: June 15, 2011