Resources

🔠 Using Fonts with Special Features (OpenType)

Summary: Learn how to use OpenType fonts with special features like ligatures, swashes, and alternates. For more information about fonts, check out the other articles in this series: 
Installing FontsTroubleshooting Fonts • Color Fonts (OpenType-SVG) • Using Webfonts

 Click on a topic to learn more:


What are OpenType fonts?

OpenType is the multi-tool of type. Instead of having to install multiple fonts to get the benefit of swashes, ligatures, or alternates, a single OpenType font has all of these built right into the same file. 

Opentype.png

You can purchase Swiss army knife from SkyVectors.

When you install an OpenType font, you'll see a basic character set right away, but with the right software settings, you can customize some of the letters in the font to achieve a totally custom look. Read further to learn what software is recommended for use with OpenType fonts.


Software to use with OpenType fonts

First, OpenType fonts are cross-platform, which means that they can be installed on a Mac or PC. Also, fonts can be used in most desktop applications installed on your computer that can create text. However, it's important to note that not all programs can support OpenType Features. This means that even though most programs will allow you to use a font’s basic character set (e.g. ABC, 123), not all programs will enable you to use special OpenType features (such as alternates, ligatures, or swashes) automatically.

Below is a simple chart showing common programs and a general level of their OpenType support. We recommend that you use an OpenType savvy application to get the most out of your OpenType fonts; these programs are found in the “Best OpenType Support” column below:

Best OpenType Support
Some OpenType Support
Little/No OpenType Support
Adobe InDesign
Adobe Photoshop CC2014 and below
Adobe Photoshop Elements
Adobe Illustrator
 
Microsoft Office applications
Adobe Photoshop CC2015+
 
Apple Pages, Keynote, Numbers
Sketch 3
 
Silhouette Studio, Cricut Design Space, other cutting software
Quark XPress 7+
 
GIMP

 

What if I don’t have OpenType savvy apps? I use Silhouette Studio, Word, etc

If you don’t have any of the programs in the Best OpenType Support column above, check and see if the font you’ve just purchased is PUA Unicode-mapped. Usually, the product listing will indicate this. If so, you will be able to follow these instructions to copy and paste the special characters in your program. 


How to Use OpenType Fonts

Three of the most commonly used OpenType savvy apps are Illustrator, InDesign, and Photoshop. Each of these programs offer several ways to "switch on" OpenType features. You can click on an item to jump to that subtopic:


The Character Panel (Photoshop CC, InDesign)

Photoshop

First, open your Character Panel from Window > Character, then type some text.

image_preview__2_.png

You’ll notice some OpenType options toward the bottom of the panel (boxed in red). The bolder ones are the features that are built into the font, whereas the grayed out features are not available for the current font. From left to right, these 8 features are:

  • Standard Ligatures
  • Contextual Alternates
  • Discretionary Ligatures
  • Swashes
  • Stylistic Alternates
  • Titling Alternates
  • Ordinals
  • Fractions

Just click on the feature(s) you’d like to use, and those features will be applied to all of the text. The Standard Ligatures and Contextual Alternates are selected in the example above.

InDesign

After creating and selecting your text, open your Character panel (Window > Type & Tables > Character) and click the small menu button in the top right corner (boxed in red.)

image_preview__3_.png

 

  • Next, you’ll see some type options, including OpenType ▶. Notice that Ligature is already checked - this is an InDesign default setting. 
  • Click OpenType ▶. You’ll see more OpenType options from which you can choose. Features in brackets, such as [Fractions] are features that aren't available in the current font. Notice that Contextual Alternates is also checked; this is another InDesign default.
  • Click any non-bracketed option to use that feature, and click any checked option to remove that feature from the selected text.

The Glyphs Panel (Illustrator, InDesign, Photoshop CC2015+)

This panel gives you complete control over which specific characters to choose from the font. First, open your Glyphs Panel:

  • Illustrator: Window > Type > Glyphs
  • InDesign: Window > Type & Tables > Glyphs
  • Photoshop CC2015+: Window > Glyphs

image_preview__4_.png

  • You'll see a dropdown menu on the top of the panel that says "Show" - from there, you can elect to show the entire font or a specific alternate set (such as ss01, ss02, Standard Ligatures, etc.) Note: ss01, ss02, etc refer to Stylistic Alternates.
  • If you show the entire font, all the characters will be shown on a grid. You can manually select alternates for each character with a tiny triangle in the bottom right hand corner. Just click the character and you'll be able to see and select alternates.

The OpenType Panel (Illustrator Only)

First, open your OpenType Panel (Window > Type > OpenType), then type some text.

image_preview__5_.png

You’ll notice some OpenType options toward the bottom of the panel (boxed in red). The bolder ones are the features that are built into the font, whereas the grayed out features are not available for the current font. From left to right, these 8 features are:

  • Standard Ligatures
  • Contextual Alternates
  • Discretionary Ligatures
  • Swashes
  • Stylistic Alternates
  • Titling Alternates
  • Ordinals
  • Fractions

Just click on the feature(s) you’d like to use, and those features will be applied to all of the text. The Standard Ligatures and Contextual Alternates are on by default.


OpenType Features in Microsoft Word

Since Microsoft Word has limited OpenType support, you may not be able to use of all of a font's available OpenType features. However, MS Word has settings that enable you to use a few OpenType features, if they're available:

  • Stylistic Alternates
  • Contextual Alternates
  • Standard & Discretionary Ligatures

To access these features, follow these steps in Word:

  • Select your text and go to to Format > Font and select the Advanced tab.
  • Stylistic Alternates: To choose a stylistic set, click on the dropdown menu under “Stylistic Sets” (boxed in red) and choose one of the sets. Keep in mind that not all fonts will have 20 stylistic sets.
  • Contextual Alternates: To enable contextual alternates, check the box toward the bottom (boxed in blue).
  • Ligatures: If you click on the dropdown beside Ligatures (boxed in green) you’ll be able to choose from Standard ligatures, Historical and Discretionary, etc.

image_preview__6_.png

To learn more about software to use with OpenType fonts, check out this chart.


How to use PUA unicode-mapped fonts

PUA unicode-mapping is a font feature that enables you to use OpenType features in non-OpenType savvy software. This special encoding allows you to access these special characters without having software that fully supports the font’s OpenType features. That means that if you use a program like Microsoft Word that doesn't support certain features of a font, you can still use them if the font is PUA unicode-mapped. 

 

How do I know if a font is PUA Unicode-Mapped?

Usually, our Shop Owners include a brief statement in their product that says something like “This font is fully unicode-mapped,” or something similar:

Screen_Shot_2019-10-17_at_11.20.26_AM.png

(You can purchase Storyteller from MyCreativeLand)

If you’re not sure if the font is unicode-mapped, we recommend asking the seller!

How do I use unicode-mapped fonts in my software?

Use the following methods of copying / pasting characters to access special features. Please note that for non-unicode-mapped fonts, the copy/paste results may not work.

Windows
  • Open the Windows Character Map App
  • Set the Font to the desired one in the list.
  • At the bottom, check [ ] Advanced View 
  • Set Group by:” to Unicode Subrange 
  • At the bottom of the list, select Private Use Characters”
  • Alternately, use the premium app PopChar.
Mac
  • Open the FontBook app.
  • To copy characters, go to Preview / View > Repertoire. 
  • Select and copy (CMD + C) the desired character.
  • You can then paste (CMD + V) the character(s) into the text field of your open program (such as Microsoft Word.)
  • Alternately, use either of the premium apps PopChar or Ultra Character Map

Still experiencing issues? Contact us here!

Did this article answer your question?

0 out of 0 found this helpful