Embedding Fonts into a PDF Document

There are a number of reasons why PDF software is a great choice for creating documents, and the ability to embed the fonts you use ranks among the top. When someone creates professional documents, they take great care to make sure that the images are right, the content is free of grammar and spelling mistakes, and that they use the right typography to complement the text. In some cases, the font selection is not a choice, but a standard based on company branding. Other times, the document must comply with PDF/A standards. In either case, it’s important that the same type used in PDF software shows up on the pdf viewer that users choose. This is why font embedding becomes important.

Why embed?

Just about everyone has run into an instance where they receive a document and, when opening it, get a popup warning informing them that certain fonts are missing. When this happens, the application used to open the file will substitute a font of its choosing for the ones that are missing, which can change the look, page flow, and readability of the document. This occurs when the author of the document has selected a font that they have installed on their computer but others don’t have installed as well.

To ensure that the person viewing the document is able to open the file and see the content in the same font used to create the document, the author must embed the fonts into the file. Using PDF software such as Foxit PhantomPDF to create your document makes this relatively easy.

Understanding the process

The portable document format supports TrueType, Type 1, Type 3 Composite and OpenType fonts. When you choose to include a font set, you must also choose between embedding the entire character set of the font or to include a subset. Subsetting uses only those characters that appear in the layout of the document. If a character, the “&” symbol for example, does not appear in the content then it’s not included when the font is embedded. Subsetting allows you to reduce the file size of the document since it doesn’t embed all of the characters included in the typeface. Just know that when you choose to subset, the characters not included cannot be used in later edits of the document unless the software uses system fonts for editing.

Considerations

As mentioned, file size is one thing to consider when embedding fonts. This causes problems when sharing documents through email or even via file uploads as size restrictions may restrict the ability to send the file. Additionally, you need to consider licensing issues when embedding fonts into your documents. Not all font licenses allow for embedding so this needs to be monitored, as the PDF software itself won’t know that this is a violation. Finally, it’s important to understand that in order to embed a font, the typeface must be present in your computer’s font folder.

Other applications, such as word processors, have begun to include the ability to embed fonts as well. However, in order for them to manage this, you need to print, or export, the document as a PDF. Using PDF software to create your document from the start helps avoid issues that might arise from the printing/exporting step and ensures that the font files are not lost in the process, so you get the full benefit of font embedding as do those who view your PDF document.


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