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Frequently Asked Questions on Fonts

This Fonts FAQ page answers a few of the most common questions on Windows and MS-DOS fonts. For more font information look at:-

Microsoft Typography Site
The History of Character Codes
N Walsh's CompFonts FAQ
Fonts Installed by Windows
Melbourne PC Users Group - Windows 3.1 and TrueType Fonts

FAQ on MS-DOS Fonts  MS-DOS

  1. Can I use the HVDOSFNT.COM program in a Windows DOS Box/Terminal?
  2. What Fonts will Windows use in DOS Boxes (and Terminal modes)?

FAQ on Windows' Fonts  Windows Fonts

  1. Where/what is the Windows' Fonts Directory?

  2. What are all these FON files in the Fonts Directory?

  3. What is a Monospaced Font?

  4. What is a Raster Font?

  5. What is a Truetype Font?

  6. Why is small text so jagged?

  7. How do I install a Windows' Font?

  8. How do I change the Display setting from "Small Fonts" to "Large Fonts"?

  9. What is "greeked" text?

Can I use the HVDOSFNT.COM program in a Windows DOS Box/Terminal?

You can run HVDOSFNT in both Windows' DOS boxes and CMD.EXE Windows Terminal modes. However, the memory resident HVDOSFNT is only used in Full-screen modes.  To have access to the HVFont in Windowed and Full-screen modes you must also install the HVDOSBox font for Windows.

HVDOSFNT.COM can still be run from the command line with the /A switch to display all 256 characters in the extended ASCII PC8 character set.

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What Fonts will Windows use in DOS Boxes (and NT Terminal Modes)?

A DOS box - or Windows Terminal - in Full-screen mode is just like MS-DOS. It uses the resident VGA hardware font - or a DOS software replacement like HVDOSFNT.COM.

When an NT Terminal or  DOS box is in Windowed mode, Windows must emulate the DOS VGA hardware font with a monospaced Windows font. It can use raster or vector (Truetype) fonts for this emulation.

The Truetype font is normally Lucida Console - provided in the file LUCON.TTF. The raster font is the Terminal font - from the file VGAOEM.FON or 8514OEM.FON.

Raster fonts produce clearer text than vector fonts. You can add to the very limited set of Terminal font sizes provided by Windows by installing additional Terminal fonts.

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Where/what is the Windows' Fonts Directory?

The Fonts directory is a hidden subdirectory under the main Windows directory. It is where Windows keeps its installed fonts. (For example, if the Windows directory is D:\WINNT the Fonts directory is D:\WINNT\Fonts).

The Fonts Directory will be visible in Windows' Explorer provided Explorer is configured to show Hidden files. (From the View menu, select Folder Options, View tab, Files and Folders, Hidden files, and check the Show all files radio button.) To see Filenames as well as Fontnames - they are not the same - select Details view in Explorer.

The Fonts directory is hidden because it is not intended that users should directly manipulate files in this directory. Windows actually opens the font files when it starts and keeps them open until it closes down. You will not be allowed to directly manipulate (delete, replace, rename, etc.) these files while Windows is running. To do so you must exit from Windows to MS-DOS mode - or boot the machine from an MS-DOS system disk.

Installing and removing fonts is best done through the Windows Control Panel, Fonts applet.

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What are all these FON files in the Fonts Directory?

Files with a FON extension are raster ("bitmap") font files. Windows uses both raster and vector (scalable) fonts. The vector fonts are typically Truetype fonts contained in files with a TTF extension.

Some FON files are used by Windows' systems functions and must not be removed.

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What is a Monospaced Font?

A monospaced font is a "fixed width" or "fixed pitch" font. Every character in the symbol set has the same width. Monospaced fonts are used in MS-DOS, Windows' DOS boxes, Windows' Terminal mode, code editors and similar applications. Fixed pitch text can take up more width than proportional text - and is not a good choice for large blocks of pure text. However, it is easier to work with in applications where columns of text should - or must - "line up".

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What is a Raster Font?

A raster font is another name for a bitmapped font. (Windows NT/2000/XP/Vista/7 tends to use the term "raster font", while other Windows' versions - and most other systems - refer to "bitmapped fonts".)

A bitmapped font represents each character glyph using a bitmap array. As the logical size of the bitmap is fixed, its physical size (inches WxD) on a screen - or printer - will depend upon the resolution (dots - or "pixels" - per inch) of the device.

Raster fonts are therefore less "efficient" than scalar fonts - they need separate bitmap sets for each and every font size. However, the quality of the hand crafted glyphs is typically much better than that produced by scaling algorithms - especially at small point sizes. They are always preferred in situations where text clarity is critical and screen "space" is at a premium.

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What is a Truetype Font?

A Truetype font is a scalar - or scalable - font. A scalable font, unlike a raster  font, is defined using mathematical vectors. This enables a Font manager to render a range of sizes from the same definition.

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Why is small text so jagged?

Screen resolution is much "coarser" than printer resolution. Even a large, high resolution, monitor cannot compete with printed output. For example, a 17" monitor at XGA (1024x768) resolution produces output at about 78 pixels - or dots - per inch. Laser printers produce 300 to 1200 dots per inch!

The pixel representation of the shape of small characters and figures has to be compromised. While skilled type designers can minimise the impact of these compromises - especially with individually designed raster glyphs - there are definite limits to the legibility of very small screen fonts.

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How do I install a Windows' Font?

Windows' fonts are best installed using the Windows Control Panel, Fonts applet. Save the new font file(s) in a working directory, from the Start menu, select Control Panel, then Fonts. Select File menu, Install New Font, and navigate to the working directory where the font file is located. Select the new font file(s) and they will be copied to the Windows' Fonts directory and be made available to applications.

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How do I change the Screen Display setting from Small to Large Fonts?

Right Click on a blank area of the Windows' desktop, Select Properties and then the Settings tab. Select Advanced and - in the Font size combo box - select Large Fonts. Click OK to save and apply the change.

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What is "greeked" text?

"Greeked" text is sometimes used to describe "garbage" phrases entered into an application to check layouts and screen designs. For example:-

Hanc ego cum teneam sententiam, quid est cur verear, ne ad eam non possim accommodare Torquatos nostros? quos tu paulo ante cum memoriter, tum etiam erga nos amice et benivole collegisti, nec me tamen laudandis maioribus meis corrupisti nec segniorem ad respondendum reddidisti. quorum facta quem ad modum, quaeso, interpretaris? sicine eos censes aut in armatum hostem impetum fecisse aut in liberos atque in sanguinem suum tam crudelis fuisse, nihil ut de utilitatibus, nihil ut de commodis suis cogitarent? at id ne ferae quidem faciunt, ut ita ruant itaque turbent, ut earum motus et impetus quo pertineant non intellegamus, tu tam egregios viros censes tantas res gessisse sine causa?

More commonly, it refers to an approximation of the appearance of text and figures on a screen. "Greeking" is often used in an application's preview mode when the monitor resolution is too low to properly display very small character glyphs.

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Last modified: 22 August 2010
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