Fonts are a depiction of characters. The characters may be either fixed or variable width. Multiple font sizes may be provided and/or scaling instructions may be provided for scaling the font to different type sizes. Normal, bold, italic and bold italic typefaces are typically provided. A font will generally try to maintain a consistent style for all glyphs. Most code page fonts are alphanumeric matched to the ascii character set. But some -- such as Wingdings -- are assemblages of non-alphanumeric shapes.
Fonts are typically made available either as bit maps or as vectors outlining the character. Bit maps are efficient, but some glyphs may look odd at some sizes when scaled. Outline fonts scale better but require a lot of processing. Caching of scaled glyphs is sometimes used to reduce processing overhead.
In addition to providing bit maps or vector descriptions of the characters, fonts must deal with the differences between pixel shape and positioning in various media. Separate fonts may be used for display and printing of the same "font". Fonts may include additional glyphs beyond the default ASCII associated set -- either additional characters or alternate representations of the same character. These can be accessed with some desktop publishing tools.
There are people who make a living designing fonts and they have software to support them. Macromedia Fontographer is a widely used font generation program. Font files are often large. Common elements of several glyphs are sometimes combined to reduce the size. Reducing the number of fonts loaded by default may improve Windows performance and load times.
Even very extensive font sets often omit East Asian ideograms and/or many South Asian scripts that have combinatorial rules that change character form as a function of the nature of adjacent characters or words.
Lists of fonts shipped with Microsoft products are used at:
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