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Custom Fonts in Web Browsers
Solutions for a strict medium
Time: 08/25/08 12:13:55 am
Tags: Fonts [1], Design [5], Web browsers [25], Examples [74]
Most relevent 4 of 90 posts with shared tags:

A very important part of the design world is fonts, but it is an unfortunately annoying part of web browser land. There are very few fonts that come by default with OSs and even less default ones that match each other across all OSs, so your website won’t look the same across all platforms unless you use the right combinations. It’s much pretty guaranteed that if you want anything even remotely special in terms of a font somewhere on your website, you will be out of luck to match it across all platforms.

The commonplace solution for this is, of course, creating images for whenever you need special fonts displayed. While this is the most elegant solution, it is only appropriate for special circumstances, and not normal site content, as image file sizes can get ridiculous, and you lose plain text advantages like searchability and search engine recognition. Another solution is to request the user to download the font, like here. While this is a valid solution, the vast majority of users would not download the font because, mostly, they don’t care enough, and secondly, people generally know not to go download unfamiliar files on the internet when they don’t have to, for security reasons.

This has actually been a problem for me recently as I realized some of the default fonts I use for my site, which have always come with Windows, do not have default equivalents that come with most Linux distributions, as I had assumed. That’s a topic for a different day though.


So I had a customer recently request the ability to dynamically display some text in a certain font, so I told him there are 2 solutions. The first would be to use JavaScript to load translucent PNG images, the second would be to embed a Flash applet, as Flash can store font files internally for use. So here are instructions and examples of both:


JavaScript + PNG Translucency (alpha blending) Method
There are 2 ways to create the PNG translucency in Photoshop; one easier but less effective way that doesn’t maintain quality, and a slightly more complex path with better results.
  • To start off for both paths, a screenshot (ALT+PRINT SCREEN to take only the current window) will need to be taken of the font rendered in black against a white background. This can be done in your favorite word processor as long as it properly renders with translucency, or (for Windows) by just going to the font file in “c:\windows\fonts” and opening it, which uses “fontview.exe”.
  • After you have the screenshot, open a new file in Photoshop (File > New OR CTRL+N) and paste the screenshot into a new layer (Edit > Paste OR CTRL+V)
  • Delete the background layer, which requires the layer window is open (Window > Layers OR F7 to toggle its display). Right click the text portion “Background” of the background layer, and choose “Delete Layer”.
  • Select the region that contains your font’s alphabet (M for selection tool) and crop it (Image > Crop).
  • You might want to zoom in at this point for easier viewing (CTRL++ for in, CTRL+- for out).
  • The easy way from there:
    • Deselect the area (Select > Deselect OR CTRL+D).
    • Select the Magic Wand tool (W), set Tolerance to 0, check Anti-Aliased, and uncheck Contiguous
    • Select a pure white pixel and then delete the selection (DELETE)
    • You now have a translucent image that you can save and use, but the translucency isn’t that of the original font, as that is not how the magic wand tool works.
    Example using “Aeolus True Type Font” (Set against a green background via HTML for example sake)
    Translucent Aeolus True Type Font Easy Method
  • The better way:
    • Add a mask to your current layer (Layer > Add Layer Mask > Reveal All)
    • Go to the channels window (Window > Channels to toggle its display, it should be in the same window as Layers, in a separate tab) and select either the red, green, or blue layer. It doesn’t matter which as they should all hold the exact same values (grayscale [white-black colors] have the same red, green, and blue values), so red channel (CTRL+1) is fine.
    • Copy the channel (CTRL+C) (the entire workspace should still be selected after the crop)
    • Select the mask channel (CTRL+\), and you also need to make it visible (toggle the little eyeball icon besides it)
    • Paste into the mask channel (CTRL+V), invert it (Image > Adjustments > Invert OR CTRL+I), and then make it invisible again (untoggle little eyeball icon besides it)
    • Reselect the RGB contents (CTRL+~) and flood fill it with black [or your color of choice]: Paint Bucket Tool (G), 255 tolerance, no antialias
    • You now have a translucent image of the font that you can save and use that has the original font quality. You can test it by adding a white layer below it.
    Example using “Aeolus True Type Font” (Set against a green background via HTML for example sake)
    Translucent Aeolus True Type Font Good Method
From there the image file can be split up into individual images called “a.png”, “b.png”, etc, and a simple JavaScript string could be used to convert a string to display the picture text like “'MyString'.replace(/(.)/g, '<img src="$1.png">')”.
Example (this is produced by JavaScript):

Internet Explorer 6 also has the added problem of not allowing translucent images, so a hack is needed for this. Basically, an element (like a blank image) needs to have its filter style set like the following (JavaScript DirectX hack...)
style.filter="progid:DXImageTransform.Microsoft.AlphaImageLoader(src='IMAGELOCATION', sizingMethod='scale')";


Flash Method
While this method is much quicker to complete and easier to pull off than the previous method, it is also more prone to problems and browser incompatibility. Flash and JavaScript never got along well enough in my book. Anywho, here’s the process. (Source file here)
  • In a new Flash document (v5.0+), create a text box with the following properties:
    • Type: “Dynamic Text”
    • var: MyText
    • Font: YOURFONTCHOICE
    • Embed (button): Select the set of characters the dynamic text box might display. The less glyphs you select, the smaller the output file will be. I included all alpha-numeric+punctuation in the below example (24.3KB).
  • That’s all you need for the Flash file, so all that’s left now is the JavaScript. The following function will set the text for you inside the movie. Also, you should set the embed (for normal browsers) and object (for IE) tags as different “id”s. The wmode is an important parameter here too, in that it makes the background invisible and the Flash applet more a part of the web page (not a “separate window”).
    <object width="300" height="40" id="CustomFontIE" classid="clsid:d27cdb6e-ae6d-11cf-96b8-444553540000">
    	<param name="movie" value="OtherContent/CustomFonts/CustomFont.swf">
    	<param wmode="transparent">
    	<embed src="OtherContent/CustomFonts/CustomFont.swf" wmode="transparent" width="300" height="40" id="CustomFont" type="application/x-shockwave-flash">
    </object>
    <script type="text/javascript">
    	var IsIE=(navigator.appName.indexOf('Microsoft')!=-1);
    	function SetFlashText(NewText) { document.getElementById('CustomFont'+(IsIE ? 'IE' : '')).SetVariable('MyText', NewText); }
    </script>
    		
Example: (Set against a green background via HTML for example sake)
Enter text here:
Flash applet:




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