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Old 02-03-2013, 05:16 PM   #1
Paul
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Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: New York State
Posts: 268
Default OpenType default figure styles

Does anyone know how Microsoft determines what will be the default figure style for a particular OpenType font? OT text fonts often have four figure styles: proportional oldstyle, proportional lining, tabular oldstyle, and tabular lining.

Recently I've needed to make announcements for two similar events. No typeface particularly commended itself for either, so I chose to use two of the newish typefaces distributed by Microsoft, Cambria and Constantia. Both of these - and I think the other Microsoft fonts whose names begin with C - are Cleartype fonts, intended to read well on the screen, but they work pretty well for print.

In general I prefer to use oldstyle figures when they're available, but here I didn't. The street number is 1008 and it looked, well, too striking in OSF. I'll attach a graphic showing all four figure styles.

In the process I noticed that, according to InDesign CS 5.5, the default figure style for Cambria is tabular lining, while for Constantia it's proportional oldstyle. I don't see any particular reason for this. To my eye, Constantia is the more modern of the two.

I was pleased with both typefaces, although I like Constantia more. The strongest reason to use Cambria might be to set math and science works, because it has a related math symbols font. The letters in Cambria, by the way, are on the narrow side, but the spacing is loose. At large sizes it would need to be tracked tighter.
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