Posted by Thomas Phinney
Here’s an obscure problem that won’t die, because fonts last forever: Old versions of Optima and ITC Eras in “PostScript” Type 1 format from 1989 don’t work properly in many Adobe applications (don’t show up in the menu), but versions from 1993 or later are fine. If you’re having problems like this, check the copyright notice in the font.
How can you check copyright notices for the date? On Windows, if you double-click on a font file you’ll get a sample sheet that includes the copyright notice. On Mac, you can get the same info from FontBook. If you use some other font management application, it can likely show you the copyright info and creation date. (Note: this is not the same as the file modification date!)
Why is there a problem? These two families were briefly available as “hybrid” fonts, which are not supported in our core font engine these days (shared by InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop, among other applications).
What are hybrid fonts, and why did we make them? Back in 1989, we had the problem that fonts had to image well both on low-resolution devices such as 300 dpi printers, and on hi-res devices such as imagesetters. Hybrid fonts were the solution: have one font with two sets of letter outlines (“glyphs” in font-geek-speak), one set intended for lower-res devices and one intended for higher-res devices. Only ITC Eras and Optima ever got the “hybrid” treatment. The low-res versions of the fonts suppressed subteties of these designs that wouldn’t work well on 300 dpi devices without edge enhancement: the very slight slope of the Eras shapes, and the very slight flaring of the Optima shapes.
Of course, today even the cheapest laser printers are 600 dpi – and most of those also use edge enhancement techniques for curves and diagonals. So such techniques are no longer needed in the least. I have finally seen a drop-off in questions about the hybrid fonts in recent years, but it is always amazing how long old fonts stick around.