How to enhance your Word typography

11 Jul 2011
Word 2010 typography

Jon Honeyball shows you how to have fun with fonts

The intersection of art and science, or analog and digital, arguably reaches its pinnacle with typography. This much-overlooked topic is crucially important to what we see onscreen, and to how things print.

Today, it’s trivially easy to choose a font and type style, but in the past, before the days of TrueType from Microsoft and Adobe Type Manager, we had to build all those screen and printer fonts by hand. Installing them as soft fonts into a laser printer was like an exercise in brain surgery.

If you want the best control, look at Microsoft Publisher 2010, which offers live previews of the stylistic sets

Tucked away in a dusty corner of a building at Redmond is the Microsoft Typography department, whose work is rarely discussed, but here’s something I found out: Office 2010 (and 2011 for Mac) supports much enhanced typography if you know where to look. Try the new Gabriola font, and dive into the advanced typography facilities in Word | Font | Advanced | Ligatures and Stylistic Sets. Check out this document and this excellent video.

If you want the best control, look at Microsoft Publisher 2010, which offers live previews of the stylistic sets. I once rather stupidly used Publisher to make a website – the output was hilariously horrible and I’ve been put off it ever since. The 2010 edition raises the typographical stakes, and this is to be applauded.

I’ve always loved typography – the merging of vector splines with the fine art of best placing text by eye, and introducing both into the digital world of rendering and printing. When next I visit Microsoft, I want to track down this team, whose work is sorely undervalued by being reduced to a tickbox on the ninth page of the features list for Word. They deserve better than this.

Take a look at Gabriola and these other high-end fonts that Microsoft has built or commissioned, and take the opportunity to look at typography with fresh eyes.