Where to download free web fonts

2 May 2013
Fonts

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Having a single web font format would be far too simple for the world of IT. This means that, as with web video, a web designer must provide web fonts in all of these formats and then load them up appropriately as required.

Thankfully, though, most of the pain has been taken out of this process by online services.

Font squirrel

Font Squirrel

An excellent example is Font Squirrel, which searches through a wide range of open-source web fonts that can be downloaded, arranged into categories such as Calligraphic, Display and Grunge.

You can even download your chosen face as a font kit, which provides the typeface in multiple formats, along with the necessary CSS code to deliver them correctly to each browser. Best of all, Font Squirrel lets you upload your own typefaces to generate font kits, enabling you to deliver any font yourself (assuming that the font licence permits such use).

Google Web Fonts

Google Fonts

Several services go a stage further and will deliver their own range of open-source fonts directly to your end users through a super-efficient content delivery network.

Here, Google Web Fonts is leading the way for free handling, with more than 600 font families and more being added all the time. All you need do is select which fonts you want to use, add them to a collection, choose whether or not you need an extended character set, and then pick up the one line of custom code you need.

Google also provides advice on deploying your fonts, and lets you download them for local installation, which is important if you’re designing your site in Photoshop or producing a brand identity across both web and print. Google is also trialling web-font subsetting and styling, which will help make the most of short sections of eye-catching text, say in banners, buttons or adverts.

Google Web Fonts has plenty going for it, not least its popularity, which should ensure many common fonts are already cached by your visitors’ browsers, further boosting download performance. However, there are concerns about the quality of some of its open-source fonts, especially for use in long sections of body copy.

Adobe Typekit/Edge Web Fonts

Adobe Typekit

For professional use, the Typekit service, which was acquired by Adobe in 2011, provides a wider range of fonts – currently almost 900, with 1,000 more Monotype faces in the pipeline – from a wider range of foundries and designers, all carefully optimised and hinted for web use. It also provides the most attractive front-end for finding the perfect font, provides useful information about each typeface, and lets you quickly try out your own text online and see how your font will render at any size on any browser (right back to IE6 on Windows XP).

The major downsides of Typekit are that you don’t get direct access to the fonts for downloading, and you have to pay if you want to move beyond its free personal usage offer of one website/two fonts/25,000 page views per month. However, the pricing is reasonable, with unlimited fonts on any number of websites available for only $50 a year. If you’re a member of Adobe’s Creative Cloud, this is included in the package.

As an alternative, Adobe has made more than 500 screen-optimised, open-source fonts from the Google Web Fonts collection available for free delivery via its Typekit infrastructure through its new Adobe Edge Web Fonts service. The online front-end for selecting Edge fonts and generating your code is currently pretty well non-existent, and it may well stay that way, too.

The real advantage of the Edge Web Fonts service is that Adobe is integrating them directly into its new range of web-authoring applications: within the latest version of Muse, for example, you can already visually select from a range of Edge Web Fonts and apply them to text, just as you would in a print-orientated design package.