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Font Substitution Problems

Summary: If you exchange documents with other people you may run into problems related to font substitution. This occurs when Word, unable to find a required font, substitutes a different font, thereby altering the display and printout of the document. Different ways to approach this problem are covered in this tip. (This tip works with Microsoft Word 97, Word 2000, Word 2002, and Word 2003.)

Font issues, when it comes to Word, are always interesting. The fonts used in Word are those that are installed within Windows. When you first install Windows, only a limited number of fonts are available on a system. As you install other software, other fonts are added to Windows, and those fonts automatically become available to Word. The problem is that over time, every system will have different fonts available on it. This is because different software is installed on each system, and each piece of software has its own set of fonts.

A real problem crops up when you create a Word document on one system, using the fonts available on that system, and then transfer the document to a different system. When you open the document on the other system, not all the fonts used in the document may be available on that new system. If a font is not available, Word substitutes what it believes to be the most similar font that is available, often with unpredictable results.

The best way around this problem is to make sure that both systems have the same fonts installed. In an office environment, this is not an unreasonable expectation, but it does take a bit of management time on the part of users. Some companies have solved the problem by specifying what fonts can be used in official company documents--fonts that are, again, available on all company systems.

If you cannot be sure that a font will be available, and you must use that font, and the font at issue is a TrueType font, then you can follow these steps:

  1. Choose Options from the Tools menu. Word displays the Options dialog box.
  2. Make sure the Save tab is selected. (Click here to see a related figure.)
  3. Ensure the Embed TrueType Fonts check box is selected.
  4. If you will be using a small number of characters in a particular font, choose the Embed Characters In Use Only check box.
  5. Click on OK.
  6. Work with your documents as normal.

You should realize that embedding TrueType fonts can increase the size of your document files. In fact, if you use a lot of fonts, it can increase the size drastically. In addition, not all TrueType fonts are "embeddable." Some fonts are protected by their creators against distribution by embedding. If you are curious about whether a particular font can be embedded, you can either contact the vendor or download a free Font Properties Extension Tool from Microsoft. This tool is for use with Windows 95 or later operating systems. You can download it at the following address:

The tool updates Windows so it displays more information when you right-click on a font file and choose Properties. One of the pieces of information displayed is whether the font is protected or not. If it is protected, it cannot be embedded in a Word document.

WordTips: Font Substitution Problems

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