Transtype Pro

February 1st, 2008 Desktop, Software, Tech

Like blank videotapes in the 1980s, TransType is one of those products that by rights shouldn’t exist. The only thing you could record on a VCR was TV shows, and strictly speaking, copyright laws didn’t alloow you to.

Similarly, every font on your system should have been purchased from the developer or designer, any supplied to you from client files or production people like printers conscientiously deleted from your system as soon as you used them. But if you’re like some graphic designers, there’s nothing cooler than collecting every font you can possibly get your hands on, even if you know you’ll only use about one in fifty of them.

TransType Pro gives you the means to take any font regardless of platform and format and convert it to your preferred kind. The process hardly warrants thinking about — you simply drag your files into one window, the application processes them and you click a button to action the conversion.

It’s available for Mac or Windows, and therefore for converting between those formats. Desktop took a collection of several hundred megabytes of PC, Truetype, Type 1, OpenType and every other kind of font we could think of and used TransType Pro for Mac to convert them. You can also use it to convert your Mac fonts back into Windows font files.

Dragging the whole folder into the Source Fonts window didn’t exactly crash TransType, but the Mac beachball spun for long enough to make us think it had. It seemed a better to convert the fonts in groups alphabetically.

Transtype processes each font into the most appropriate group of suitcase (if there are many belonging to the same family). The first task was to scroll through the files TransType had turned red, indicating files it doesn’t like.

Each format (Type 1, TrueType, OpenType, etc) has a formal specification that describes the format characteristics that tells your document how the font handles things like encoding and glyphs. Some applications can ignore incomplete characteristics because they don’t need them all or even contain little fixes to work around them, but TransType needs every specification intact to completely convert the font, so if any of it’s missing you can’t effectively convert the font.

After removing the offending fonts, the greyed out ‘convert’ button comes to life and lets you make the conversion. Each font file gets a very quick pass of anywhere between one half to five seconds (usually the former), so a group of 100 or so fonts will take anything up to several minutes. The folder of around 300Mb of fonts Desktop converted to test the product took around two hours all tolled, including the increasingly repetitive practice of clicking, dragging, deselecting and starting all over again.

The real advantage however in TransType isn’t coming across massive collections of fonts by nefarious means but when an unenlightened client sends you a font used in a design created on an opposing operating system. A quick convert and you have the closest approximation to the same font. Be aware however of some of the nuances of ligatures and other font mechanics that might not translate and seek further approval from the relevant party, making sure they’re aware of what you’ve had to do.

TransType lets you convert formats as well, so to escape the downsides of using TrueType fonts, you can start with a PC Truetype font and have a Mac opentype or type 1 font seconds later. Nearly two hundred dollars is pricey for the ability, but with that one painful client who just doesn’t get it, TransType pro might pay for itself in no time.

RRP: $195 approx (USD$179)

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