Transferring fonts

Summary: How to transfer font files between Macintosh and PC (True Type fonts, Type 1 fonts). How to use TT PC fonts on a Mac (running OS X).


From version 4, our Macdisk offers certain features which may help you transferring font files betsween Macintosh and PC. When it detects that you are copying a font file (in both directions), it asks whether you want to convert the file or to do a raw copy.
The most common situation for transferring a font from a platform to the other is when a customer ordered a special font, which was only delivered for the PC (or the Mac).
If you are migrating, you may also want to preserve your investments in fonts.
See also a good link to the T1 vs. TT war.
See also How to Use TT PC Fonts Under Mac OS X?

Why is Transferring Fonts Problematic?

Transferring fonts between Macintosh and PC rises two kind of problems. First, the file format is not exactly the same (in particular for T1 fonts). This means that some kind of conversion must occur.
Secondly, on the Macintosh, fonts are stored in the resource fork of the file. When files are transferred through a network, or by email, you often get therefore an empty file, the data fork.
Transferring fonts between Macintosh and PC must be done using real Macintosh media (HFS volumes) or "Macintosh-like" media (MS-DOS volumes handled by File Exchange on a Macintosh, NTFS volumes handled on a NT Server with SFM, ISO 9660 CD-ROM with Apple Extensions). MacDisk manages all those data media.

Before Going On

The information we give you on this page is aimed at using a Macintosh font on a PC or a PC font on a Macintosh. It goes without saying (or maybe we should say it anyway) that the technical feasibility doesn't mean that you are allowed to do it. You have to respect the rights of the authors and distributors (they may vary, depending on the country you live in). Please read your license agreement before proceeding.
In some countries, fonts are protected as computer programs (what they are, in a certain sense). In some others, only their names can be trademarked. We don't know all possible configurations. Anyway, don't negate the rights of the persons or companies who created the fonts you want to use on your computer.

Macintosh Fonts Signatures

The binary file of Postscript fonts (corresponding to the PFB file on the PC) is identified by the signature 'LWFN'. The signature of Macintosh True Type fonts is 'tfil'. There is also a display font whose signature is 'ffil'. This file is useless on the PC.
If you get a file whose signature is 'FFIL', this is a font suitcase, containing several display fonts or several True Type fonts. MacDisk will check and display an error message if it can't find a font in the file.
Under Mac OS X, the new .dfont fonts don't have a signature, as the .ttf files, which are plain copies of fonts as used on the PC.

Open Type Fonts

Open Type font files are binary compatible betwen both platforms. Therefore, no conversion is needed. On the Macintosh, users may be surprised by the fact that the files may have a generic icon and not the usual one. This fact can be explained, most of the time, by the transfer mode used to carry the files between platforms. Some of the tools available on the internet may ignore the correct signature ('sfnt' for the type and 'ATMC' for the creator).

Transferring Macintosh True Type Fonts to the PC

True Type fonts, contained in single-font files or in font suitcases, are copied to the PC in individual TTF files. Those files can then be installed in the usual way (that is through the Fonts item of the Control Panel or with a font management tool like Adobe Type Manager).
Bitmap fonts and True Type fonts appear both in suitcases. On the Macintosh, the bitmap fonts are displayed with an icon bearing a sigle A. True Type fonts use an icon bearing three As. When a Macintosh medium is opened on the PC in one of our programs, you can't make the difference between both kinds of files.
In this case, MacDisk displays an error message saying that it could not find font resources in the file. Please note that it often happens that Macintosh users only put the bitmap fonts on the media.
Since True Type font files contain all the elements needed to display and print the text, this feature is really powerful and should not bring any problems.

True Type Versions

We also observed that some font suitcases (in particular the Helvetica suitcase, containing both the regular and the bold font), when converted by MacDisk, don't give files that are correctly recognized by Windows as True Type files. On the other hand, Adobe Type Manager correctly identifies the files and even displays the correct fontname, even if the file has another name. Nevertheless, ATM refuses to display the sample display and complains that the file format is incorrect.
The solution, in this case, is to try to open the file in a font editor. We use TypeTool by FontLab (see below). From the editor, save the font to another file. The editor will save the file with a more conforming structure, which should allow the installation in Windows and ATM.

.dfont Fonts

Under Mac OS X, fonts must not be stored in the resource fork. Some fonts are stored in so-called ".dfont" files, using this extension. The contents of such files is exactly the ressource fork of older fonts, but stored this time in the data fork.
Please note that those files (like .ttf fonts) don't have a signature. If you need to transfer such fonts to the PC with MacDisk, first swap both forks (in the Expert menu) to put the font back in the resource fork, change the signature to 'tfil????', then copy the file to the PC. MacDisk will identify the font as usual and convert it.

Transferring PC True Type Fonts to the Macintosh

In the other direction, the PC True Type fonts (TTF extension) are copied to individual files. We create a 'FOND' resource (to identify the font family) for each of those files. We don't manage yet the font families in a single file. On the Macintosh, all font files should have a font id number. As we attribute a independent number to each of the fonts, you could encounter problems with the links between separate fonts (like bold, light, etc.).

Transferring Macintosh Type 1 Fonts to the PC

To be available in your program, Postscript fonts, be it on the Macintosh or on the PC, must be installed through a font management tool like ATM (the engine is included in the OS under Windows 2000). ATM must access both PFB and PFM files, or PFB, ATM and INF files.
Our programs identify the Type 1 fonts (Postscript fonts), whose file type string is LWFN (the creator string vary). If you choose to convert the font, we build a PFB file (Printer Font Binary) from the data stored in the resource fork of the Macintosh file.
Afterwards, to install the font on the PC with ATM (Adobe Type Manager), you'll also need a PFM file (Printer Font Metrics). Both files should bear the same name.

PFM File

It is not easy to build a PFM file directly from the PFB file. We have to do some guessing and use as base a generic PFM file that we adapt to the real font you're transferring. In the tests we made, we had good results with most classical fonts.
But the user should be aware that there are several problems associated to this method. If you try to reuse a layout where everything was very tight, you could experience text reflow or other similar difficulties.
Since the PFM file is used only to display the characters on the screen, the result you get when printing should be the same as the original. If you have to edit the file, you will have to work without controlling the result on screen, and will have to print frequently to know precisely what you are doing.
Versions 6.2: We discovered that version 6.2 has a problem and builds incorrect PFM files. If you need to convert Mac T1 fonts to PC, check that the resulting PFM is correct and, if not, ask for an upgrade. On the distribution CD-ROM, you can also choose to install version 6.1.2, which doesn't show this bug. This problem is solved in version 6.5.

Transferring PC Type 1 Fonts to the Macintosh

This function is not yet implemented. We plan to integrate the feature with next version. The transfer to the Macintosh format brings a lot of difficulties we'll have to solve in the mean time.

Macintosh Fonts Transferred as Attached Files (Email Attachments)

See the page we publish on decoding Macintosh email attachments. We propose on this site our MacMail utility to manage those attached files easily.


Go to the Downloading Page.

Other Interesting Tools

TT Converter

This little converter for True Type font converts from Macintosh True Type fonts to PC ones, and conversely. To be found on some fora of Compuserve and probably elsewhere.
Author: Chris Reed
Address: 3409 Clearview Drive, San Angelo TX 76904-8108
Registration fee: US $ 10.

Tools for the PC


Shareware (Wrefont is the software you get when you register). Converts True Type from the Macintosh format to the PC format. Converts Type 1 LWFN files to PFB files and builds PFM files from scratch or from ATM files. A new version, CrossFont, was launched recently.
Author: Paul Thomson
Publisher: Acute Systems.
Address: PO Box 37, Algonquin, IL 60102.
CIS ID:70461,2542
Registration fee: 20 $.
Web site: Acute Systems


Publisher: Macromedia
Web Site: Macromedia

How to use True Type PC Fonts on a Mac Running OS X?

Since Mac OS X is a flavor of Unix, one could expect that this would be the end of the fonts stored in the resource fork. Indeed, for some time, it was already possible to put PC fonts (True Type as well as Type 1) in the font folder of some Adobe applications, like Illustrator and InDesign. The drawback was that the fonts were only visible for those applications, and not from all other.
To use those fonts with all applications under Mac OS X, put them in the <Mac Volume>/Library/Fonts folder if you are an administrator or <user>/Library/Fonts folder if you are a plain user. This doesn't work with Type 1 fonts.

Mac OS X and Font Numbers

One user of our MacDisk had created a TT font on the PC and had used MacDisk to convert it to a Macintosh TT file. It worked fine. This user had then the idea to install directly the PC version under Mac OS X, on the same computer, by copying the PC file. The problem is that both files were not recognized as being the same font.
The solution we found was to take the Macintosh medium where MacDisk had converted the original font, to switch the forks (to put the resource fork contents in the data fork), then to rename the file with a ".dfont" extension (this extension meaning that the font is stored in the data fork, thence the 'd') and to copy the file in Mac OS X font folder.
This way, both files were recognized as storing the same font.

True Type vs. Type 1?

A lot was written about respective advantages of Type 1 vs. True Type fonts. With good quality fonts, this is most hype. One must say that there are more crappy fonts in the True Type format than in the Type 1 format.

Pierre Duhem (ex-Logiciels & Services Duhem)
3, rue Pierre Haret - F-75009 Paris (France) - Tel. (+33) [0]149 700 455