Output Devices and WYSIWYG

Output devices are those devices (units) which we connect to computers to get information from them. The most common types of output devices are monitors (video screens) and printers.

Now-a-days, when we think of fonts, we first think of computer's screen and then the printer. The reason may be that we compose text on (over) the screen and then expect the output of the printer to resemble the displayed text. Most modern OSes and Word-Processors almost always achieves this for us. This service (or facility) is called 'What you see is what you get', in short WYSIWYG (pronounced as 'vizivig').

Though all the printers and screens, print or display everything by composing points, these are quite different types of devices! Printers typically print on white backgrounds (paper) while screens have black backgrounds. So color models are different - CMYK for printers and RGB for screens. Also computers need to handle different resolutions (number of points/dots per inch called dpi).

So to achieve WYSIWYG, the computer need to compose the page differently while printing as per the specification of the printer and preferably send the page as a bitmap/picture. Another (older) method is to send text and 'formatting instructions' (in printer's language) and let the printer compose and print the page. For this to happen even for plain English text, printer should have corresponding fonts available. Sometimes computers send applicable fonts to the printer before the text to be printed.

Fonts and Printers

From the perspective of printers we can classify fonts as either a) resident fonts or b) downloadable fonts.

Resident (internal) fonts are those fonts which are embedded (i.e. pre-loaded) in printers' read-only memory. High end printers (used to) support font cartridges. When we use these resident or cartridge fonts to print text, we don't have to send font from computer to printer, and printing is relatively fast. For volume printing people generally used to prefer resident or cartridge fonts.

Downloadable fonts are those fonts which are copied (downloaded) from computers to a printers for use in subsequent printing.

What are Soft Fonts?

The downloadable fonts are also called 'soft fonts'. (please note the space between 'soft' and 'fonts'.) As Hewlett-Packard's PCL is a very popular 'printer control language', most of the 'soft fonts' are 'HP PCL soft fonts'.

In case of printers which do not support 'soft fonts', computers send text as bitmaps/pictures.

Now-a-days OpenType (enhanced TrueType) or AAT is being preferred for complex scripts. OpenType (and AAT) demand advanced rendering services (for rich typography) which are not available in printers!

So, in our opinion, it is practically impossible to create a useful soft font of a complex script.


We chose this name 'softfonts.com' because it was the shortest relevant name which was available. [We are in the business of developing 'small software' and 'unicode fonts'.] It is very difficult these days to get a decent domain name.

We don't sell what people used to call 'soft fonts'.

The first font that our director designed (in 1991-93) was a 'PCL soft font'. He wrote a rudimentary bitmap font editor in the 'C' programming language for that!

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