About Microsoft Typography

Microsoft's Typography group researches and develops fonts and font technologies, and supports the development of TrueType and OpenType fonts by independent type vendors. Our goal is to make text highly legible, in any language, and on any device.

The purpose of the Microsoft Typography Web site is to explain the benefits and features of OpenType and TrueType, the world's most popular digital font formats, used by millions of computer users every day. We aim to bring you news of exciting developments in digital typography. Developers will find an extensive collection of articles and specifications to help them create TrueType and OpenType fonts, and develop applications that use them.

History of typography at Microsoft

Fonts and software have always gone hand in hand, and at Microsoft in the early days that was certainly the case. In the beginning there really wasn't a dedicated typography group, but Microsoft was starting to make software that required fonts. One such project was Windows. Windows needed bitmap fonts for the user interface and also to represent printer-resident fonts on screen. Microsoft originally worked with Bitstream, a company founded by former Linotype employees. Microsoft licensed bitmap fonts from Bitstream, but made significant modifications to them. The first Windows user interface font was "SysFixed" the fixed-pitch bitmap font included with Windows 1. Windows 2 added support for the proportional bitmap font "System". Later the bitmap fonts MS Serif and MS Sans Serif were created. It soon became apparent, however, that outline fonts would be the future, and Apple's TrueType outline font format was picked. It was at that point, in the run up to the release of Windows 3.1, and the first typography group "Systems Type and Text" (STAT) was formed, later the group was renamed the Windows Accessory Group (WAG).

The basic charter of these groups was to acquire outlines, and produce fonts to ship with Windows. Outlines were acquired from Monotype and Bigelow and Holmes, and then the real work began -- implementing support for the format and "hinting" the fonts so that they could be rendered on screen at small sizes. Not content with producing a set of core fonts for Windows, the team set to work on producing a font-pack that would be sold alongside Windows 3.1. Microsoft hired industry veteran Robert Norton to help source fonts for the packs. The Microsoft Font Pack, and a later Font Pack 2, were incredibly successful, with a large proportion of new Windows users licensing them.

As the company grew, the font group evolved into a service group for the entire company, producing fonts for Office, Windows CE, games and other products. Microsoft has employed in-house type designers in the past, the most prominent being Vincent Connare, who designed Trebuchet and Comic Sans before leaving Microsoft in 1999, but the company has traditionally relied on outside talent for type design. In 1997 Microsoft Typography became part of the Windows International team, and the focus shifted to the international space. A year or so later, half the team were spun off to form the ClearType group, which later emerged as the Advanced Reading Technologies (ART) team. The remaining people continued to produce fonts for Windows and other products.

Currently the core team consists of five program managers, who work with a range of vendors on a variety of font production projects, and who also manage the Microsoft Typography Web site, the OpenType specification, and Microsoft's relationship with the font design community. Alongside the team sits the Font Technology group, a team responsible for complex-script shaping engines and the new font-management services in Windows. The ART team remains active in research, maintaining the font rasterizers and making showcase fonts, including the ClearType Collection fonts and more recently Gabriola.