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Font Types - Open Type Font (OTF) Vs. True Type Font (TTF)

by Tanya McCarthy 11 Sep 2019

What is the difference between open type font (OTF) and True Type Font (TTF)?  I didn't know for a long time and if you're anything like me, you've asked the same question. 

Fret not! My analytical brain has researched on and on and will describe the difference between OTF and TTF, which format is better, and when you should se one over the other. 

Read More: Where to Find Free Commercial Use Fonts

True Type Font (TTF)

True Type Font (TTF) came before Open Type Font (OTF) so let's start there. Apple and Microsoft decided, in the early 1980s, that a font format was needed that both Windows and Mac could use. Not just on the screen but through printers as well. The TTF font style was born. 

The file contains both the screen and printer font data. In turn, the file and font type created a font easy to install and a very early cross-platform font type. 

Open Type Font (OTF)

Adobe and Microsoft decided THEY wanted to have a joint collaboration. In turn Open Type Font was born. Take all of the above with TTF and those are the ONLY things that is similar between OTF and TTF. 

OTF features a format that can store up to 65,000 characters in a single file. Who would WANT that many characters? Well, no one, I don't think HOWEVER aside from the traditional ABC, 123 characters, and your basic symbols, OTF opened a world of possibilities for font design and creation. 

Not only could you curate your alphabet, OTF allows users to add the following extras:

  • Alternate Characters
  • Old Style Figures
  • Small Caps
  • Glyphs 
  • Ligatures

Previously, these had to be added as separate TTF files, but with OTF they can EASILY remain in one, single, super handy font file. 

Difference between OTF and TTF

Clearly stated above, the use of many character types in OTF aside from the traditional ABC-123 and standard symbols. TTFs need to have separate files for extras (BOO!)

A normal user, probably doesn't care about Glyphs and ligatures, but if you're one of those crazy designers, like myself, YOU CARE!

TTFs don't allow you to use fancy swirls and flourishes on your fonts. You can't connect the letters "TH" or "LL" in a fancy way. However, OTF users CAN and DO utilize that function, which gives them the ability to make awesome graphics with endless options. 

Let's get into some details on Glyphs and Ligatures.


Glyphs are alternate characters that you can change to when you want something different than normal. Let's go through some examples. 

Here is one of my favorite fonts called "Joshiko"

As you can see below I have used the word "hello" as my example with and without glyphs! Which one do you like better?

Download Joshiko Font

Most fonts you have to manually enter in the glyphs, but they are worth it and add a special pop to your designs


Ligatures are pretty straight forward. These are strictly added for style purposes and are mainly found in script fonts. Ligatures are generally two or more letters that connect together to become one. When letters are combined in a ligature form they turn out differently than their non ligature versions. 

I used the font "Allegory" for this example showing ligatures for the double "L" and double "S", "TR", and "GG".


Download Allegory font now

Ligatures can also be used in regular fonts as well as seen below in the "Argyle Socks" font. 

Download Argyle Socks Font

Generally, most higher end fonts contain these extra characters and can really add a pop or flair to your designs that set you apart from other designers. 

Read More: How to Install Fonts on Windows

What's Better OTF or TTF Fonts?

I think at this point we all know what is better, but it depends on your end use. If you're a typical computer user, it doesn't matter. If you are involved in web or graphic design, to set you apart from the rest, OTF is hands-down the better option. 

Hopefully you learned WAY more about fonts than you care to know. Join my Facebook group for more tips, tricks and design resources.


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