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OpenType can’t tell you how to type in Arabic, Korean or any other language, but it will make life simple if you already know it.

OpenType won’t automatically make you a better typographer; there’s a whole lot more to producing well-set typography than clever character substitution. But it does make some aspects of decent typography happen well-nigh automatically.

Like the kerning tables of older formats which make well-spaced typesetting relatively easy, OpenType’s built-in intelligence handles correct character use and positioning in your layout. You don’t have to know what a ligature or a character alternate is - just how to type.

Whether you’re a typeface user or a typeface designer, what we hope you’ll get from this is a greater understanding of OpenType’s potential. At the basic level, with savvy applications, it gives you richer typography with zero effort or even understanding. It also allows a rich vein of type alternates to be mined; switch them on and off at will as your design creativity demands. If you deal with multiple languages you can kiss goodbye to juggling special versions of your fonts; just use the right keyboard layouts and input method choices and your applications will know what you want.

When you next buy a font, ask if it comes in OpenType format. Not everything will, and if it is a dingbat design or a grungy headline face it probably doesn’t matter. But if it is a full, regular typeface make sure you get it in the format designed for the 21st century.

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