Common Font Questions

What’s a font?

A font is a collection of numbers, symbols, and characters. A font describes a certain typeface, along with other qualities, such as size, spacing, and pitch.

What font types are included in Windows?

TrueType fonts and OpenType fonts come with Windows. They work with a variety of computers, printers, and programs. TrueType fonts can be scaled to any size and are clear and readable in all sizes. They can be sent to any printer or other output device supported by Windows. OpenType fonts are related to TrueType fonts, but typically incorporate a greater extension of the basic character set, such as small capitalization, old-style numerals, and more detailed shapes, such as glyph and ligatures. OpenType fonts are also clear and readable in all sizes and can be sent to any printer or other output device supported by Windows.

Which font format will work best for me?

It depends. If you want a font that prints well and is easy to read on the screen, then consider using a TrueType font. If you need a large character set for language coverage and fine typography, then you might want to use an OpenType font.

How to install a font under Windows?

Extract the files you have downloaded.

Details: Click on the “Download” button, save the zip somewhere on your hard disk, go to the place where it is saved, double-click on the zip to open it, then either click on “Extract all files” or drag and drop the files elsewhere from the zip window (hold down the Ctrl key to select several files at once).
For the 20th century versions of Windows, you must install an
unzip tool first.

Under Windows 8/7/Vista

Select the font files (.ttf, .otf or .fon) then Right-click > Install

Under any version of Windows

Place the font files (.ttf, .otf or .fon) into the Fonts folder, usually C:\Windows\Fonts or C:\WINNT\Fonts (can be reached as well by the Start Menu > Control Panel > Appearance and Themes > Fonts).

Note that with the internal unzip tool of Windows (unlike Winzip), you cannot install a font by a simple drag–and-drop of the .ttf from the zip window to the Fonts window. You must first drag-and-drop it anywhere (for example, on the desktop) then into the Fonts folder. You can also go through: File > Install a new font… in the Fonts folder menu, then browse the fonts, instead of drag-and-drop the fonts into the window. Although this method is laborious, it would seem that it functions better in some cases. There are some videos on YouTube, if that helps.

Tip (for Windows XP/Vista, not Windows 7/8):

If you occasionally need a font, you don’t need to install it. Just double-click on the .ttf file, and while the preview window is opened, you can use it in most of the programs you’ll launch (apart from a few exceptions like OpenOffice).

I get an error when I try to install the font. Is it safe to use?

Both Windows and Mac have tightened up their standards for fonts, and many older fonts are being flagged for various reasons.

Your operating system may give you dire warnings, so how do you know which fonts are safe to install? The truth is, no one can guarantee that every font out there is safe, because fonts come from so many sources. There are known instances of viruses being embedded in fonts downloaded free from the web, infecting personal computers or even entire companies.

Many people ignore the warnings and don’t have consequences. On the other hand, your computer could get infected and you wouldn’t know it, as your computer might be used as an “Internet bot,” sending out thousands of spam messages, while you’re only aware that your computer is running a little slower than before. Be sure to scan for viruses when you open up a font file by following your antivirus software’s instructions. (Utilize the Help instructions from your antivirus provider.)

How to use a new font with a different software?

It is sometimes necessary to relaunch the current application to be able to use the new font. Then you may proceed as usual, and the font will appear in your software’s font combo-box (word processing, drawing, etc.).

Even though I have installed a font or a dingbat, it shows up with empty boxes when I try to select it from a software program, such as Microsoft Word. What am I doing wrong?

Nothing at all! Many fonts and dingbats, particularly free ones, contain less than full sets of characters. Try typing in all of the letters, numbers, and keys on your keyboard until you start finding what you are looking for. You can use the Windows Character Map Tool to view them, as well.

If you still have problems, your computer may have had trouble during the downloading process. Try downloading and installing the font or dingbat again.

What is the Character Map Tool and how do I locate it?

The Character Map Tool lets you see all of the characters in a font. You can also easily select characters from the font to copy to the Windows clipboard. This is the pathway to find the Windows’ Character Map Tool: Start> Programs> Accessories> System Tools> Character Map.

How many fonts can be installed?

Windows is supposed to be able to manage about 1,000 fonts. But avoid installing too many fonts at one time because that slows down your system. A lot of programs have to load to memory all installed fonts to be able to run, so it’s better to put fonts you use regularly in the Fonts folder. Keep the rest in any other folder or storage device, so you can install/uninstall them as needed.

Is there a good way to see all of my fonts at once? 

There are a variety of Font Managers available. You can search for “Free Font Manager Reviews” to see a several articles debating the merits of various programs.  Here are two that I like:

Font Frenzy (

  • It has a feature that will uninstall all non-standard windows fonts (XP or Vista).  Running Windows 7, I haven’t noticed any problems.
  • As long as Font Frenzy is open and you are viewing the folder where all of your uninstalled fonts are stored, you can use them as if they were installed.
  • Restoring the fonts from a snapshot is confusing, but you can always follow the directions above for installing fonts instead.
  • The sample text is only “Font Frenzy.”
  • It was last updated in 2009.

Nexus Font (

  • The help files can be difficult to find, but are pretty extensive. (
  • It locates duplicate fonts even if they have a different file name. I was able to delete most of the duplicates.
  • You can change the sample text as well as the size, bold, italics, underline, and color.
  • As long as Nexus Font is open and you are viewing the folder where all of your uninstalled fonts are stored, you can use them as if they were installed.
  • You can sort your fonts within the program or in your Fonts folder via subfolders (i.e., script vs. chunky vs. Lettering Delights).
  • It has a user-friendly interface.
  • It was last updated in 2012.

I saw a font that I really like, is there a way to figure out what it is?

There are a couple of websites that will help you figure out a font. Identifont allows you to search by appearance (you answer a series of questions), by name, by similarity to a font you already know, by picture or symbol, or by designer or publisher. MyFonts WhatTheFont tool will search based on an image that you upload.

When I create a document or write an email with a neat font and send it to my friend, they tell me that it doesn’t look the same. Why? 

This is because your friend has to have the same font installed on their computer to allow them to see it. If the font you have used isn’t on their computer, then their computer will pick out something else. Sometimes the results are okay, sometimes not. That’s why you see web sites and documents created with common fonts that most computers have.

How can I tell if it’s okay to use or sell a free font? 

Most fonts come with a Read Me document. In this document, the author usually provides copyright information. If the font is available to give away or use for commercial purposes, they will tell you there.

I have a great font that I’ve created. I’d love to share or sell it to other Scrap Girls. Is this possible? 

It sure is! Go to our About Us page and look at the bottom for “Join Us!” which gives details for starting the process of becoming part of the Scrap Girls Team.

I often see font copyright terms such as “freeware” or “shareware” when I visit font sites. What is meant by these terms? 

While the definitions for these terms can vary, here are some commonly accepted definitions for various types of fonts:

  • Freeware is usually given away and is meant for free, personal use. It may also be free for charities and non-profit groups to use. If you want to use freeware for commercial purposes, most designers ask for a small fee or a copy of the final products that you create with their font.
  • Shareware fonts are usually meant to be tried for a period of about 30 days. If you want to keep it, the designer asks you to register it with them. They may ask you for a small fee to register it. If you don’t want to keep it, they ask that you delete it from your computer.
  • Guiltware fonts often have Read Me document statements indicating that if you feel guilty using it for non-commercial uses, they would appreciate you sending them a small donation for the use of the font.
  • Charityware is designed to help raise money for charitable causes. The designers ask that you donate something to a charity for its use.
  • Postcardware is fun because the font designer just asks for a favor, such as, “Please send a postcard to my daughter if you like this font.” The Read Me file will have the address you should use.



  1. Loretta Roberts says:

    Is there a list of fonts that are mandatory in Windows? I know a few but I’m sure there are a lot that keep the programming going. And how do I store fonts in a different area than the control panel? Do I copy them and then delete them in the control panel. I want to take some out of the control panel because I have so many that my pc in slowing down. Thank you for any help you can give me. Loretta

  2. Syndee Rogers-Nuckles says:

    Most of the information in this article applies to both PC and Mac computers. For Mac there is already a Font management software installed called Font Book – which is what I use. For more specifics you can look Font Book up in your Help files on your computer :)

  3. Thank you for this great article. Would it be possible to have it translated for Macs?

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