TrueType fonts

TrueType on Macs running OS X

OS X can cope with both Mac TrueType fonts and PC TrueType fonts (more specifically PC fonts with the extension .ttf and collections with the extension .ttc). Apple bundles several TrueType fonts with OS X. Mac OS X also support a special type of TrueType fonts, called dFonts. You can find more information about this font format on this page. More information on fonts in OS X 10,5 is available on this page.

TrueType on Macs running System 9 or earlier

Apple used to have a tool that added support for TrueType to System 6.x (although I can’t imagine any people are still using that in a production environment).

From System 7.0 onwards, TrueType is supported directly by the operating system.


TrueType on Windows systems

Microsoft starting supporting TrueType in Windows 3.1. All subsequent versions of their operating systems, including all Windows NT variations, have built-in support for it. This means that those versions of Windows ship with a TrueType rasterizer which can display TrueType fonts at any type size.

File name

TrueType fonts carry the file name extension ‘.ttf’. All font data are contained in a single file. Only Windows 3.1 will create a second “FOT” file which acts as a pointer to the location of the font data.
Most annoying is the fact that TrueType filenames stick to the standard 8.3 naming conventions of DOS. It is up to you to figure out that ‘Antquab.ttf’ actually is ‘Book Antiqua Bold’.


Earlier versions of windows used a TrueType icon containing two ‘T’-characters. Nowadays the icon shows the characters ‘Abg’ in the appropriate typeface.

Left: Windows 2000 – Right: Windows 10

If you double-click a .TTF file in Windows 98 or later, Windows will display a small window stating the type of font, its full name, file size and version as well as data on the manufacturer and a sample of the font.

preview of TrueType font
Garamond Bold on a Windows 10 system


Installing fonts in Windows 98 (and other versions) is simply a matter of using the ‘Fonts’ control panel to add them to the system.
The default directory for TrueType fonts is C:/Windows/Fonts. It is not recommended to install fonts by dragging them to this folder.
On average, a TrueType font occupies between 50 and 100K of disk space.

Maximum number of fonts

The number of fonts that can be installed depends on the version of Windows that is used:

  • Windows NT, 2000, 2003, XP and later: There is no limitation on the number of fonts that can be installed. The system will start up slower if a large number of fonts are installed because Windows needs to read the information for all those fonts.
  • Windows 3.1, 95, 98, ME: All the fonts that are installed are added to the Windows Registry (a kind of database that Windows uses to store application and system-related data). There is only one Registry entry for fonts. Since a Registry entry is limited to 64k, this limits the number of fonts that can be installed. Depending on the length of font names and their pathname, up to 1000 fonts can be installed. Many consider 400 to 500 fonts as the maximum for Windows 3.1. More fonts tend to make the system unstable. It is better to use a font manager when several hundreds of fonts are needed on the system.