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Using Mac Type 1 Fonts on a PC
By Thiravudh Khoman

I consult for a company which uses PC's exclusively but gets CD's sent to them in Macintosh format every so often. The files on the CD's are invariably desktop publishing files and are created with programs which exist on both Mac and PC platforms - i.e. PageMaker and QuarkXpress.

While Mac's have had the innate ability to read PC disks for some time now, the opposite is hardly true of PC's. Third party software must be used to assist PC's in reading Mac disks. The one I am most familiar with is a program called "MacOpener" from DataViz (https://www.dataviz.com), the latest version being 5.0. This used to be downloadable for a limited time trial, but apparently this is no longer true.

The last CD we received, however, stumped MacOpener v4.0. While we could read the QuarkXpress and TIFF image files easily, a number of Mac Type 1 fonts which were used in the QuarkXpress files appeared as 0 byte files to MacOpener. Copying them over to a PC drive resulted in unuseable files. The fonts were also contained in a Mac "Suitcase" file which didn't help either since no PC program exists to read Mac Suitcase files. (Note: "Suitcase", until recently a Symantec product, is a Mac-only utility which allows Mac's to install and manage more fonts than Apple's system software is normally able to handle).

Calls for help to some Mac specialists failed to produce a working solution (I'm sure they wondered why any sane person would want to migrate Mac documents to a PC in the first place). The most often heard comment was that Mac and PC Type 1 fonts were saved in different formats and thus were incompatible. This notwithstanding, armed with some advice and good wishes, I continued to give it one last try.

My search eventually ended at a company called Acute Systems which makes two products: "TransMac" and "CrossFont". TransMac (figure 1) is one of those aforementioned utilities which allows PC's to read Mac disks. Unlike some programs, it also has the ability to read the so-called "resource fork" of Mac files. As most Mac users know (and most PC users don't), Mac files consist of two parts: a data fork and a resource fork. Mac font files exist entirely in the resource fork. This is why MacOpener, which reads only the data fork, showed the Mac fonts as 0 byte files. Adjusting TransMac to read the resource fork, I was able to copy the fonts on the Mac CD to a PC subdirectory.

Next, I used CrossFont (figure 2) to convert each copied Mac font to a pair of *.pfb and *.pfm files, which Adobe Type Manager (ATM) for the PC needs in order to read the font. The conversion proceeded without a hitch and in the end ATM was able to incorporate the converted fonts into the Windows system, ready to be used by any Windows application. A caveat: while I was able to do what I wanted without any problems, the conversion process is not supposed to be 100% assured. Furthermore, from what I have read, the quality of converted fonts may suffer somewhat. So far, I haven't noticed this.

Both TransMac and CrossFont are available for downloading in trial versions with some features disabled from https://www.asy.com. The full, registered version of TransMac v4.0 costs US$64, while CrossFont v1.4 costs US$45.

I would be amiss if I didn't mention some key legal issues. While I have shown a way to convert Mac Type 1 font files to PC format, in actual fact, you may or may not be legally permitted to do so. On the one hand, there are the usual draconian copyright restrictions. On the other hand, U.S. laws allow users to copy programs, songs, movies, etc. onto different media, as long as they're used for backup or not used simultaneously on the different media. For example, it is legal to copy songs from a CD to an audio tape cassette as long as the two are not used at the same time.

Still, there is no denying that obtaining PC equivalents of Mac fonts from authorized sources is the best option, but this is not always an option since PC equivalents may not even exist. Indeed, several fonts on the CD we received contained in-house designed fonts which certainly could not have been obtained elsewhere.

Finally, it should be noted that not too long ago, Adobe and Microsoft signed an agreement to jointly develop a cross-platform font standard called "OpenType". Both companies are expected to offer OpenType versions of their Type 1 and TrueType libraries and to put an end to such font incompatibilities. At this point in time, however, the project is still in the works. Interestingly, Apple and Microsoft once joined forces to develop the TrueType font standard as an alternative to Adobe's font offerings.

Thanks To: Khun Dhanapong Saengrussamee in Thailand and Andrew-Smith Lewis in Japan for their valuable assistance and advice.

Copyright © 1998-2000, Thiravudh Khoman