Identifying Installed Fonts - DHTML Lab | 2 | WebReference

Identifying Installed Fonts - DHTML Lab | 2

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Identifying Installed Fonts
dingbat fonts


Why Bother?

A good Web author should never assume that a particular font is installed on a user's system. The author should never format text on a page so that it displays correctly only with a particular font.

The browser-instigated substitution of another font should always be considered when composing Web pages. When an author specifies "Arial," for example, the browser may substitute a different sans-serif font if Arial is not available.

Both HTML, with the <FONT FACE=> tag, and CSS, with the font-family property, allow us to specify alternate fonts in a list so that the display will be close to what the author intended. Neither standards supply us with a method of obtaining a list of installed fonts from the user's system. It would be a security problem if they did, anyway, so we have lived with this behavior.

Why, then, would it be useful to be able to identify a user's installed fonts? That is, why am I bothering to write this?

In a Web page, one is very often called upon to provide navigation links that look like this:

Return to Previous Page      Go to Next Page

And, we usually use images ( , ) to create the small pointer icons.

Dingbat Fonts

What if the user had a dingbat font installed that included pointer icons? They would be immediately accessible, scalable, and could render in different colors!

If we know that such a font exists on the user's system, then we could save each user TWO, count'em, TWO internet connections, just for the example shown above. The page would display faster and cleaner; the user would thank us, and so would our server.

In a Web Application, furthermore, there are countless uses for dingbat fonts.

Microsoft Dingbats

All systems come with an installed dingbat font. For example, Macintosh has Zapf Dingbats, the grandaddy of dingbat fonts, and Windows has WingDings.

Windows also shipped with the Marlett font. More recently, it also ships with Webdings, as does the Macintosh. Both of these fonts, especially the latter, are very useful for Web applications.

Here are screenshots of these fonts:

Webdings was designed specifically for the Web, as its name signifies. However, it seems the designers quickly ran out of what they considered useful Web icons. Putting a no-smoking sign on your Web page might be taking non-smoker's rights too far.

Nevertheless, there are useful bandwidth-saving icons in both fonts. Can your browser display them? Check with our table on the next page.


Produced by Peter Belesis and

All Rights Reserved. Legal Notices.
Created: Feb 08, 2000
Revised: Feb 08, 2000

URL: http://www.webreference.com/dhtml/column30/2.html