Frequently Asked Questions About Using OpenType Fonts

October 29, 2013

OpenType fontsI’ve had some users ask me questions about OpenType fonts recently and wanted to share the answers with everyone about how and when to use them.

The questions always revolve around how to access the extended characters. There are three things that must exist to get to those characters.

You Must Have An OpenType Font

OpenType fonts have existed for many years now, but they are still not as common as TrueType or PostScript fonts. That said, Microsoft has been supplying them with the last few versions of Windows, Adobe has been supplying them in font collections and Corel has included them with the last couple of versions of CorelDRAW.

The Font Must Have The Desired Extended Chararacters

Just because the font is an OpenType font does not mean it has the extended characters you desire. It seems the characters I am asked about most often are alternates and swash characters. These are both fairly rare. So if you are having trouble using these characters, it is quite possible the font you are using doesn’t have them.

You Must Have Software Capable of Accessing Those Characters

OK, you have the font and the font has the characters, you still need to have software of accessing them and this is also quite rare. CorelDRAW X6 was the first (and currently only) version of CorelDRAW with the ability. I wrote a tutorial entitled Do More With Your Text Using OpenType Features in CorelDRAW X6 that gives you a good overview of the feature. If you want more details than I covered in that free tutorial, there is an entire lesson dedicated to the topic in CorelDRAW X6 Unleashed along with a bunch of other lessons on getting the most from CorelDRAW. These characters are also accessible using Adobe InDesign. While there may be a few other titles with access to most of the characters, those are two biggies.

If you have all three of these items covered, there are a lot of cool things that you can do. If you are missing any one of them, you’ll just have to live with a smaller character set.

Post Discussion


  1. Karen

    In X4 you can use the Insert Character docker to access the extended characters of an Open Type font. Just make sure they are visible/accessible by clicking in the dropdown for “Code Page” and selecting “All Characters”. Of course, in the dropdown for font choose the font you are working with; it doesn’t automatically select that font.

  2. Foster D. Coburn III

    Karen, unfortunately that isn’t correct. Yes, the steps you describe are valid. The reality is that it will not show all characters in OpenType fonts.


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Foster D. Coburn III built his first Web site in 1995 and he has been working exclusively in WordPress since 2013. He has used the Divi theme exclusively since 2015. Earlier in his career he was the author of 13 best-selling books on CorelDRAW and has been a contributor to numerous technology and graphics-related magazines. Foster has taken many projects, including this Web site, from the early design stage through to a finished piece. He has been a featured speaker at many graphics conferences.

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