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by Oscar Sodani
March 4, 2003

Oscar Sodani is a founder of Help2Go and owner of Help2Go Networks, an IT consulting firm in the Washington D.C. area. Oscar holds the CISSP certification as well as industry certifications from Microsoft, Cisco and Novell.

No matter what application you use, you use fonts. Fonts are a major part of Windows -- they determine how your letters look, how professional your reports look, and even how your desktop appears. People love to jazz up their documents and web pages with different fonts (we use the Verdana font), but how can YOU control the fonts on your system?

In this article, we'll tell you about:

  • The evolution of fonts in Windows
  • Where your font files are kept
  • Where to get more font files
  • How to install new fonts or delete old ones

In the days of DOS, every program had its own fonts and every printer had its own fonts. So naturally, fonts were not very easy to use and therefore the process for using fonts was different in every application. Then came Windows -- Windows 3.0 allowed you to use the same fonts in all your programs, no matter what printer you had.

Unfortunately, the fonts didn't always look great on all printers, were hard to use, and looked jagged when you used large font sizes. Adobe came out with Adobe Type Manager, an add-on program for Windows which allowed you to use better looking fonts (called ATM fonts) and a handy font manager utility. Microsoft responded to this "outrage" by adding True-Type fonts (TTF) to Windows 3.1, effectively whipping the carpet out from under Adobe's legs. TTF fonts were also good-looking fonts, and like Adobe, didn't appear jagged in large sizes.

TTF became the standard as Microsoft made them an integral part of Windows. You can control your True-Type Fonts through a Control Panel applet, and every single one of your TTFs are available in every Windows-based program.

Each font is made up of a single file, which has an extension of .TTF; all of these TTF files are kept in a folder in your Windows directory, usually C:\Windows\Fonts or C:\WINNT\Fonts. If you open up Windows Explorer to this folder, you will see all of the fonts installed on your system. You can also view these fonts by clicking on the "Start" button, choosing "Settings", and then clicking on "Control Panel". There is an icon there for Fonts -- click on this and a folder will open with every font on your system.

By using the options in the "View" menu, you can sort your fonts in several different ways, including viewing them by their similarity to the font of your choice. If you double-click on any of the fonts listed, a box will pop-up displaying the name of the font and what it looks like in different sizes.

Everybody loves fonts, so if you are searching for more than the humdrum fonts that come with Windows, there are plenty of free fonts available on the Web. Many commercial programs, like Microsoft Office or Adobe Photoshop, come with their own True-Type fonts that you can install on your system. Microsoft has a few downloadable fonts and font utilities you might like at

When you download a new font, you will see a file with the extension of .TTF -- this is the file that contains the information Windows needs in order to display that font properly. There are two ways to install it: Move the font into your Fonts directory (usually C:WindowsFonts) using Windows Explorer Or, open the Fonts applet in the Control Panel and choose "Install New Font" from the "File" menu

Be warned: too many fonts on your system can slow it down! If you see more than 200 fonts listed in your Fonts folder, it may be time to get rid of a few of them. The reason is that when you open up a program like Microsoft Word, Word uses memory to figure out what fonts are availble for your use. Every time you click on the Fonts button in Word, Word has to reload ALL those fonts, which will take time and valuable memory. Do yourself a favor and delete the fonts you never use.

Caution: some fonts are needed by Windows and should not be deleted! Windows depends on fonts to display everything, including the text under your icons. Never delete the following: Arial, Times New Roman, Courier, Marlett, or Wingdings. These are standard Windows fonts. Microsoft also included some fonts that were specifically targeted to Internet users. These fonts are supposed to make reading text on the web easier (like Verdana). So do not delete: Verdana, Comic Sans, Arial Black, Impact, or WebDings. Another font that could cause trouble is Tahoma. This font is used by Microsoft Office, and should also never be erased.

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