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Hewlett Packard Font Formats
Since the introduction of the original HP LaserJet printer there has been a demand for additional typefaces to compliment the printers’ resident fonts. The early LaserJet printers prior to the LaserJet III printer in 1990 had a resolution of 300 dots per inch (dpi) and only supported fixed size fonts, called PCL bitmap soft fonts. The arrival of the LaserJet III printer saw the resolution increased to 600 dpi and the addition of support for scaleable soft fonts. Both formats are detailed below.

Bitmap Fonts

For PCL bitmap fonts a separate font must be created for each required size. Therefore if a typeface was required to be used at 10, 12 and 14 point and was required in regular and italic weights, six fonts would need to be produced.

In addition a bitmap font is manufactured at a specific resolution of usually 300 or 600 dpi and a font can only be used on a printer with equal or greater resolution than the font. Therefore a 600 dpi font can not be used on a 300 dpi printer and although a 300 dpi font can be used on a 600 dpi printer it will produce a below standard image.

Scaleable Fonts (Downloable TrueType fonts)

The scaleable font format differs from a bitmap font because the character data is stored as a mathematical outline. This enables a single font to be used for all sizes as the outline data can be scaled to any required size. The other benefit of using a scaleable outline is that as it does not have a specific resolution, the printed image is always produced at the maximum resolution of the printer.

The scaleable font format is supported by all HP LaserJet printers from the HP LaserJet III onwards.

A soft font is the general term given to fonts that can be added to a printer. Depending on the specific printer and the customers requirements, soft fonts can be supplied either as downloadable fonts on diskette or on cartridges, SIMM’s or DIMM’s which physically plug in to the printer itself. The options are covered below.

Downloadable fonts

Fonts that are supplied on diskette are usually referred to as downloadable fonts as they need to be downloaded to the printer before they can be used. The process of downloading is very simple if the printer is connected to a PC, in which case the fonts can be downloaded using the DOS copy command. Once downloaded the fonts remain resident in the printer until either the printer is switched off or a command is sent to the printer to delete the downloaded fonts.

The major advantage to downloadable fonts is one of cost as there is no printer specific hardware involved. The major disadvantage is that the fonts need downloading each time the printer is switched off.

Fonts stored in the printer

Most LaserJet printers have a mechanism by which soft fonts can be stored on the printer. The early LaserJet printers had a cartridge slot into which a font cartridge could be plugged and newer LaserJet printers support either font SIMM’s or font DIMM’s which are added inside the printer. Some high end LaserJet printers even have a hard disk which can be used for storing soft fonts.

All of the these methods of storing fonts on a printer are non-volatile which means that the fonts are not deleted when the printer is switched off. The advantage being that the fonts are always available with no user intervention required.

Once soft fonts have been added to a LaserJet printer they are accessed by sending an escape sequence which selects the font ready for use. Data is then sent to the printer as usual and will be printed using the selected font.

Although TrueType fonts are great for Windows and Apple Mac users, HP soft fonts are often an ideal solution for companies using other operating systems such as Unix and DOS.

Although this article refers specifically to Hewlett Packard printers, a large number of office laser printers emulate HP printers and therefore should support the use of HP soft fonts. For more information regarding HP soft fonts, containing typefaces, logos, signatures, symbols or quality marks, please contact the sales team for more information.

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