26 Nov 2010 11 am eastern

Web type news: iPhone and iPad now support TrueType font embedding. This is huge.

TrueType font embedding in iPhone, Hallelujah!

TrueType font embedding has come to iPhone and iPad, Hallelujah, brothers and sisters. That is to say, Mobile Safari now supports CSS embedding of lower-bandwidth, higher-quality, more ubiquitous TrueType fonts. This is huge. Test on your device(s), then read and rejoice:

The Typekit Blog: iOS 4.2 improves support for web fonts

iOS 4.2 is also the first version of Mobile Safari to support native web fonts (in TrueType format) instead of SVG. This is also exciting news, as TrueType fonts are superior to SVG fonts in two very important ways: the files sizes are dramatically smaller (an especially important factor on mobile devices), and the rendering quality is much higher.

Ryan N.: Confirmed: TrueType Font Support on Mobile Safari on iOS 4.2

Thanks to Matt Wiebe for mentioning the rumour that Mobile Safari on iOS 4.2 supports TrueType fonts and providing a handy link to test.


TrueType is an outline font standard originally developed by Apple Computer in the late 1980s as a competitor to Adobe’s Type 1 fonts used in PostScript. TrueType has become the most common format for fonts on both the Mac OS and Microsoft Windows operating systems.

The primary strength of TrueType was originally that it offered font developers a high degree of control over precisely how their fonts are displayed, right down to particular pixels, at various font sizes. With widely varying rendering technologies in use today, pixel-level control is no longer certain in a TrueType font.

More about webfonts

If you’re coming late to the party, the following bits of required reading and listening will get you up to speed on the joys (and occasional frustrations) of “real type” on the web:

  1. Bulletproof @font-face syntax, Paul Irish, 4 September, 2009
  2. Web Fonts at the Crossing, Richard Fink, 8 June 2010, A List Apart
  3. Big Web Show Episode 1, Dan Benjamin and I discuss webtype with Ethan Dunham of Fontspring and Font Squirrel and Jeffrey Veen of Typekit
  4. Big Web Show Episode 18, Dan Benjamin and I discuss webtype, screen resolution, and more with Roger Black
  5. Thanks

    My thanks to David Berlow of Font Bureau for waking me from my Thanksgiving stupor and alerting me to this exciting slash overdue development.

    Filed under: CSS, CSS3, Design, type, Typekit, Typography, Web Design, Web Design History, Web Standards, webfonts, webkit, Websites, webtype

    23 Responses to “Web type news: iPhone and iPad now support TrueType font embedding. This is huge.”

    1. Matt said on

      This is awesome!

    2. Hannes Famira said on

      If I am not mistaken on August 12, 2010 there was a “nightly build” of WebKit — version 5.0.1, that supported the Web Open Font Format. What a pity that Apple is now choosing naked font embedding over support of WOFF. Do you have any information whether this is a matter of convenience or politics? I am curious…

    3. Jeffrey Zeldman said on


      I wouldn’t say that Apple’s support for TrueType signals a refusal to support WOFF. One hopes they intend to support both. I have no information on Apple’s internal decisions.

    4. Matt Wiebe said on

      Happy to throw the little test together, even happier to see the results.

    5. Stef Pause said on

      Yes, exciting stuff indeed! I’m just waiting till the 6th of December, when TypeKit’ll disable Web Font serving to the older 3.x iOS devices (I’d asked for this a while back), so things don’t go all crashy when using more than one weight. Mark your calendars!

    6. Jeffrey Zeldman said on

      Thanks for the test, Matt!

    7. Matt Wiebe said on

      Hannes & Jeffrey: Safari will have support for WOFF in the not-too-distant future. WebKit’s public bug tracker has an issue for adding WOFF suppport that is marked as resolved. I tested Erik Spiekermann’s WOFF endorsement page with WebKit nightly and it works perfectly.

    8. Jeffrey Zeldman said on

      Matt: YES!

    9. Heath said on

      This is great news as we are now in process of creating our new layout/design tool for our website builder. Part of that tool will allow users to change fonts using TrueType font embedding. It is good to know it will work on the iPhone/iPad now :).

    10. Andrude said on

      Do you have to be on wifi to use it ? ;-)

    11. jason said on

      It’s about time. Also, now that Sun and Apple made up, I wonder if the iPad and iPhone, etc will have Java support.

    12. Jeffrey Zeldman said on

      Andrude: You’ll see web fonts in any browser that supports them, regardless of your connection type or speed.

    13. Hannes Famira said on

      The issue I am trying to address here is not, can we use fonts on the web or not but rather what technology will we use to do so.

      In my mind TT is a desktop font format. SVG is a pain and not suitable for text. Favoring TT over WOFF as the first truly usable font format to be supported is setting a sign for developers to go off and start using desktop fonts on the web. I don’t think this is reason to rejoice but a giant step in the wrong direction.

    14. go2like said on

      a lot of people will be confused at the functions it gives . so they should pay more attention to the usage of the process .

    15. Jeffrey Zeldman said on


      I understand what you’re saying. But in supporting embedded TT fonts, Mobile Safari isn’t signaling contempt for the intellectual property of type designers or lack of interest in WOFF. It is merely achieving parity with desktop Safari and other modern browsers.

      This isn’t something new. Support for embedded TT fonts has been in the W3C specification since CSS1 in 1996—fourteen long years ago. And thirteen years ago, exactly one browser bellied up to the bar to support the W3C specification: Internet Explorer 3. Partly to address font makers’ intellectual property concerns, and partly because Microsoft until recently chose to embrace web standards by supporting them with proprietary technologies, IE supported CSS @font-face via a proprietary font format it hoped other browser makers would license. They didn’t, and @font-face withered on the vine. So much so that it was removed from CSS2 and was only added back to CSS3 a few years ago.

      I’m probably recounting history you already know (and I’m telling it sloppily at that). My point is, this isn’t a new thing, so it isn’t a signal. And today we are fortunate enough to be able to obscure and subset the embedded TrueType fonts we serve, thereby deflecting piracy while offering the excellent user experience that comes with TrueType.

      Yes, it will be great when Apple supports WOFF. And they will soon, as Matt has informed us. But meantime, knowledgeable designers and developers can continue to embed TrueType font that have been licensed for web use via @font-face, using techniques like Paul Irish’s (cited in my post) or platforms like Typekit (which use techniques like Paul Irish’s).

    16. Scott Kellum said on

      Great! Full ttf embeding now supported by both the latest iOS and Android releases. WOFF is on the way. Now we need OT feature support and h+j settings and I will be satisfied :)

    17. James Katt said on


      Apple created TrueType. Apple is supporting TrueType in WebKit, which it also created.

      WebKit changes will then become available to Mobile Safari, Desktop Safari, and other 3rd party browsers based on WebKit.

      Apple is supporting WOFF. Apple supports open standards.

      As of 7-31-2010, WOFF support was added to WebKit as noted on :

      Timestamp: 07/31/10 22:04:57 (4 months ago)
      [email protected]
      Add WOFF support for @font-face

      * WebCore.vcproj/WebCore.vcproj: Added WOFFFileFormat.{cpp,h}. [...]

    18. Richard Fink said on

      @hannes famira
      “In my mind TT is a desktop font format. SVG is a pain and not suitable for text. Favoring TT over WOFF as the first truly usable font format to be supported”
      To clarify: WOFF is a container format – essentially it’s a special-purpose zip file for fonts. It can contain a TT font or an OT font or any “sfnt” based font. WOFF doesn’t add any usability. A TT font delivered via gzip and the same TT font delivered as a WOFF file are six of one, half a dozen of the other.

    19. Hannes Famira said on

      Thanks for your replies everybody!

    20. Carwin Young said on

      This is fantastic! Holy crumb Batman!

    21. Russell Bishop said on

      Excellent stuff! What’s the adoption rate of iOS4.2 thus far?

    22. interrobang said on

      Big development.

      That said, with all due respect, and not to put too fine a point on it, but that so called “chunky font” (big-boned perhaps would be less indelicate) IS a serif font… Just sayin’…

    23. Gerry Straathof said on

      Can anyone confirm that this font-face format can be cached using the html5 cache? It’s the one thing that threw a wrench into supporting webkit fonts with my publishing engine before.

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