Font management with current office suites

Automatic

If you receive a document with a font that is missing on your local system, OnlyOffice attempts to replace the font automatically, including any attributes and sizes, with a font installed in the existing operating system. However, it incorrectly displays the original font in the selection field of the menubar, without making it available. If you then add text, it appears in the replacement font. In the case of longer text with many additions between individual paragraphs, the font changes permanently in the selection field.

Depending on the substitute font automatically selected by the program, the entire typeface can suffer: Different widths of individual fonts can cause completely different line breaks, which sabotages the entire layout of a document, and different font heights cause a very uneven typeface.

Additionally, our lab revealed that after exporting such a modified document, unexpected results occurred when opening it in other word processors. For the additions, OnlyOffice initially used one of the system fonts, which looked rather unattractive on the screen because of different character widths and font heights. After reimporting to OpenOffice, the document appeared in its original font, and the substitute fonts from OnlyOffice had completely disappeared, which again affected the layout.

For collaborative, cross-platform work with OnlyOffice, it is therefore a good idea to ensure that the computers are equipped with identical system fonts. Only then do the documents change hands without time-consuming postprocessing on the individual systems (Figure 6).

Figure 6: With OnlyOffice, font management leaves a great deal to be desired, especially when working collaboratively on different platforms.

Even if you install fonts at a later date, the software sometimes incorrectly displays imported text with empty rectangles instead of the desired characters. OnlyOffice is unable to cope with Asian type systems.

SoftMaker Office

SoftMaker Office [13] has a long and continuous development history and is available across platforms. The software also uses the fonts installed in the operating system but has its own font manager on board, as well, which you can access via Tools | Options. In this settings window, select the Fonts tab to activate or deactivate existing fonts by ticking the checkbox (Figure 7).

Figure 7: SoftMaker Office is the only application in the test that brings order to font confusion.

However, this function displayed weaknesses in the practical test. Theoretically, for example, you remove all fonts in the font dialog of the Options window by clicking Hide all or by unchecking individual boxes to the left of the respective fonts. That only worked to a limited extent: Nevertheless, a good half-dozen randomly selected standard fonts remained in the selection field. If you only want to use your own fonts, you can't do so.

SoftMaker Office offers useful support for Asian type systems. You can first install appropriate character sets in the font directory then access them after specifying an individual search path in the Tools | Options | System menu. Note that you have to enter the search path as a complete path and set the corresponding language under Format | Character | Font in the Language selection field. Once you have successfully adapted the input method for your desktop environment, you can then input Asian text.

TextMaker, SoftMaker Office's word processor, copies and pastes text blocks from nonstandard writing systems into a document without complaint: Only WPS Office and TextMaker were able to master font substitution without incorrect characters. TextMaker uses the preset SimSun font for Chinese typesetting systems.

WPS Office

WPS Office [14], developed by Kingsoft in China for more than 20 years, has its own font management system, in contrast to many other office packages. However, at first glance, the individual applications' interfaces hardly differ from those of the other office packages: The selection list for fonts and the usual buttons for font attributes are available.

The selection field for the existing fonts uses the fonts installed in the operating system and displays them accordingly in the preview. However, in the Format | Font menu, you will also find a very detailed settings dialog in which you can select a standard font from the list for a document and add various attributes and font styles.

Because of its origin, WPS Office distinguishes between Asian and Western typesetting systems and allows the configuration of different character sets for the respective systems. The lower part of the configuration dialog has a small preview of the chosen font.

However, WPS Office is a bit of a nuisance: In the test for Linux Magazine, some fonts showed up in the preview with incorrect spacing. If fonts are not installed, WPS Office also displays a message in this dialog box and uses a similar replacement font (Figure 8).

Figure 8: Highs and lows: Although font management (top) is exemplary, WPS Office slips up with the preview (bottom).

WPS generates replacement fonts with the use of an internal table. If you copy text from Asian font systems into WPS Writer, the word processor automatically switches to the SimSun font. You do not need to install any fonts manually, and WPS displays the text correctly on the screen and during printing (Figure 9).

Figure 9: No surprise: The Chinese-based WPS Office can easily manage Chinese typefaces.

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