What Are Embedded Fonts?


One of the most common problems for designers working in the Web medium is the varying effects that fonts can portray to different end users. Traditionally, Web pages would allow the user to view fonts only available on their machine. This limited the use of any font other than the most common font-types, such as Arial and Times New Roman. This problem has been resolved by embedding fonts into web pages so that the user can see the documents exactly as the web page designer had intended them to be seen. Embedded fonts are not only used in Web pages, but can be incorporated into PDF documents, emails and downloadable applications.


  • There are several reasons to choose embedded font over the default. When the document contains text that is trademarked or part of a logo, it's essential to maintain the original font. This is also true for documents that are to be sent to a service bureau or similar organization for final output. Other situations that would require the use of embedded font include documents that contain decorative, symbol-based, or graphical fonts. Examples of these include Carta or Zapf Dingbats.


  • Fonts found online include permissions that are defined by the original publisher. There are certain restrictions set by the publisher that indicate where and how the font can be embedded into a document. Print and Preview fonts can be embedded into documents that are in a "Read Only" status. Editable fonts can be used in documents that are edited by the user. Installable fonts can be permanently installed by the user or by a client application. Fonts that have No Embedding permissions cannot be embedded into a document.

The Facts

  • Applications should only embed fonts when requested by the user. When an application distributes any type of font in any format, the proprietary permissions of the original owner of the font must be acknowledged. Embedding fonts within a Web page or document guarantees that the font specified will be present on the receiving computer. However, not all fonts can be transferred from computer to computer as most fonts are licensed to only one computer at a time. Only OpenType fonts and TrueType fonts can be embedded.


  • Embedded fonts can give Web designers a desired look and feel, but can have a negative impact on visitors. When embedded fonts are used, visitors must wait for the font to download before the page will display. Visitors may also experience security warnings when attempting to access a web page that contains embedded font. Not only can this be disruptive to visitors, but the security warning pop-ups can scare away visitors not familiar with the site.

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