Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Improve your HTML(5) websites with @font-face

For a long time web designers were limited to a very small set of “web safe” fonts. Anything beyond those fonts, had to be done through images. Images for text not only meant creating and maintaining dozens (if not hundreds) of images, but it introduced accessibility issues.

@font-face to the rescue

With the introduction of @font-face in 1998(!)  in the CSS 2 specification, web designers could link to actual font files via CSS:

@font-face 
{     
font-family: "ChunkFiveRegular"; 
src: url('Chunkfive-webfont.ttf') 
format("truetype"); 
}

And then utilize those specified fonts in style declarations:

h1 
{     
font-family: "ChunkFiveRegular", serif;
} 

However as the specification was there, the browser support wasn’t.. And then each browser vendor decided to support different, rarely-used formats. Plus, there were the licensing issues. Even if you had supported font formats, that didn’t mean you could legally use those fonts with @font-face.

Browser Support Today

Today all of the latest browsers support @font-face and many more file formats are supported, including the TrueType/OpenType TT (.ttf) and OpenType PS (.otf) formats. Unfortunately, “latest” doesn’t include Internet Explorer before version 9.


  .ttf .otf .woff .svg .eot
Chrome v4+ v4+ v6+    
Firefox v3.5+ v3.5+ v3.6+    
Internet Explorer v9   v9 v9 v4+
Opera v10+ v10+   v10+  
Safari v3.1+
v3.1+
  SafariMobile iOS 4.1+  

Licensing Support Today

Before you can dive into the wonderful world of @font-face, you first need to choose a font. And not just any font, but a font that is licensed for web use.

There are many free and commercial fonts that have web licenses, making it easy for you. Some of the top sites when looking for a properly licensed font:

Some fonts, you can download and host yourself, others you can only use hosted versions. If you already have a font that is licensed for web use, for example, you can save it to your web server and reference those files in your CSS.

Looking for more information and some sample code? Have a look at this post by Emily Lewis.