Monday, January 30, 2017

MS Word questions asked that are not about MS Word #2

A great many question get asked relating to but are not always directly about MS Word.

1. “What is the best cursive font in Microsoft Word?”
2. “What style of font is the smallest in Microsoft Word?”
3. “Is there a calligraphy font for Microsoft Word?”

These are three recent great questions. This post will be about the second question, sent by Anastasia P.

Question 2. What style of font is the smallest in Microsoft Word?

First understand that no fonts exist in the Microsoft Word application. The selection of fonts you see when using Microsoft Word exist as part of your computers operating system. That is to say these are typefaces that have been loaded or installed onto your computer. Some of the typeface choices you see came with the operating system, others as part of Microsoft office or other installed applications. You may have purchased a single font or a whole typeface family and installed it as well.

When you ask “What style of font is smallest” I am going to guess that your not asking about the point size of the type. As you can make any type display at a small point size, such as 6 pt.

My best guess your asking about the typefaces perceived size, this is result of the typefaces X-height.
Type is measured by the height of the characters. Imagine a box that is bounding the typeface characters, it includes any descenders such as on the lower case p, g,or y font characters, and any ascender’s such as h, d, f and the uppercase letters, this is the body size or the character image height, also called the type size.
Type used to be predominantly made of metal, and the metal typeface sizes were measured in points, (Point (typography) - Wikipedia) and each type font point size was designated by the size of the metal block or slug on which the type was cast. The result was the image height (body size) of the metal typeface character is smaller than the vertical size of the metal slug or block that carries the character.
So if you have different typefaces all set at same point size (metal slug or block size) they can look different. Because within the bounding box the proportions of the characters can vary widely from typeface to typeface. The vertical height of a lower case n, s, or x will be different from typeface classification to typeface classification. This measure is the “x” height.

The x-height is a major factor influencing the perceived size of a typeface.

X-height is the distance from the type baseline to the mean line (top of non ascending lowercase letters) This x-height distance varies between typefaces style classifications, and it has migrated to be taller over the centuries. This design change has been driven by studies. It turns out over 75% of the text we read is lowercase letters. Contemporary text typeface designs that have characters with larger x-heights have tested as more legible. Type design with larger x-height are efforts to increase legibility.
You can see in the graphic below the x-height and type-size difference in the key typeface classifications. 

So a font that may work for you at 8pt or smaller point sizes could be a contemporary typeface design with a x-height that is larger. Versions of Microsoft Office might have installed a couple of these typefaces. Both Verdana and Trebuchet are san serif typefaces of recent design, both with larger x-height as compared to Palatino a old style design, all which may be Microsoft Office installed typefaces.

The last line is 6pt type in each above example, at this size the typefaces with larger x-height still have good legibility.

The reading process can be enhanced or inhibited by the legibility and the readability of the typography. Setting type there is lot involved to do it professionally.

Word processing programs such as Microsoft Word do not give you the actual typesetting control that Adobe InDesign or Quark Express do. For common business communication; letters, many reports and proposals MS Word might be adequate. For quality work; ads, brochures, invitations, annual reports, posters, flyers, booklets, books, magazines, logos, these items require graphic design and type that needs to be set with great care. The programs like InDesign, Quark, and Illustrator have tools that set type and allow expert level of control and in a professional graphic designers hands can be made to produce proper files for print reproduction. 

I not sure if this is answering your “font is the smallest” question or even giving you better tools and understanding to ask the right question, I hope so.
The best thing is to try stuff, test and experiment in your MS Word document with the typefaces you have available on your computer. For the MS Word projects that need small text sizes ( 6 pt–4 pt) try using the Verdana font to start with in your style.

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