Fonts! Google vs PDF

Posted by: Jeff Mills on July 31, 2023

Creating a PDF output from a Google Document can sometimes lead to discrepancies in the appearance of fonts, especially if a unique or uncommon font is used in the original document. Here’s a breakdown to help clarify the differences:

1. Availability and Accessibility:

  • Google Fonts:
    • A collection of free and open-source fonts provided by Google.
    • Available for online use, meaning that they can be easily embedded in websites.
    • Hosted online, so users don’t need to have the font installed on their system.
    • Optimized for web use and typically load faster on websites.
  • PDF Fonts:
    • Fonts used in PDFs can include both proprietary (commercial) and open-source fonts.
    • They can be embedded in the PDF itself, which ensures that the document will look the same no matter where it’s opened, regardless of whether the user has the font installed.
    • If the font isn’t embedded in the PDF, it may revert to a substitute font, potentially altering the appearance of the document.

2. Purpose and Usage:

  • Google Fonts:
    • Mainly designed for online use in websites and web applications.
    • Aimed at enhancing web typography and user experience.
    • Often optimized for screen reading, providing good legibility on various devices.
  • PDF Fonts:
    • Used to ensure consistent rendering in PDF documents, whether they are viewed electronically or printed.
    • Can include any font the author has access to, including custom or commercially licensed fonts.
    • The focus is on preserving the exact appearance and layout of the document, rather than the adaptability to different devices.

3. Licensing:

  • Google Fonts:
    • Generally open-source and free to use, even for commercial purposes.
    • The licensing allows for easy sharing and collaboration.
  • PDF Fonts:
    • Fonts in PDFs may be subject to various licenses, depending on the particular font.
    • Commercial fonts may require a license for embedding in a PDF, and unauthorized sharing could lead to legal issues.

4. Technical Aspects:

  • Google Fonts:
    • Often include variations and subsets to make them more lightweight for faster loading on websites.
    • Typically available in formats that are optimized for web usage, like WOFF (Web Open Font Format).
  • PDF Fonts:
    • Can be embedded in their entirety or as subsets (only the characters used) to minimize file size.
    • The embedding ensures that the document’s appearance is maintained across different systems.

In summary, while Google Fonts is a specific collection aimed at web use, PDF fonts can be any type of font used to maintain the visual integrity of a PDF document. The choice between them would typically depend on the context in which they are being used – online or in a static document – and the specific requirements of the project.

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