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As a company that arguably did more to jump-start the desktop publishing industry than any other in the mid-1980s, Apple Computer (now Apple Inc.) has paid great attention to the typefaces used in its marketing, operating systems and industrial design. It has also been a leading player in font technology development, and controls several patents important to the implementation of high-quality typeface rendering on computers.

Corporate fonts and brand identity[]

For at least 18 years, Apple's corporate font was a custom variant of the ITC Garamond typeface, called Apple Garamond. It was used alongside the famous Apple logo, for product names on computers, in countless ads, printed materials and on the company website. Since 2001, Apple has gradually shifted towards using Myriad in its marketing.

Motter Tektura[]

Apple logo Motter Tektura

Prior to the first Macintosh, Apple used a typeface called Motter Tektura, designed by Otmar Motter of Voralberger Graphic in 1975, to accompany the Apple logo with a bite taken out of it. At the time, the typeface was considered new and modern. It was distributed by Letraset.

The type merged well with the Apple logo; The minuscle a of apple computer inc., appeared to come out of the bite. One modification to the typeface was that the dot over the i was removed.

According to the logo designer, Rob Janoff, the typeface was selected for its playful qualities and techno look, in line with Apple's mission statement of making high-technology accessible to anyone. Janoff designed the logo in 1976, while working at an advertising agency in Palo Alto called Regis McKenna.

In the early 1980s, the logo was simplified by removing computer inc. from the logo. Motter Tektura was also used for the Apple II logo. This typeface has sometimes been mislabeled as Cupertino, a similar bitmap font, probably created to mimic Motter Tektura.

Apple Garamond[]

At the time of the introduction of the Macintosh in 1984, Apple adopted a new corporate font called Apple Garamond. It was a narrow variation of the classic Garamond typeface. Specifically, ITC Garamond (created by Tony Stan in 1977) was condensed to 80% of its normal width. Presumably, Apple felt that the existing ITC Garamond Condensed, at 64%, was too narrow. Bitstream condensed the font and subtly adjusted the stroke widths and performed the hinting required to create a TrueType font which was then delivered to Apple as "apgaram."

Apple logo Think Different

Apple Garamond was used in most of Apple's marketing.

In cases when the Apple logo was accompanied by text, it was always set in Apple Garamond. Aside from the company name, most of Apple's advertising and marketing slogans such as "Think different" used the font as well.

This typeface was virtually synonymous with Apple for almost two decades and a large part of Apple's excellent brand recognition. It was not only used in conjunction with the logo, but also in manuals, ads and to label products with model names.

Apple has kept Apple Garamond to themselves, but briefly sold ITC Garamond NarrowApple Garamond without the custom hinting — as part of the "Apple Font Pack" in the 1990s. A version of the font was also included, hidden away under a different name, in some versions of Mac OS X prior to 10.3, since it was used by the Setup Assistant installation program. See List of fonts in Mac OS X for more information on how the font can be extracted.

Many typographers consider ITC Garamond in general, and Apple Garamond in particular, to be poorly designed typefaces. ITC Garamond is frequently called a "pastiche," or a "Garamond in name only" that has little to do with the 16th century typefaces that supposedly inspired it. Another common view is that the algorithmic scaling distorted the typeface.

Apple Myriad[]

IPod Myriad Pro Semibold

Adobe's Myriad is the typeface which is used in Apple's modern marketing.

Apple changed the name of their licenced version of the typeface when they had the format of the fonts converted to TrueType for their internal use. In 2002, Apple gradually started using the Apple Myriad font family in its marketing and packaging. As new revisions of its products were released, the text changed from the serif Apple Garamond to the sans-serif Apple Myriad. The family's bolds are used for headlines, and other weights are also used accordingly. The Myriad font family was designed by Robert Slimbach and Carol Twombly for Adobe Systems. Adobe's most recent version of Myriad is "Myriad Pro," which has some additional enhancements and character set extensions, but is not significantly changed in design.

While Apple Myriad is used the most, for titles and eye-catching slogans, some text is set in Helvetica Neue.

Other fonts used in Apple's marketing[]

Apple first logo

Apple's first logo, drawn by Ronald Wayne.

Prior to adopting the bitten Apple as its logo, Apple used a complicated logo featuring Isaac Newton sitting below an apple tree. The words APPLE COMPUTER CO. were drawn on a ribbon banner ornamenting the picture frame. The logo was hand-drawn and thus did not use an established font. However, the type is similar to Caslon, with some idiosyncratic details, such as an R deviating from the general style.

In the marketing of the Newton PDA, Apple chose to experiment with Gill Sans instead of the regular Apple Garamond. Gill Sans Regular was used in the logo, for the model name on the computer, the keyboard and in advertisment materials, though it was not used as a screen font (except for as part of the Newton logo). Gill Sans was originally designed by Eric Gill around 19271929 for the Monotype Corporation.

Fonts of the original Macintosh[]

Original Mac fonts

With one exception, the fonts included with the original Macintosh were designed by Susan Kare, who also was responsible for most of the other details of the user interface.

The Macintosh was unique for its ability to use characters of different widths, often referred to as proportional fonts. Previously, most computer systems were limited to using monospaced fonts, requiring for example 'i' and 'm' to be exactly the same width. True outline fonts had yet to make an entrance in the personal computer arena, at least for screen use, so all the original Mac's typefaces were bitmaps.


After designing the first few fonts, the team decided they needed to adopt a naming-convention. First, they settled on using the names of stops along the Paoli, Pennsylvania commuter train line: Overbrook, Merion, Ardmore, and Rosemont. Steve Jobs had liked the idea of using cities as the names, but they had to be "world class" cities,[1] and so the naming-convention of using the names of world cities was chosen.


Mac font variants

A number of different variants of each font were algorithmically generated on-the-fly from the standard fonts. Bold, italic, outlined, underlined and shadowed variations were the most common.


Apple's fonts, and the Mac-Roman character set, include a solid Apple logo. One reason for including a trademark in a font is that the copyright status of fonts and typefaces is a complicated and uncertain matter. Trademark law, on the other hand, is much stronger. Third parties cannot include the Apple logo in fonts without permission from Apple. Apple states in the MacRoman to Unicode mapping file, that:

NOTE: The graphic image associated with the Apple logo character is not authorized for use without permission of Apple, and unauthorized use might constitute trademark infringement.

On regular U.S. QWERTY keyboards, the logo character can be typed using the key combination option+shift+K (⌥+⇧+K). In MacRoman, the Apple logo has a hex value of 0xF0. The Apple logo has not been assigned a dedicated Unicode codepoint, but Apple uses 0xF8FF in the private plane.


  • Cairo was a bitmap dingbat font, most famous for the dogcow at the z character position.
  • Chicago (sans-serif) was the default Macintosh system font in System 1–7.6.
  • Geneva (sans-serif) is designed for small point sizes and prevalent in all versions of the Mac user interface.
  • London (blackletter) was an Old English-style font.
  • Los Angeles (script) was a thin font that emulated handwriting.
  • Monaco (sans-serif, monospaced) is a fixed-width font well-suited for 9–12 pt use.
  • New York (serif) was a Times Roman-inspired font.
  • San Francisco was a whimsical font where each character looked as if it was a cut-out from a newspaper.
  • Venice (script) was a calligraphic font designed by Bill Atkinson.

Important fonts for the classic Mac OS[]

Several of the bitmap fonts from the original system were converted into outline TrueType fonts.

Fonts in Mac OS X[]

See also: List of fonts in Mac OS X

The primary system font in Mac OS X (all versions) is Lucida Grande. For labels and other small text, 10 pt Lucida Grande is typically used. Lucida Grande is almost identical in appearance to the prevalent Windows font Lucida Sans, but contains a much richer variety of glyphs.

Mac OS X ships with a number of high-quality typefaces, for a number of different scripts, licenced from several sources. According to Apple, Mac OS X "includes over $10,000 worth of high quality Roman, Japanese and Chinese fonts". It also supports sophisticated font techniques, such as ligatures and filtering.

Many of the classic Mac typefaces included with previous versions are not part of Mac OS X. The serif typefaces New York, Palatino, and Times were dropped, as were the sans-serif Charcoal and Chicago, while the sans-serif Monaco, Geneva and Helvetica remained. Courier, a monospaced font, also remained.

In the initial publicly released version of Mac OS X (March 2001), font support for scripts was limited to what was provided by Lucida Grande and a few fonts for the major Japanese scripts. With each major revision of the OS, fonts supporting additional scripts have been added.

Zapfino ligature demo

Demonstration of the full-word ligature for the name of the Zapfino typeface.

Zapfino is a calligraphic typeface designed by and named after renowned typeface designer Hermann Zapf for Linotype. Zapfino utilizes the most advanced typographic features of the OpenType format, and is included in OS X partially as a technology demo. Ligatures and character variations are extensively used. The font is based on a calligraphic example by Zapf in 1944. The version included with Mac OS X contains only one of the 6 weights sold by Linotype.

Several of the GX fonts that Apple commissioned and originally shipped with System 7.5 were ported to use Apple Advanced Typography instead (see below) and shipped with Mac OS X 10.2 and 10.3. Hoefler Text, Apple Chancery and Skia are examples of fonts of this line of heritage. Other typefaces were licensed from the general offerings of leading font vendors.

LastResort samples

Sample glyphs from the LastResort font.

The LastResort font is a font that is invisible to the end user, but is used by the system to display reference glyphs in the event that real glyphs needed to display a given character are not found in any other available font. The symbols provided by the LastResort font place glyphs into categories based on their location in the Unicode system and provide a hint to the user about which font or script is required to view unavailable characters. Designed by Michael Everson of Everson Typography, the symbols adhere to a unified design. The glyphs are square with rounded corners with a bold outline. In the left and right sides of the outline, the Unicode range that the character belongs to is given using hexadecimal digits. Top and bottom are used for one or two descriptions of the Unicode block name. A symbol representative of the block is centered inside the square. By Everson's design, the typeface used for the text cut-outs in the outline is Chicago, otherwise not included with Mac OS X. The LastResort font has been part of Mac OS since version 8.5, but the limited success of Apple Type Services for Unicode Imaging (ATSUI) on the classic Mac OS means that only users of Mac OS X are regularly exposed to it.

Of the fonts that ship with Mac OS X, Lucida Grande has the broadest repertoire. This font provides a relatively complete set of Roman, Cyrillic, Hebrew, Thai and Greek letters and an assortment of common symbols. All-in-all, it contains a bit more than 2800 glyphs (including ligatures), many of which were added by Michael Everson to the original repertoire.

In Mac OS X 10.3 ("Panther"), a font called Apple Symbols was introduced. It complements the set of symbols from Lucida Grande, but also contains a number of glyphs only accessible by glyph ID (that is, they have not been assigned Unicode codepoints). A hidden font called .Keyboard contains 92 visible glyphs, most of which appear on Apple keyboards. The symbols are not slanted like they are on most Apple keyboards.

Fonts in other products[]

Apple's earliest computers had extremely limited graphics capabilities and could originally only display upper-case ASCII using a set bitmap font. The IIc and Enhanced Apple IIe supported 80 columns of text and an extended character set called MouseText. It was used to simulate simple graphical user interfaces, similar to ANSI. The Apple IIGS system software and Finder used a monospaced 8 pt bitmap font called Shaston 8 as the system font (menus, window titles and so on). Shaston was described in Apple IIGS technote #41 as "a modified Helvetica", but the similarities are not striking. Shaston has serifs, while Helvetica is sans-serif. The fonts of the original Macintosh were also available for the GS.

Apple IIc top view

Univers was first used as the keyboard font of the Apple IIc.

PowerBook Univers keycaps

Six keys from a 2003 PowerBook G4 keyboard.

Since the Apple IIc, in 1984, Apple's keyboards have been using Univers Italic on the keycaps. The front-panel buttons on the Apple IIc were tilted at an angle corresponding to the inclination of the keyboard letters. Apple's partner in industrial design, Frog Design, were responsible for the choice of this typeface. On portables released in 2004, the new keyboard font is VAG Rounded. Oddly, VAG Rounded is the corporate typeface developed by German car manufacturer Volkswagen in much of their late-1990s marketing materials. (Note the VAG, which stands for Volkswagen Aktien Gesellschaft.) VAG Rounded, however, is more or less a modified version of Helvetica Rounded. While Apple's use of another company's typeface is unusual, Apple and Volkswagen have positive reputations among their young, affluent customers, launching a cross-promoted marketing campaign involving the Volkswagen Beetle and the iPod in late 2003. Volkswagen's modification of a classical typeface is similar to Apple's modification of Garamond to create a corporate typeface that is both universal and proprietary.

Newton completed recognition

The Newton GUI, using Espy Sans for the small type and Casual for the large.

In 1993, Apple's Human Interface Group designed the typeface Espy Sans specifically for on-screen use. It was first used for the Newton OS GUI and later integrated into Apple's ill-fated eWorld online service. The Newton used the font Apple Casual to display text entered using the Rosetta handwriting recognition engine in the Newton. The same font found its way into the Rosetta-derived writing recognition in Mac OS X; Inkwell. The TrueType font can be made available to any application by copying the font file which is embedded in a system component to any font folder. See List of fonts in Mac OS X for more information. The Newton logo featured the Gill Sans typeface which was also used for the Newton keyboard.

Apple's eWorld also used a larger bold condensed bitmap font eWorld Tight for headlines. The metrics of eWorld Tight were based on Helvetica Ultra Compressed.

When released in 2001, Apple's iPod music player reused the bitmap Chicago font from the original Macintosh GUI. Later versions of the iPod drew from the larger character repertoire of the TrueType Chicago, adding a number of characters not present in the bitmap Chicago, such as Greek and Cyrillic. Even though the screen supports grayscale, the characters were not anti-aliased.

The iPod mini, with a slightly smaller screen than the iPod, uses the typeface originally designed for the Newton, Espy Sans. In the iPod photo, Apple Myriad has displaced Chicago as the user interface font, in part due to the higher resolution of the colour screen sported.

Font management and capabilities[]

System 6.0.8 and earlier[]

In early versions of the system, fonts were stored in the System file. A utility called Font/DA Mover was used to transport fonts out and in of the system file, or any other file, such as a HyperCard stack. While not supported by the standard System 6, a TrueType system extension provided support for outline fonts. Printer fonts should be installed directly in the System Folder.

A reboot was required after installing new fonts, unless using a font management utility such as SuitCase, FontJuggler, MasterJuggler or similar.

System 7 to Mac OS 9[]

Mac font icons

TrueType was supported starting with System 7. Fonts were still stored in the System suitcase, but could now be installed using drag and drop. To install new fonts, one had to quit all running applications.

In System 7.1, a separate Fonts folder appeared in the System Folder. Fonts were automatically installed when dropped on the System Folder, and became available to applications after they were restarted.

Rules for storing printer fonts varied greatly between different system, printer and application configurations. Typically, they had to be stored directly in the System Folder, or in the Extensions folder.

Starting with Mac OS 8.5, the operating system supported data fork fonts, including Windows TrueType and OpenType. In addition, Apple created a new format, called data-fork suitcases. At the same time, support was added for TrueType collection files, conventionally with the filename extension '.ttc'.

System versions 7 to 9 supported a maximum of 128 font suitcases.

Starrting with version 7.1, Apple unified the implementation of non-roman script systems in a programming interface called WorldScript. WorldScript I was used for all one-byte character sets and WorldScript II for two-byte sets. Support for new script systems was added by so-called Language Kits. Some kits were provided with the system software, and others were sold by Apple and third parties. Application support for WorldScript was not universal, since support was a significant task. Good international support gave a marketing edge to word-processing programs such as Nisus Writer and programs using the WASTE text engine, since Microsoft Word was not WorldScript aware.

In 8.5, full Unicode support was added to Mac OS through an API called ATSUI. However, WorldScript remained the dominant technology for international text until Mac OS X, because of limited application support for ATSUI.

Mac OS X and macOS[]

Mac OS X (now macOS) supports a wide variety of font formats. It supports most of the font formats used on earlier systems, where the fonts were typically stored in the resource fork of the file. In addition to the data-fork version of TrueType and the Adobe/Microsoft OpenType fonts, OS X also supports Apple's own data-fork-based TrueType format, called data-fork suitcases with the filename extension '.dfont'. Data-fork suitcases are old-style Mac TrueType fonts with all the data from the resource fork transferred unchanged to the data fork. The system also supports the instances created using the Multiple Master PostScript variant.

Fonts in the /System/Library/Fonts folder and the /Library/Fonts folder are available to all users. Fonts stored in a user's ~/Library/Fonts folder are available to only that user. Mac OS 9 applications running in the Classic environment can only access fonts stored in the Fonts folder in the Mac OS 9 system folder. Those fonts are also made available to native Mac OS X applications.

Mac OS X includes a software rasterizer that supports PostScript, thus eliminating the need for the Adobe Type Manager Light program. The built-in text editing supports advanced typesetting features such as adjustable kerning and baseline, as well as most OpenType features.

Support for bitmap and QuickDraw GX fonts was dropped in Mac OS X, in favor of TrueType fonts using AAT features.

Third-party font managers[]

As desktop publishing took off, and PostScript and other outline font formats joined the bitmap fonts, the need for unified font management grew. A number of third-parties have created tools for managing font sets. For example, they allowed enabling or disabling fonts on-the-fly, and storing fonts outside of their normal locations.

Font technology[]

TrueType and PostScript[]

Main articles: TrueType and PostScript

TrueType is an outline font standard developed by Apple in the late 1980s, and later licensed to Microsoft, as a competitor to Adobe's Type 1 fonts used in PostScript, which had come to dominate the field of desktop publishing.

The outlines of the characters in TrueType fonts are made of straight line segments and quadratic Bézier curves, rather than the cubic Bézier curves in Type 1 fonts. While the underlying mathematics of TrueType is thus simpler, many type developers prefer to work with cubic curves because they are easier to draw and edit.

While earlier versions of the Mac OS required additional software to work with Type 1 fonts (as well as at least one bitmap copy of each Type 1 font to be used), Mac OS X now includes native support for a variety of font technologies, including both TrueType and PostScript Type 1.

Microsoft, together with Adobe, have created an extended TrueType format, called OpenType. Apple, however, is continuing to develop TrueType. A 'Zapf' table, for example, maps composite glyphs to characters and vice versa and adds other features. The table was named, with permission, after typeface creator Hermann Zapf.

QuickDraw GX and Apple Advanced Typography[]

QuickDraw GX was a complete overhaul of the Macintosh graphics system, including the font system, which was rolled out for System 7.5 in 1995. QuickDraw GX fonts could be in either TrueType or PostScript Type 1 formats, and included additional information about the glyphs and their purpose. Advanced features, such as ligatures, glyph variations, kerning information and small caps, could be used by any GX enabled application. Previously, they had typically been reserved for advanced typesetting applications.

Microsoft was refused a license to GX technology and chose to develop OpenType instead. GX typography and GX technology as a whole never saw widespread adoption. Support for GX was dropped in later versions of the system.

Apple Advanced Typography (AAT) is a set of extensions to TrueType which cover much of the same ground as OpenType, developed independently but concurrently with the Adobe/Microsoft format (circa 1995), and is the successor to the little used QuickDraw GX font technology. It also incorporates concepts from the Multiple Master font format, which allows multiple axes of traits to be defined and an n-dimentional number of glyphs to be accessible within that space. Apple is currently in the process of incorporating all of OpenType within the AAT spec, making AAT a superset of OpenType. This will allow for a very rich feature set, though some of the original AAT specification will be made redundant. AAT features do not alter the underlying characters, but do affect their representation during glyph conversion. Features exclusive to AAT currently include:

Whilst OpenType offers all of the above to some extent, it's an all or nothing affair in most cases, or granularity of control is otherwise restricted by comparison. AAT font features are not supported on platforms other than Mac OS 8, 9 and X.

Hinting technology[]

Hinting is the process by which TrueType fonts are adjusted to the limited resolution of a screen or a relatively low resolution printer. Undesired features in the rendered text, such as lack of symmetry or broken strokes can be reduced. Hinting is performed by a virtual machine that distorts the control points that define the glyph shapes so that they fit the grid defined by the screen better. Hinting is particularly important when rendering text at small pixel sizes.

Hinting is part of the TrueType specification, but Apple holds three patents in the United States relating to the process:

  • US5155805: Method and apparatus for moving control points in displaying digital typeface on raster output devices (filed May 8, 1989)
  • US5159668: Method and apparatus for manipulating outlines in improving digital typeface on raster output devices (filed May 8, 1989)
  • US5325479: Method and apparatus for moving control points in displaying digital typeface on raster output devices (filed May 28, 1992)

Apple offers licensing of these patents. Microsoft has access to Apple's TrueType patterns through cross-licensing. However, these patents have proven problematic to developers and vendors of open source software for TrueType rendering, such as FreeType. To avoid infringing on the patents, some software disregards the hinting information present in fonts, resulting in visual artifacts. FreeType has developed an automatic hinting engine, but it is difficult to beat the explicit hinting guidelines provided by the typeface designer. The problem of lacking hinting can also be compensated for by using anti-aliasing, although a combination of the two produces the best result.

Subpixel rendering[]

Quartz subpixels

A sample of text rendered by the Quartz engine in Mac OS X, using traditional and subpixel rendering.

Subpixel rendering is a process which, when used on for example an RGB monitor where the brightness of each of the component elements ("sub-pixels") can be controlled independently. An example of such a device is a TFT display. Using this property, it is possible to, in theory, increase the horizontal resolution by a factor of three, at least for black-on-white graphics. The effect is particularly good in conjunction with anti-aliasing.

The origins of subpixel rendering[]

While this type of rendering first became mainstream with the introduction of TFT displays, it was invented and first used by Apple II programmers in the late 1970s to increase the vertical resolution of the displays of that time. The Apple II display had a maximum resolution of 280×192 pixels. Each pixel consisted of two subpixels, green and purple. To get the color white, both pixels had to be turned on. By only turning on one of the two pixels, the Apple II programmers could effectively increase the resolution.

The Apple II display system was designed by Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak. Apple was granted patents for the technology, which have now expired a long time ago. When Microsoft introduced its ClearType technology, it was presented as a new invention. It is unclear whether Microsoft accidentally and independently rediscovered subpixel rendering, or whether they were aware of its roots.

In May 2001, Microsoft received patents for some of ClearType. However, some people, for example Steve Gibson, suggest that the patent would not be enforceable, due to the existence of prior art, from Apple and other companies that explored and optimized subpixel rendering. Despite this, Microsoft runs an IP licensing program for ClearType, which was started in December, 2003. It is unclear if Apple has licensed Microsoft's ClearType patents, but according to John Kheit, they may hold rights to them as part of the cross-licensing and investment agreement in 1997.

Use in Apple's products[]

Aside from the use on the monochrome Apple II displays, Apple has also started using subpixel rendering in recent versions of Mac OS X. Version 10.2 introduced subpixel rendering of type and Quartz vector graphics. This feature is enabled using the System Preferences panel "General" (10.2) or "Appearance" (10.3), by setting the font smoothing style to "Medium — best for Flat Panel". The quality of the rendering, compared to Microsoft's ClearType is contested. Some consider Quartz to produce higher-quality output, while others prefer the ClearType style. Generally, ClearType is richer in contrast but cannot be fine-tuned by the user, since the anti-aliasing property is embedded in each font.


External links[]

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