Live Font Test-Drive Preferences?

Many font distributors and foundries for years now have offered a live font test-drive option that returns flattened rasterized images which gives users the benefit of a test drive and font creators piece of mind that the font software itself is never exposed.

In recent years, many font foundries and a few distributors have moved toward simply using woff web fonts for this purpose and the benefits in terms of speed, quality and showcasing OT features is self-evident. Naturally the woff file itself is exposed and can be easily pirated with little effort even by casual users.

I'm curious if you would distribute your fonts with a distributor who only used woff web font based live test-driving? If not, why? I'm mostly curious what foundry owners position on this since I think it has evolved over time.

Thank you in advance for reading and any insight you wish to share.


  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,947
    I’m fine with live test drives. If somebody is going to pirate the font that way they probably aren’t going to buy it anyway. Better to just give the paying customers what they want.
  • Florian PircherFlorian Pircher Posts: 162
    edited August 2021
    You can subset webfonts into slices and combine them with font stacks. E.g., a singe font file with the nine glyphs ABCDEFGHI is split into three fonts: S1 with the glyphs ABC, S2 with DEF, and S3 with GHI. Or any other number of splits of alternative distribution of glyphs (ADG, BEH, CFI). Pirating any one slice is not enough and pirating all requires stiching them back together, which is not easy. Then, load all splits on your demo site and specify a font stack with all splits:
    font-family: S1, S2, S3, NotDef;
    Note that this breaks OpenType features, including kerning, between glyphs of different font splits. Consider splitting by glyph category to get better results (e.g. an uppercase, lowercase, and numbers and punctuation split).

    Use a fallback font that contrasts with your design, so that customers don’t think your font supports glyphs that are actually provided by a fallback system font. I recommend Adobe’s NotDef, but you can also make your own.
  • Alex VisiAlex Visi Posts: 185
    Any previews, live or not, are just store window dummies. To buy clothes you go and try it on yourself.

    With fonts, it’s even worse — the customers are designers who pitch fonts to art directors or clients. So fonts often don’t even make it to the pitch stage if the designer can’t try and show it in the design. Many successful foundries have been offering trial fonts for quite some time now.
  • From my personal perspective as a buyer of fonts, I won’t purchase fonts if I can’t see how they actually render on the web. Meaning I don’t care for type testers that deliver flattened rasterized images.

    So to answer your question from a foundry perspective, I prefer distributors that only serve live text. However, I don’t have anything on the market so you can take that with a grain of salt.
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