OpenOffice.org Off the Wall: Fonts of Wisdom
The formatting of fonts begins on the Font tab. Start with the font, the highest level of organization. The font you choose determines the typefaces available.
As the name suggests, the Regular typeface is the one most commonly used. Most of the time, therefore, you should select fonts on the basis of the Regular typeface. For on-line documents, you want a font with strokes of even thickness. Italics are used for emphasis and titles on paper. Bold typefaces usually are used on-line for the same purpose, because many italic typefaces are hard to read on-line. Increasingly, bold typefaces are used on paper, too.
One oddity of OpenOffice.org is the variation in how typefaces display. In some cases, all the typefaces belonging to the same font family display together in the font selection lists. In other cases, each typeface is listed separately, so that font lists have several entries for a single font. No one has explained fully this irregularity, but it seems to be due to how typefaces are listed in the font files themselves. Whatever the reason, be aware that you may have to search for a typeface.
Once you select the typeface, consider the font size. The size is the space given to each character and the area around it, not only the size of a character itself. For this reason, different fonts use different amounts of space, which means that fonts of the same size can have letters of a different height.
Font size is measured in points. One point is about 1/72nd of an inch. A readable font size for body text usually lies somewhere between 10-14 points, depending on the font. 8 points usually is a minimum. However, more spacing between lines (Indents and Spacing -> Line Spacing) makes a small font easier to read.
As a final step, you may want to choose the language and language locale used by the style. If the dictionaries for the language and locale are not installed in Tools -> Options -> Language Settings, or if Tools -> Spellcheck or Tools -> Hyphenate are not set to use this language, any paragraphs formatted with this style will not be checked or hyphenated.
The Font Effects tab contains the finishing touches for the font selection. Some, including relief, outline and shadow, should be used sparingly. As for the on-line blink effect, many Web designers consider it so annoying that it should not be used at all.
More practically, the Effects settings determines how the paragraph or selected characters are capitalized. Possible choices are:
Without: capitals are inserted as needed. In most cases, you probably want to accept this default.
Capitals: all characters in the paragraph use ordinary capitals. Use this setting sparingly. Paragraphs in all capitals are hard to read, and the on-line convention is that capitals are the same as shouting. Moreover, ordinary capitals are not designed for this use; if you need a paragraph in all capitals, use small capitals instead.
Lowercase: no characters in the paragraph are capitalized.
Title: the first letter of each word is capitalized. This setting is ideal for headings.
Small capitals: all characters in the paragraph use small capitals. Small capitals are special characters designed specifically for three or more capitals in a row. If you need a paragraph in all capitals, use small capitals instead of ordinary ones.
However, the most workaday font effect is font color. The font color should be chosen with the settings selected on the Background tab in mind. Common sense rules apply for readability: a dark font for a light background and a light font for a dark background. Light fonts on a dark background can be hard to read, especially on-line, so keep such designs brief.
In Writer, you have a third tab for setting up fonts, Position. It contains options for how fonts are positioned on the base line, the imaginary line on which characters such as m and x sit. Commonly used options are for superscript, characters that start above the baseline of other characters, and subscript, characters that start below the baseline of other characters. For both superscript and subscript characters, you can choose the percentage of the full font size by which characters are raised or lowered, plus the percentage of the full font size for the characters themselves.
For more advanced users, the Position tab also includes:
Rotation/scaling: sets the angle at which text formatted by the paragraph style is at. Choices are O, 90 (at right angles) and 270 (reversed) degrees.
Scale width: adjusts the width of the space given to each character formatted by the style. This setting should be changed only by small degrees. Otherwise, the result can look unprofessional or even unreadable.
Spacing: adjusts the space between each character formatted by the style. You can select the default spacing, set by the font metrics, or you can expand or condense. More than any other option, spacing needs to be selected with care and a healthy amount of trial and error. Spacing is considered carefully by font designers, and changing it frequently proves disastrous.
Pair kerning: adjusts the spacing between certain combinations of letters to improve the general look. This setting should be selected for almost all fonts. In a few cases, however, the effect makes the spacing look worse instead of better.
-- Bruce Byfield (nanday)
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