by Ilene Strizver
One of OpenType’s many useful features is its ability to manage the different styles of numerals available within a font. When you’re working with typefaces that offer both lining and oldstyle figures, each in both proportional and tabular spacing, this is a huge timesaver!
Proportional oldstyle figures add elegance and sophistication to body text. Proportional lining figures blend better with all cap settings, and make numeric data stand out from surrounding body text (see FYTI: Oldstyle Figures). Tabular lining and oldstyle figures are intended for use in tables, price lists, or anywhere that numerals must align vertically (see FYTI: Proportional vs. Tabular Figures).
The default figure style in most OpenType fonts is tabular lining figures. If that’s not what you want, use the OpenType palette in your design application to choose the numeral style that best suits your needs. You can use more than one figure style in a document; both InDesign and Quark allow you to select a figure style for just a few characters, a paragraph, or an entire document. Here’s how to access this feature in each application:
- Highlight text or select text box
- Go to Character palette
- Select OpenType palette
- Select desired figure style (located at the bottom of the palette)
To change the default figure style in InDesign, select a style before opening a new document. This default will apply to every new document you create until you change the setting again.
- Highlight text
- Go to Measurements toolbar
- Select OpenType palette
- Select desired figure style (located in the middle of the palette)
Trial and error
At this time, neither the Quark nor InDesign OpenType palettes have a perfect system for showing the user which figure styles are available in any given typeface.
In both applications, you can use the glyph palette to find out whether oldstyle and lining numerals are included in your typeface, but the glyph palette won’t tell you whether proportional or tabular versions are included.
Usually, InDesign shows unavailable OpenType features in brackets, but figure styles always remain unbracketed in InDesign. This means you can’t tell from looking at InDesign’s OpenType palette which figure styles are included in a font. A bit of trial and error will be necessary to determine which styles are available in the typeface you’ve selected.
Likewise, Quark brackets the figure styles that don’t have both proportional and lining versions available in a given font, but doesn’t indicate which one is available. Again, to find out what choices you have, you need to actually set the type and look.
- Editor’s Note: Ilene Strizver, founder of The Type Studio, is a typographic consultant, designer and writer specializing in all aspects of typographic communication. She conducts Gourmet Typography workshops internationally. Read more about typography in her latest literary effort, Type Rules! The designer's guide to professional typography, 3rd edition, published by Wiley & Sons, Inc. This article was commissioned and approved by Monotype Imaging Inc.