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What’s the difference: Desktop vs. Web Fonts?

As graphic designers, fonts are very important to the work we do. In years past, designers like myself were extremely limited as to the fonts we could use for website design. But now, “web fonts” are readily available. But web fonts are different from desktop fonts in several ways. Keep reading to learn just how they’re different.

Desktop Fonts

Desktop fonts must be installed on your computer. We all use them daily, with applications like Microsoft Office and the Adobe Creative Suite. Some desktop fonts are free, while others need to be licensed (purchased) for use. A long time ago (i.e. the early 2000s and before), in order to display desktop fonts on a website we were forced to create a “picture” of the text, which was only practical for large headlines or buttons. To make matters worse, these pictures were no longer “readable” by search engines like Google.

Then the magic of web fonts came into play.

Web Fonts

Web fonts, on the other hand, are specifically designed for use on websites using CSS @font-face. That’s fancy web-speak for easily editable text on your website. These fonts are served from the cloud so, no matter what computer you’re on, you can see these web fonts when visiting any web page that uses one.

Previous to web fonts there were only a select few fonts that could be displayed safely on the web, such as Arial, Verdana, Times New Roman, and a handful of others. With thousands of web fonts to choose from now, typographic web design is almost limitless. When we’re designing for our clients we always try to pick fonts that have both desktop and web versions. That way we can consistently showcase the “brand font” across all mediums.

If you have any questions about desktop vs. web fonts shoot us an email and we’ll be happy to help.

Additional resources:
What the Font: Web Fonts vs. Desktop Fonts
What is the difference between a desktop font and a webfont?
Web Fonts at the Crossing
Adobe Typekit
Google Web Fonts