Document font embedding demystified

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For many years, Office on Windows has offered users the ability to embed fonts within electronic documents such as Word documents or PDF files. However, we often get questions about the font embedding feature and today are providing you with details on what font embedding is and how you can use in your electronic documents.

Put simply, font embedding is taking a digital font file and including it within another digital file. Usually when people refer to font embedding they are talking about document font embedding. Document font embedding ensures that the recipient of a document can view it properly even if they don’t have the fonts you used to create it installed on their machine.

How to take advantage font embedding

Font embedding settings are usually included as an advanced option under the document “Save” or “Export” menus of Word, PowerPoint and Publisher and can be enabled by selecting the Embed fonts in the file checkbox.

Document font embedding demystified 1

Fonts types that can be embedded within documents

All TrueType and OpenType fonts have “embedding permissions” encoded within them, these are typically set by the font’s supplier, and are defined as part of the OpenType font file specification. There are a number of settings, but the main ones of interest are as follows:

  • No embedding—The font supplier does not allow embedding. These fonts are quite rare.
  • Print and preview—The font supplier allows for embedding but the document is locked and cannot be edited. Most third-party fonts have this setting.
  • Editable—The font supplier allows the font to be embedded within a document and allows the document to be edited using that embedded font.
  • Installable—This is the most permissive setting. The font supplier allows the font to be embedded within a document, and permits the document viewing application to permanently install the font on the user’s computer. Most applications treat these fonts like those set to Editable embedding.

Embedding fonts supplied with Windows and Office

The end user license agreement for Office includes a font section that permits document font embedding using the fonts supplied with Office, while Office is running and based on the embedding permissions encoded within each font. These documents can be shared, posted and redistributed just like documents that don’t include embedded fonts. Most of the fonts Microsoft supplies with Office are set to “Editable” embedding, meaning documents can also be edited by recipients.  Microsoft license agreements can be found here.

Embedding third-party fonts

Although an application that properly supports font embedding, as Office does, will respect the embedding permissions defined by the font supplier when embedding a font in a document file, you will need to review the license you agreed to when you obtained a third-party font to make sure your use is in compliance with that license.

Embedding fonts within a document will increase the file size of the document, and some fonts can be quite large. To minimize the file size of documents that include embedded fonts, select the Embed only the characters used in the document checkbox.

Support for font embedding within Office is limited to the Windows desktop versions of Word, PowerPoint and Publisher and is not supported on the Mac OS, iOS, Android or web versions of Word or PowerPoint.