OTF vs TTF vs WOFF: Which Font Format Is Better? What's the Difference?

The world of typography can be pretty confusing if you are just starting out. Font formats are just one of the things you might want to look into, before installing a new font. 

Most fonts these days are either OTF, TTF or WOFF. But what does that mean? What are the differences between those font formats? Should you even care? And which format is better?

What is TTF?

Let's start with TTF because it is the oldest of the three formats. TTF stands for TrueType Format and was created in the late 1980s by Apple.

It is one of the two formats (OTF is the other one) that can be installed on your computer and can be used in multiple programs.

In comparison to even older formats TTF was better, more precise and allowed font designers a higher control over how their fonts are displayed.

What is OTF?

OTF is the other format that can be installed on your computer. It stands for OpenType Format and was developed in the mid 1990s by Microsoft & Adobe Systems. It was partly built on its predecessor TTF but offered additional functionality and new features. The most important ones are additional storage for up to 65,000+ characters, alternate characters and typesetting features.

The technical difference between OTF and TTF is their different outline formats. The character outlines in OTF fonts are made of cubic Bézier paths whereas in TTF fonts they’re made of quadratic Béziers. If you want to learn more about these two types of curves, take a look at this helpful article by Fábio Duarte Martins.

Let's get even more complicated... TTF is actually OTF?

You think you've heard enough? Well, the deeper you get into this topic, the more complicated it gets. Because today most TTF files are actually cross-platform TrueType OpenType fonts - a superset of the features of the original TrueType fonts. In cases like this you might install a TTF font file, but it will show up as Open Type Font in Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator. Most new TrueType fonts today are actually this enhanced TTF format. These TrueType OpenType fonts “work” wherever TrueType fonts are expected or required.

When you buy a font from SG Type (Sweetest Goods) you will find that the TTF file is also TrueType OpenType - allowing you to enjoy OpenType features even when you use TTF.

OTF or TTF: Which is better?

Although some sources say that alternates and ligatures only exist in OTF formats, this is not necessarily the case (as explained above). It depends on the font designer and how the font file is created.

Generally speaking though, whenever in doubt use OTF. OTF is the newer, more flexible and better format. It allows you, the designer, to access all the features a font might have.

Where do I get a OTF or TTF file?

Whenever you purchase a font, you receive a set of font files - mostly OTF and TTF.

What is WOFF / WOFF2?

WOFF and WOFF2 files allow web developers to use a custom fonts as web font. WOFF files are referenced within the style sheets of a website (CSS) using the @font-face rule. If you are not a web developer this font format will not be of much use for you, as it is really only used in web browsers.

The WOFF 2.0 format is an update of the standard WOFF format that features improved compression.

Where do I get a WOFF / WOFF2 file?

Depending on the type foundry or marketplace, the WOFF / WOFF2 file may be included in your download folder or not. If the file is not included you can convert any OTF file to a WOFF2 file. Check out this page for example: Convert OTF to WOFF2

Before doing so, make sure that you purchased a Web License. Only a Web license will allow you to use a font this way.

How to install a font

Installing a OTF or TTF file is a very simple process, read here how you do it on Mac OS and Windows.

Check out our bestselling retail fonts here.