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Troubleshooting: Troubles with MS Word

May 3rd, 2009 by Noam Berg

As noted, a user recently pointed out some odd behavior when Christoffel is used in MS Word. I’m working at school right now so I don’t have access to all my tools and files, but I have enough here to work with to recreate the problem and analyze it a bit.

Here’s Christoffel being used at 12 points in Word, no extra formatting done:


Notice how the extenders are getting lopped off like somebody was after them with the Slap Chop:


Not good.

One naturally wonders if this is universal. Certainly I haven’t had any problem using Christoffel in Keynote for my recent presentation. What about other apps? For the time being I resolved to see what would happen with TextEdit and Firefox. Here’s a side-by side comparison:


I’ve tried to keep as many variables constant: 12 point text, default leading, same paragraphs. The text, incidentally, was ripped off from a recent James Mosely blog post.

There is good news here: although the leading is certainly an issue, neither TextEdit nor Firefox see fit to go at my text like a drunken pirate with a cutlass thirsty for blood (or ink, I suppose). Even better, Firefox is making use of the ligatures! Happy day.

I’ll have to do some more testing and tweaking to figure this one out, but the bottom line is: more proof that MS Word is a typographically inferior product to, well, pretty much anything. Perhaps excepting Notepad.

Posted in Design, technology, Typography

7 Responses

  1. Janet

    Note that the first two lines of each paragraph in all three samples have different leading from all the rest of the lines! No ascenders in these lines are chopped. No descenders in the first lines are chopped. Descenders in the second lines are chopped only because they are already with the smaller leading of the remainder of the paragraph. In short, apart from the first two lines in each paragraph, the leading is incorrect for this font. This is clearly seen in the ‘pp’ butting up against the ‘b’ immediately below it in the lower right of the most magnified picture. And of course the cut-off ‘f’s and ‘g’s…Even without the cut-off extenders, the text looks very crowded–except, of course for the first two lines, which look very good….:-)…

    Note also that the only chopped ascender is the ‘f’, which is in fact higher than all the other ascenders. And that the only chopped descenders are ‘g’ and ‘y’, which are lower than ‘p’ and ‘q’. [Lower case ‘j’ might get chopped–I don’t see any in the text.] Obviously, every font has a minimum satisfactory leading. Increasing the leading may make it even more attractive, while decreasing causes, as in this case, colliding extenders. This is one of the age-old disadvantages of printed fonts, as opposed to hand calligraphy where you can adjust ascenders and descenders not to collide (or to intertwine nicely) even with low leading..:-)..

    I think the problem here lies in the fact that the text was ripped from a blog post that clearly had some unintentional formatting….I often find that when I copy/paste from the web into Word, it is not uncommon to have strange leading that is very difficult/impossible for me to get rid of (even after “Clear all formatting”)….Word has extremely detailed formatting options—I imagine someone well-versed in the program would have no trouble TRULY getting rid of ALL formatting. Like most people, I have never taken time to study Word, and thus the program often gets blamed for our inadequacies…..:-)…

    Just to check out all I have said above, I downloaded Christoffel from this page (it turned out to be ‘Christoffel Rough’–not as nice as your samples) and pasted this comment into Word in my new font…Guess what—no chopped extenders! :-)

    PS I enjoyed the Slap Chop and am now going to dig up my 30+ year old one which, being bigger, allows you to make enough for a whole sandwich rather than just two little bitefulls…!

  2. Janet

    This is a follow up to my earlier post…

    The Foxfire leading is altogether (ie throughout the entire page) greater than the other two samples. But it is very inconsistent. This is particularly noticable between the third and forth lines of the last paragraph, where it gets equal to or perhaps larger than the first-two-lines-of-each-paragraph-leading. Compare to third and forth lines of the last paragraph in the other two samples!

  3. Noam Berg

    Indeed, there is a lot of inconsistency in the leading. But do note that ascenders are being cut off in the first paragraph (specifically the lowercase f). It’s clear that the basic problem here is setting the basic height of the characters in the font, giving a better default leading value. I just need to figure out how to do that in FontLab.

    By the way, Christoffel Rough is the same version I used for all the images posted here.

  4. Janet

    I reproduced the text once again in Christoffl Rough in my Word: again NO lower case f’s cut off anywhere–not even in the first line of the first paragraph! Which leaves me to believe it is something to do with your settings in your Word….

    Could it be a PC/Mac issue?

    OS: Windows XP Professional

  5. Noam Berg

    Janet, which version of Christoffel are you using? I recently updated it.

  6. Janet

    I only just discovered your last post….:-(….Any way to be notified of postings to the thread/blog?

    Don’t remember where I got the Christoffle…Did you give us a link somewhere? If you email me a link, I will download and see if the results are any different…


  7. Janet

    I just saw the Christoffle button as I raised the page to submit my comment….When did you update it?

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About the Mad Scientist Running this Show

Noam Berg is a graduate Student in the Design and Technology MFA program at Parsons School for Design in New York City. He is also the (debatably) creative force behind Exfish Studio. Noam is obsessed with old vacuum tubes, type design, computers, guitars and comic books. Noam likes Thai sweet chili sauce, hats, suits & ties, Wacom tablets, Japanese green tea (with the toasted rice), nerdy science girls, many varieties of music, SLR cameras, AnarchoJudaism, lithography and pocket watches. Noam's not a big fan of cell phones, the cool kids, ugly and over-used fonts (you know who you are!) and talking about himself in the third person. Seriously, this is really weird. I'm gonna stop doing it now.