Technology Explained

OTF vs. TTF Fonts: Which Is Better? What’s the Difference?

Gavin Phillips Updated 14-12-2019

OTF vs. TTF comparisons generally favor OTF. However, the comparison is not that straightforward.


If you’ve ever played around with typefaces or fonts, chances are you’ve asked yourself “What’s the difference between OTF and TTF?” when deciding to download fonts for your system. Why is something as simple as a few pixels on the screen so complicated?

Fear not, MakeUseOf has you covered. Today, it is time to sit down and analyze some of the key differences between OTF and TTF fonts. Read on to discover the differences, which font format is better, and when it’s appropriate to use one over the other.

TrueType Fonts (TTF)

Let’s start with TTF because it came first. Well, that’s not entirely true. PostScript pre-dates TTF by several years, but it’s not incredibly common today, so we’re going to skip it for the sake of relevance.

TTF was a joint effort by Apple and Microsoft in the early 1980s. The purpose was simple: they needed a format that both Windows and Mac could use natively, as well as a format that could be read by default by most printers. TrueType Fonts fit the bill.

The package containing the font included both the screen and the printer font data in a single file. This made it easy to install new fonts and served as an early cross-platform font format that was usable by most consumer devices.


OpenType Fonts (OTF)

OTF was also a joint effort, except this time between Adobe and Microsoft. Much like TTF, OTF was cross-platform and included the display and printer font data in a single package, but that’s where the similarities end.

OTF extended TTF by offering many capabilities that the latter wasn’t capable of providing. For example, OTF featured a format that allowed for the storage of up to 65,000 characters.

Obviously, there are only 26 characters in the alphabet (A-Z), ten numbers (0-9) and a handful of extras, like punctuation, currency signs, and various others (@#%^&*, etc.). However, this was especially beneficial to font design and creation.

Since the format offered additional storage for characters that far exceeded the number of characters that the average user would ever need, designers had the ability to add extras like:

  • Ligatures
  • Glyphs
  • Small caps
  • Alternate characters
  • Old-style figures

Previously, these additions had to be added as additional fonts using TTF. With OTF, they could reside in the same file as the default typeface and remain easily accessible to designers and the like.

The Differences Between OTF and TTF

For designers, both amateur and professional, the main useful difference between OTF and TTF is in the advanced typesetting features. OTF features embellishments like ligatures and alternate characters—also known as glyphs—that exist to give designers more options to work with. (25+ sites for amazing free fonts!)

For most of us non-designers, the additional options will likely go unused.

In other words, OTF is indeed the “better” of the two due to the additional features and options, but for the average computer user, those differences don’t really matter.


You can’t, for example, just decide to use a different version of an “F” in Facebook or embellish common connecting letters like “TH” to make them look like ornate typography. Those that use these will typically do so in the Adobe Creative Suite, and for the sole purpose of making subtle tweaks that make text look better for print or on the web.

Let’s flesh things out by looking at three of the most common additions to OTF packages


Glyphs are alternate characters that you can change to when you’re looking for something stylistically different from the default. Traditional characters might look something like this:



If you need a different “A,” for example, you could elect to use a glyph that displays an “A” with different stylistic qualities, or one that is used as the default in other alphabets and languages. For example:



Ligatures are strictly a stylistic addition. These are most common with script fonts, but they appear in nearly all high-end packages. Cheaper fonts, or those that you can find for free online, are less likely to have many glyphs, ligatures, or other extras.


Ligatures are typically combinations of two different letters that meld together to become a stylistic two-in-one entity. When letters are combined like this, they typically end up having embellished designs or adjusted spacing between the two.

Alternate Characters

Alternate characters are just what they sound like: alternatives to non-alphanumeric characters. Think of them as glyphs for the non-number and non-letter characters in a font set. They allow designers to select a stylistically different version of the characters they want to use.

Let’s look at some examples. A typical character might look something like this:


While the alternate version will look slightly different, like this:


For most of us, the difference is minimal, and we probably won’t care all that much which version to use. If you’re laying out text for a magazine, however, these small changes can be the difference between good and bad design.

OTF vs. TTF Fonts: What’s Better?

OTF is undoubtedly the more robust of the two options. It has more features that are intended to allow typesetters and designers flexibility to provide incremental changes designed to improve the overall look of a piece.

That said, for typical end users like you and me who probably aren’t using these features anyway, it’s not going to make a bit of difference. If you have the option, OTF is always the better of the two, but if you’re in a pinch and can’t find the OTF version of a font, there’s nothing wrong with TTF.

Struggling to match up fonts for a new design or important document? Check out the best sites for finding perfect font pairings The 5 Best Sites for Finding Perfect Font Pairings Finding the perfect fonts for your next project can be tricky. Thankfully, there are a number of font pairing sites out there. Read More and take advantage of these free font bundles The 10 Best Free Font Bundles for Graphic Designers If you're a graphic designer, picking fonts can be a daunting task. However, these free font bundles should help you out. Read More .

Related topics: Fonts, Graphic Design, Logo Design, Typography.

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  1. eURO
    July 23, 2019 at 12:29 pm

    Wow! Your article was very clear and Helpful to me.
    As a designer I never wondered which one to use, until today by reading your article.
    Mostly I was using ttf without a second thought.
    But after you explained the differences, now I will stop using the .ttf and start using solely the > format.
    And yes It's true. The ttf does not include that extra "ligatures", as in the otf.
    You can notice these differences clearly in the graphic design programs, using the text properties, symbols and Glyphs. Such as in Corel Draw, (the one I am using. Adobe is not the only suite for designers 😠)...

    Anyway, THANK YOU VERY MUCH for clarifying this difference between those two.

  2. Bahman
    May 13, 2019 at 6:26 pm

    Please remove this article as it's spreading confusion amongs designers. There is no such difference between OTF and TTF. Both can have those features.

  3. John Korchok
    January 7, 2019 at 11:01 pm

    This article is mostly wrong. Almost all modern fonts are OpenType. The .OTF file ending signifies PostScript-flavor OpenType, while .TTF now indicates TrueType-flavor OpenType. If you have a Mac, you can verify this using the Font Book utility and looking at the Kind attribute.

  4. R G
    August 9, 2018 at 10:48 pm

    Love the article, but there are a few details left out. Like which type is used on an android phone for example. These days this point is just as important as covering Microsoft, Apple and Adobe.

  5. Jorge
    October 13, 2017 at 11:14 am

    You are mistaken and most of the information in this article is incorrect.

    OpenType being a superset of the TrueType font container format, inherited its TTF file extension and introduced OTF as a new one. TTF fonts are therefore as much “OpenType” as OTF ones, and both can include the same “embellishments like ligatures and alternate characters” that you claim are exclusive to OTF. TTF as a file extension tends to be used to indicate that the font is made of "Truetype" glyph outlines (also known as sfnt or simply quadratic bezier curves) whereas OTF tends to be used to indicate that they are PostScript curves (i.e., cubic bezier curves, a degree more complex than TrueType ones).

    Now, for which one to go with: OpenType-compatible font renderer is compatible with both cubic and cuadratic curve outlines, and pretty much any serious font creation program uses cubic bezier curves by default and downgrades them to quadratic (which is a lossy even if at an imperceptible degree) when exporting as TTF, so there is little reason to go with TTF when an OTF counterpart exists. Why go for a lossy conversion when the original is just as compatible (which makes one wonder why font foundries produce both versions, but could be ignorance about what File > Export > TTF actually entails or possible backwards compatibility with old TrueType container engines—whose systems are so old I cannot think why would anyone care anymore).

    There is one additional potential catch with TTF. OpenType is not the only format supersetting the original TrueType container format to allow “embellishments like ligatures and alternate characters” just like OpenType's, but in a way that is incompatible with OpenType font renderers. Others are Apple Advanced Typography (AAT) and Graphite (SIL) (the former, at least, predating OpenType), formats that also inherit the TTF file extension. Fonts in those other “competing” formats are rather rare, though.

    So while a TTF font might potentially be as fully featured as an OTF font, it is difficult to know if those features are actually OpenType-compatible (although, again, AAT and Graphite fonts are very rare) and at any rate its curves are probably a lossy downconversion from the ones in the OTF version.

    So your conclusion was right, though: if you've got two flavors of a font, go for OTF.

    • Tim
      April 2, 2018 at 6:25 pm


      Because OTF is based on TTF doesn't mean that a TTF font is "as much 'OpenType' as OTF" fonts. That's like saying HTML 1.0 is HTML5 just because HTML5 was based on HTML 1. A subset can never be equal to a superset that contains it.

      The author did a sufficient job of explaining what OTF offers that TTF can't, particularly for the intended audience. Your statement that a TTF font might be as fully-featured as an OTF font is only true if the OTF font in question makes very little use of it's inherent extra capabilities. Much the same way a web page coded in HTML 1 could display exactly the same as one coded in HTML5. That is to say, that would be the case if no one bothered to take advantage of any of the extra capabilities, but then what would be the point?

      • Jorge
        April 3, 2018 at 3:12 pm

        > Because OTF is based on TTF [

        No, what I said is that OpenType is based on TrueType. It's not quite the same as "OTF is based on TTF".

        OTF and TTF are only file extensions, both officially sanctioned by the OpenType specification as valid OpenType fonts (see ). I repeat: an OpenType font can have either. The file extension naming scheme that OpenType decided on is admittedly unfortunate, and it does lead many people to asume that .OTF is used to denote that a font file is OpenType as opposed to .TTF denoting that the font is old plain TrueType without anything of what OpenType brought on top of it. Nowadays, that is just not what the file extensions express.

        You are probably also mistaken by the fact that “TrueType”, since the original specification of the format, has been used indistinctly to refer to two different things in different contexts: there is the “TrueType format” (i.e. how data is structured inside the font file) and then “TrueType glyph outlines”, the type of curves characters are drawn with, used as a shorthand for "quadratic bĂ©zier curves" (opposed to old PostScript fonts being said to use “PostScript outlines”, as an easy substitute for "cubic bĂ©zier curves"). OpenType, which was created to phase out those two formats, supports both types of outlines: you have TrueType-flavored OpenType fonts (using quadratic curves) and PostScript-flavored OpenType fonts (using cubic curves). That is what the file extension (sort-of) tries to hint at: what kind of glyph outlines the font uses, but nothing else.

        So, to back up: TTF just means that the glyphs inside the font file are made of quadratic bézier curves, nothing relative to the advanced typographic features of the font. A TTF font can be an old plain bare TrueType font, or an OpenType font with all/some of the new bells and whistles, or even an Apple Advanced Typography font or a Graphite fonts (competing formats with similar bells and whistles, but needing their own compatible font rendering engine to enable them). The latter two, also being supersets of the old TrueType format, also kept the TTF file extension. As a consequence, you have no way of knowing just by the file extension being TTF which of those four formats a font is, and consequently, how feature rich or feature less the font is. AAT and Graphite are rare enough, though, that you can asume that any vendor offering TTF files does so in neither of those two rarer formats unless it specifically says so.

        The same with OTF: that naming only tells that the glyphs are probably made of PostScript outlines, i.e. cubic bĂ©zier curves, as opposed to quadratic ones (“probably” because, to add insult to the injury, while the OpenType spec says that it is in such cases when OTF should be chosen as the file extension, it does not enforce that, so you do have some rogue TrueType-flavored OpenType fonts using the OTF file extension). But OTF does not imply anything about the feature-richness (or richlessness) of the font. An OTF font could be a font using cubic outlines, but just as bare, typographically speaking, as an old pre-OpenType TTF font.

        So, then, to go back to the title of the post: why would you prefer one over the other? Having come to the realization that both OTF and TTF fonts can have exactly the same typographical features (because now you have realized, have you not? ^_-), I would always choose OTF if only because vector tools in most font authoring software create cubic bézier curves by default unless the author explicitly says he or she prefers quadratic ones (which is improbable because other more popular apps like Photoshop or Illustrator only work with cubic ones, and therefore it is what most people are used to), if the software allows the user to work with quadratic curves at all (some do not). So I bet most fonts are originally made with cubic outlines, and only automatically "dumbed down" to quadratic when the author tells the software to export to TTF, operation which introduces imperceptible alterations to the outlines but then some nonetheless.

        Now, if pretty much any system that supports Opentype, and therefore supports the same features in OTF files as in TTF (of the OpenType type) files, why would an author that created the font with Postcript outlines even output both formats at all, instead of only OTF, if both are in practice identical? My suspicion is that most font authors are as confused as you as to the actual meaning of TTF and what actually happens when they tell the software to create a font in that format as opposed to choosing OTF (after all, they do not need to know this at all to be extraordinary font creators and the nomenclature can be as misleading to them as it is to most people). For them, outputting a TTF version of their PostScript-flavored OpenType original, on top of the OTF one, is just a click away and they are done with it.

        • Jorge
          April 3, 2018 at 3:24 pm

 funny? part if that the video embedded in the article illustrates exactly what I tried to explain, which, yes, contradicts the whole article. I now watched after I wrote my two replies and was surprised to see that it says the same as I did almost word for word.

        • Jorge
          April 3, 2018 at 3:27 pm

          > both officially sanctioned by the OpenType specification as valid OpenType fonts (see )

          The form ate the hyperlink where I point at the OpenType spec at Microsoft's site where its very introduction states how both TTF and OTF are valid file extensions for OpenType fonts. Just google "The OpenType Font File" with quotes.

  6. Christian
    August 11, 2017 at 9:25 am

    The main difference is that TTF has 255 glyphs, OTF has 65535 (the first byte on a font is used for other stuffs such as font information). OTF is good to avoid compatibility problems between Mac and Windows.

  7. Yolanda Granados
    April 27, 2017 at 8:45 am

    I always choose OTF over TTF due the first one offers better performance and possibilities. Congratulations for the great review!

  8. Dee
    October 31, 2016 at 2:26 pm


  9. Kristin
    July 22, 2016 at 7:29 am

    Thank you so much, this completely explained and answered my question. I use Design Space with my Cricut Explore and some of my fonts have the glyphs and swashes so OTF will be my choice from now on if available. Thank you again.

  10. Tracy Owens
    July 18, 2016 at 2:15 pm

    What is a good version of an adobe type program to use OTF fonts on a MAC? Anyone know?

    • alex
      August 11, 2016 at 3:26 pm

      I would definitely recommend using adobe Illustrator or adobe InDesign.

      Both programs have the ability to create outlines and expand the appearance of the type so that they are malleable shapes rather than just regular text. However, many can argue that InDesign is useless because with illustrator you can do everything the exact same, and end with complete vectors.

      InDesign is very useful when creating documents with a lot of type. the type settings are very straight forward...I really like the two programs. I mainly use Illustrator for artwork and then InDesign for creating brochures/ marketing cards etc

  11. SarahDenise
    March 2, 2016 at 7:09 am

    Well written! It all makes sense now... Where can I put 5 stars :)

  12. Mharper
    February 18, 2016 at 6:13 am

    Excellent article! Very informative; thank you. I think I'm biased toward Apple (and I detest Adobe), so that alone makes me lean toward TTF fonts. However, I need the font for chapter heading designs in a print book, so I just may go with OTF. (Grumble, grumble.) ;) Thank you so much for helping me decide!

    • QS
      November 25, 2016 at 4:24 am

      You're stupid. Why would your dislike of a company affect your choice of a jointly-created file format that offers more functionality than the other? You're stupid.

      • Jake
        January 6, 2017 at 4:05 am

        Why call someone stupid (twice) just because you can't handle someone's opinion? You seem rude and thats worse than stupid...

    • Walt D in LV
      August 18, 2017 at 6:17 pm

      I'm also wondering why Mharper "detests Adobe"?

      • Al Spohn
        September 7, 2017 at 9:21 pm

        My guess is he had to deal with their tech support. Nuff said.

  13. Anonymous
    December 28, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    For my graphic design needs, I use a Microsoft program from many years ago that I find far easier to use than programs like The Gimp. Unfortunately, the program doesn't recognize OTF fonts, so I can only use TTF fonts. Program compatibility is therefore a consideration when deciding between the two.