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Word 2010 Font Effects

As part of an office suite, Word is a versatile tool, but lacks the typographical controls of a typical page layout application, like Xpress or InDesign, or even Publisher. One area which has never been given the same level of consideration in the word processor is typography.

OpenType fonts, which in some ways are like TrueType version 2, offer a lot more typographical options than the original TrueType, but the tools to control them haven't been provided by Word, until Word 2010. The new program offers direct implementation of ligatures, number spacing, number forms and stylistic sets.

Ligatures are the special, double-characters created when two letters are joined to offer more attractive spacing in words. Most standard ligatures involve the letter 'f'. Pick an OpenType font, like Calibri or Gabriola, and type the phrase 'The Liffey's fidgeting flow'. Highlight the line, select Font and open the Advanced tab. Under OpenType Features, click the Ligatures selector and choose Standard only.

Note that the sample text in the Preview window and on the page shifts slightly, as the character pairs 'ff', 'fi' and 'fl' move together, so that the 'f's ascender or cross bar joins the accompanying letter. If you're using Calibri, the 't' and 'i' in 'fidgeting' are also ligatured.

Numbers in most fonts are very uniform, which is ideal if you want to add up columns of digits, as even '1' occupies the same width as all the others. If the number is used decoratively, though, as for example in a phone number in a letterhead, you can improve its look by altering the spacing and form of the digits.

Type the digits 0123456789 and highlight them. Select Font and open the Advanced tab. Under OpenType Features, click the Number spacing selector and choose Proportional. Note that the '1' loses its bar across the base and that the '0' is widened, giving them their correct typographical proportions. Also try changing Number form from Default to Old-style and the numbers 3, 4, 5, 7 and 9 are moved down to drop below the baseline of the text. 0, 1 and 2 are also reduced in height, so giving a compound number a more old-style look.

We're used to thinking that the characters in a font have a definite look to them. Although we're used to variations like italic, bold, condensed and extended, if you type in a roman ('normal') font, we expect it to have one look. In fact, there are variations called Stylistic sets available in some fonts.

Type a line of text in the Gabriola font and cut and paste it twice, so it appears three times. Highlight the second line, select Font and open the Advanced tab. Under OpenType Features, click the Stylistic sets selector and choose, say, 4 (you can try all the variations). Note that the look of the text has changed, with more swashes to the characters.

Now try set 7 and you'll see the effect is even more pronounced, with almost Elizabethan flourishes to the ends of some words. Try deleting characters from the end of the line and you'll see the flourishes change, depending on the characters to either side of the current one. If you've ever typed in Arabic, you'll be familiar with this effect, though here it's for purely decorative effect.