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If you are lucky enough to be working with an OpenType Pro font, then you probably have the choice of several different numeral styles. Let's take a look at these. Here, I'm working with Chaparral Pro, and that does have some different number styles, and those styles are Tabular Lining, Proportional Lining, Proportional Oldstyle, and Tabular Oldstyle. So, the first distinction is the style of the numeral itself. The Oldstyle numerals have descenders and ascenders as indicated by this example down here where I have drawn a guide to indicate the X height and another to indicate the baseline, and we see that the 3, the 4, the 5, the 7, and the 9 all have descenders, and the 6 and the 8 all have ascenders.
Contrast that with the Lining style, and we see that all the numerals are at the cap height of the text. Now, in addition to the style, there is also the factor of whether they are Tabular or Proportional. And if they are Tabular, regardless of whether they are Oldstyle or Lining, then each numeral occupies the same set width as indicated here, the rationale being that this would be useful if you are working with tables and you want your numerals to line up to create columns.
On the other hand, Proportional numbers are going to vary in their set widths according to the character shape, and we can see that here. So, these are both Lining numbers, the top example is Tabular, and then beneath that, we have the Proportional, and we can see that the Proportional numbers are not going to align underneath each other. So, where do we make these choices? This is another choice on our OpenType Menu. Here are the numeral choices. The Default Figure Style is Tabular Lining.
You can incorporate these styles into a Paragraph Style through the OpenType Features. So, if you always want to use Proportional Oldstyle, that's where you would set the Figure Style right there. And why might you want to use Proportional Oldstyle? Well, the rationale is they look more sophisticated. Of course, that's a very subjective term. But arguably they look more sophisticated because with the ascenders and the descenders of the Oldstyle numerals, the numbers blend more harmoniously in the context of a body of text.
I think we can see that in the example on the right, where the numbers just blend in a whole lot better than they do on the left where all of the numbers are at the cap height and do therefore have the tendency to overwhelm the regular upper and lowercase text.
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