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For this installment of the First Look series, James Williamson reviews the current implementation and future direction of web fonts: downloadable font resources that can be retrieved with the CSS @font-face declaration. The course begins with the evolution of online typography and current CSS font capabilities, and then dives into the W3C CSS Fonts Module specification, showing how to utilize web fonts, ensure cross-browser consistency, and how to use CSS3 to enhance the styling of web fonts. Font hosting services and tools such as TypeKit and the Google Fonts API are demonstrated. Exercise files accompany the course.
If you want a broader understanding of web fonts and their implementation, I recommend becoming familiar with the WebFonts Working Group. The WebFonts Working Group is fairly recent, getting their charter from the W3C in March of 2010. But they're incredibly important to the development and the deployment of fonts on the web. The group's mission, outlined in their charter, is to develop specifications that focus on building standardized processes for downloading fonts on the web. Since the CSS3 Fonts and SVG specification already described this process, the group is focusing primarily at the moment on standardizing font formats that are best suited to the task.
Once this work is complete, the group will be tasked with making incremental changes to the standards to ensure interoperability as the web evolves and to assist in building test suites for the CSS3 fonts module. A quick glance at the WebFonts Working Group public page will show that their main focus at the moment is on standardizing the Web Open Font Format or WOFF, and creating and encouraging authoring, conversion, and utility tools for the emerging standard. Now, we'll discuss the WOFF format in more detail in a moment.
For now, let's take a look at the WebFonts Working Groups public page and point out some of the areas that you might want to keep an eye on. First, I recommend reading the charter itself. This will give you an overview of the group and its responsibilities. Here you'll find the group's defined scope, the deliverables they've been tasked with, and past and future milestones. From there, let's go back to the group's Homepage. Here you'll find the latest news from the group, ways to communicate with them if you want to participate, and perhaps the best source of information, the archive of the public mailing list which you can subscribe to if you like.
The public mailing list allows you to explore threads by author, subject, or thread title from past months. It's a wealth of information and allows you to gain insight into how the standards and formats for web fonts are evolving. Back in the group's homepage, you'll also find links to the latest standards issued by the group. A member list, the group's work plan, and future links to the Web Fonts Test Suites as they're developed. Now, here for example is a link to latest editor's draft of the WOFF specification.
Fascinating reading, I can assure you. The work plan, in which you'll find in the Communication section, is a great way to keep up with the working group and what they are currently engaged with. The web is a constantly changing landscape and the recent speed with which web fonts are being adopted is one of the best testimates to that. By learning more about the WebFonts Working Group and keeping current with their activities, you'll have a better idea of how those implementations work and how they might change in the future.
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