OpenType Ligatures in Office 2010

An easy way to make headings with extra style and flourish in Word 2010.

Microsoft Word 2010 supports OpenType Ligatures. Apart from Word 2010, OpenType Ligatures are also applicable in Publisher 2010 and, to a limited extent, Outlook 2010 since Word is used as the editor in Outlook.

Behind the technical and typographical terms is a new way to make your Word documents ‘pop’ with some fancy headings and flourishes.

Here’s an example of what you can do in Office 2010. The first line is plain text in Gabriola font. The second line is the same text and font but with ligatures enabled (style set 7) in Word 2010.

Word 2010 - Ligatures example.jpg image from OpenType Ligatures in Office 2010 at

Not all ligatures and styles need to be so extreme and they are best used sparingly and subtly.

About Ligatures

A Ligature is a special character that combines two or three letters into a single character or glyph. Ligatures avoid the unattractive collision that occurs in some typefaces. Most common ligatures are ff, fl, fi, ffi and ffl.

Combining the “f” and “i” or “f” and “l” into a single letter makes the “f” look more stable rather than giving an impression of falling on “i” or “l”.

OpenType fonts

OpenType is a new format for scalable computer fonts that’s replacing the stalwart of Window fonts, TrueType. OpenType was developed by Microsoft and Adobe. It is supported in Windows 2000, XP, Vista and 7 as well as Macintosh OS X.

Gabriola which is a new font originally released with Windows 7 supports advanced OpenType features like extensive use of stylistic sets. For this reason we’ll be using Gabriola in all these examples.

Enabling Ligatures

OpenType Ligatures are not enabled by default in Word 2010. To enable OpenType ligatures type some text in OpenType font like “Calibri” in a document.

In File | Font ribbon menu click on the small down arrow icon.

Word 2010 - Font ribboon and access to font dialog image from OpenType Ligatures in Office 2010 at

The Font properties window will pop open. Here click on the “Advanced” tab.

Word 2010 - Font Advanced window image from OpenType Ligatures in Office 2010 at

Under “OpenType Features” you can set Ligatures, Number spacing, Number forms and Stylistic sets to the selected text. Each feature has few options to choose from. Whatever options you choose, a preview of the result can be viewed in the “Preview” pane, though sometimes the preview pane is too small to see everything. It’s best to select some text before entering the font dialog to control what preview text is used.

After making appropriate changes click on OK button for the changes to take effect. You can even set the changes you make as default by clicking on “Set As Default” button.

OpenType Features

Let’s explore the various options under each OpenType feature.

Ligature Options

Word 2010 - Ligature options image from OpenType Ligatures in Office 2010 at


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None of the ligature options will be applied unless the font supports any ligature by default. Not all OpenType fonts have ligatures.

Standard Only:

Word 2010 - Ligature standard image from OpenType Ligatures in Office 2010 at

The standard set of ligatures contains the most commonly used ligatures like “f” and “t” but it varies based on language.

Standard and Contextual: Contextual ligatures as the name suggests are based on specific fonts and can be used with only those fonts. The combination of standard and contextual ligatures gives you the set of ligatures which can be used commonly.

Historical and Discretionary: Historical ligatures are usually used for that “period” effect and Discretionary ligatures are used for specific purposes. Both these ligatures are not used commonly but only for certain sections of the text based on specific needs.

All: In this option all ligature combinations that are available for a particular font will be applied to the text.

Number Spacing Options

Default: For this option based on the font selected the default number spacing specified for that particular font will be applied.


As the name suggests numbers are spaced proportionally based on its width. For example 1 and 2 are proportionally spaced as 1 requires less space when compared to 2. Three fonts that use proportional spacing by default are Candara, Constantia and Corbel.


In this option each number is given the same space or width. This is especially useful when using tables as the numbers will be aligned equally in a column irrespective of its width. Cambria, Calibri and Consolas fonts comes with tabular spacing by default.

Number Form Options

Default: For this option based on the font selected the default number form specified for that particular font will be applied.


In Lining number form all numbers have the same height. Lining numbers are commonly used in tables and forms.

Lining number form.jpg image from OpenType Ligatures in Office 2010 at

Cambria, Calibria and Consolas fonts are set to Lining numbers by default.


In Old-style number form the numbers are not aligned in the same line. They fall above or below baseline for example numbers like 3 and 4 extend below the baseline and numbers like 1 and 2 come above or in the center.

Oldstyle number form.jpg image from OpenType Ligatures in Office 2010 at

Candara, Constantia, and Corbel fonts are set to Old-style numbering by default.

Stylistic Set Options

There are several options in the Stylistic set which you can apply to your text to fancy it up. If you choose the “Default” option then the default style applicable to that particular font will be applied. There are 20 different stylistic sets listed however the number that actually work will vary based on the font being used.

Contextual alternate.jpg image from OpenType Ligatures in Office 2010 at

You can use this feature to make the text look more natural and smooth. You can also use contextual alternates to provide precise letter forms at the start or end of words, next to punctuation or at the end of paragraphs. However Word 2010 does not support contextual alternates for text at the end of a line that is followed by an automatic page break.

Contextual Alternates

If you want to fine-tune letters based on the surrounding characters then you can select the check box “Use Contextual Alternates”.