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All about Font Embedding in Microsoft Word

Font Embedding is an important part of document portability by allowing anyone opening the document to see the same thing including the same fonts.  It’s available in Microsoft Word for Windows and also Font Embedding to Word for Mac.

When you share a document or even move to another computer, it does NOT include the necessary fonts.  Word assumes that all the needed fonts will be installed on any computer or device that opens the document.

Font embedding is vital for proper sharing of documents either online collaboration or simply sending a document via email or messaging.

Here’s a test document we’ve made to explain font embedding. It’s been made on Word 365 for Mac.

The test doc features Lucida Blackletter – a decorative font that’s not usually installed by Windows or Office.

If the document (without font embedding) is opened on another computer it might look like this:

Font Substitution

Because the font ‘Lucida Blackletter’ isn’t available on the computer Word has used font substitution.

Font Substitution is basically an educated guess. Word tries to find an available font that’s similar.  As you can see, that doesn’t always work well.

A common font substitution is Helvetica (available on a Mac) with Arial.

Even when the substitution works better, the font switch can change the look and formatting of the document. Each font character has different heights/widths which affect how many words can fit on a page and the overall layout.

Sharing with font embedding

To see exactly what’s on the original computer, turn on font embedding, save the document then share it.

Now the decorative font appears.

The Word document includes the font details so any receiving computer can use the font without substitution.

Turn on Font embedding

Word for Windows – File | Options | Save | Preserve Fidelity in this document | Embed fonts.

Word 365/2019/2021 for Mac – Word | Preferences | Save

There’s the choice of saving the entire font in the document or only the characters used.

Preserve fidelity when sharing this document:

  • Embed fonts in the file
  • Embed only the characters used in the document (best for reducing file size).

Embed fonts in the file is the better option.  Any changes to the text will appear in the correct font.

The ‘characters only’ option does make the document file smaller, but it also reduces compatibility for the document receivers.  If the document is edited elsewhere to include characters not in the limited embedded font, the extra characters won’t display properly.

Font Licencing

Font embedding isn’t always available.  Purchased fonts have licence restrictions on how they are used and shared.  Those limits aren’t clearly displayed in Windows nor Office but are enforced.

A font can be restricted and font embedding isn’t available.

PDF’s are different

PDF files (that Microsoft Word can create) have font embedding automatically.  Word has an option to include common fonts in a PDF or not but otherwise font information is included.

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