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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Born Broken: Fonts and Information Loss in Legacy Digital Documents


For millions of legacy documents, correct rendering depends upon resources such as fonts that are not generally embedded within the document structure. Yet there is significant risk of information loss due to missing or incorrectly substituted fonts. In this paper we use a collection of 230,000 Word documents to assess the difficulty of matching font requirements with a database of fonts. We describe the identifying information contained in common font formats, font requirements stored in Word documents, the API provided by Windows to support font requests by applications, the documented substitution algorithms used by Windows when requested fonts are not available, and the ways in which support software might be used to control font substitution in a preservation environment.

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