Font Differences - MacOS vs Windows

Hi everyone and Dorico team!

I wanted to prefix this by noting that I am not a font expert at all, and the extent of my knowledge extends to installing a few user fonts to use in Photoshop / MS word etc, and the rough difference between static and variable font types!

When opening the same Dorico 4 project between MacOS and Windows machines, I am noticing that fonts relink differently, particularly between the font styles. This can lead to certain font styles being replaced by others on the score. An example:

  • I downloaded and installed a font from google fonts called ‘Lato’.
  • In my score if I set the title, for instance, to use the new Lato font in either ‘Regular, Bold, Italic, Bold-Italic’ styles, this will open perfectly between the MacOS and Windows rigs.
  • If on the MacOS machine I set the font to a ‘non-standard’ font style, such as ‘Semibold’, when I open the dorico project in Windows there is a missing font warning on open, despite the font also being installed on the system.

After some trial and error and investigation, I have seen that on windows (within Dorico), the Lato font is listed with every font ‘style’ in the font family drop down and not just ‘Lato’ in the family and the various styles in the font style dropdown as I had anticipated. On MacOS however Dorico displays only ‘Lato’ in the family dropdown, and all of the styles in the style dropdown, as expected.

That said, as mentioned above, if only ‘Lato’ is selected on windows in the family dropbox (as opposed to Lato-Semibold, or Lato-Heavy etc) then the ‘normal’ font styles all show up in the styles dropdown and relink perfectly with the MacOS machine.

The fonts open and transfer perfectly between the systems when using any of the ‘non-standard’ styles in MS Word, which leads me to believe that any ‘non-standard’ font styles are behaving differently in Dorico. I have tested both static fonts and single variable versions and the same is true, as far as I can tell.

I was wondering if this is this is fundamental difference between the way Windows and MacOS handle user-installed fonts, and whether anything could be done in the fonts folder in the C Drive on the windows machine so that Dorico accommodates these differences and the fonts relink automatically between systems?

Thanks a lot in advance!


I’m afraid this is indeed a fundamental difference in the way Windows and macOS handle fonts.

On Windows, the operating system only handles four style names – Regular, Bold, Italic, Bold Italic – and will always show the user these four styles, even if the font family in question doesn’t supply all or indeed even any of these styles. (For example, Dorico’s own Petaluma Script family doesn’t include an italic style, but on Windows, it will appear that it does.)

Any font that has an extended style – literally anything other than the four above, so including anything and everything like Light, Medium, Semibold, Extra Bold, Display, Caption, etc. etc. etc. – is handled on Windows by treating this style as an entirely different font family.

On macOS, by contrast, font families can have fonts with arbitrary style names, and it will group them all together under a single family.

So on macOS, a font family like Lato will show as a single choice in the family menu, with all of its various styles listed under the style menu. But on Windows, each weight of Lato will appear as its own family, so e.g. Lato Semibold will be listed with Regular, Bold, Italic and Bold Italic styles, and Lato Heavy will be listed with those same four styles, etc.

It gets even more complicated, unfortunately, which is that fonts have many different names embedded within them, and different fonts from different vendors use different conventions for family and style names, compounded by differences in the TrueType, Adobe PostScript Type 1 and OpenType formats.

So we can’t programmatically work out whether a font name saved in a project created on one platform definitively maps onto a specific font when the project is opened on the other platform.

This leaves you in the situation where using any font beyond a regular, italic, bold or bold italic style for a regular weight will cause some fun and games when moving between platforms.


Should this have been "But on Windows, each weight … "?

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Yes, indeed it should. Thanks for spotting that typo.

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All understood. Thanks very much for the fast and very detailed reply Daniel, much appreciated.

Will stick to using only the regular / italic / bold / bold italic styles in scores from now, based on your advice!