Microtypography is a range of methods for improving the readability and appearance of text, especially justified text. The methods reduce the appearance of large interword spaces and create edges to the text that appear more even. Microtypography methods can also increase reading comprehension of text, reducing the cognitive load of reading.
Micro-typography is the art of enhancing the appearance and readability of a document while exhibiting a minimum degree of visual obtrusion. It is concerned with what happens between or at the margins of characters, words or lines. Whereas the macro-typographical aspects of a document (i.e., its layout) are clearly visible even to the untrained eye, micro-typographical refinements should ideally not even be recognisable. That is, you may think that a document looks beautiful, but you might not be able to tell exactly why: good micro-typographic practice tries to reduce all potential irritations that might disturb a reader.— R Schlicht, The
microtypepackage: Subliminal refinements towards typographical perfection, v2.7, 2017
Several methods can be used.
The following methods are not usually considered part of microtypography, but are important to it.
Adobe Indesign provides microtypography and is based on the Hz program developed by Hermann Zapf and Peter Karow. As of August 2007[update], InDesign is available for Apple Mac OS X and Microsoft Windows operating systems.
Scribus provides limited microtypography in the form of glyph extensions and optical margins. It is available for Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, various BSD flavours, and others.
The pdfTeX extension of TeX, developed by Hàn Thế Thành, incorporates microtypography. It is available for most operating systems. For LaTeX, the
microtype package provides an interface to these microtypographic extensions; as of August 2007[update], pdfTeX was not compatible with XeTeX, an extension of TeX that makes it easier to use many typographic features of OpenType fonts. However, in 2010, support for protrusion was added to it.
ConTeXt, another typesetting system based on TeX, offers both microtypographical features such as expansion and protrusion (a.k.a. hanging punctuation) and OpenType support through LuaTeX, which is an extended version of pdfTeX.
Heirloom troff, an OpenType-compatible (and open-source) version of UNIX troff, supports protrusion, kerning and tracking.
The word-processing packages OpenOffice.org Writer and Microsoft Office Word do not, as of August 2015[update], support microtypography. They allow pair kerning and have limited support for ligaturing, but automatic ligaturing is not available.
GNU TeXmacs support microtypography features such as expansion, protrusion, kerning and tracking.
Robin Williams suggests methods for achieving protrusion with word processors and desktop publishing packages that do not make it directly available. (Williams 2006)
Asym is a real-time microtypography platform developed by Asymmetrica Labs that subtly modifies word spacing, and claims to make significant improvements to engagement, conversions, and E-commerce purchase rates.
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