OpenType features are more than just fancy swashes, they’re the superpowers of fonts! The best typefaces are full of sophisticated reasoning and little surprises — things that are often integral to the design of the typeface itself, or that help it work better for specific typesetting tasks. Being a graphic design student, I can appreciate the nuances of ligatures and old style numbers, and have always struggled to bring these same features from print over to the web.
I recently read an article on Fast Company Design blog about a new site called FontReach that shows the most used fonts on the web. Fontreach was created by Jason Chen and Jesse Chase of Digital Ocean after they started looking for a new typeface for their website. They thought the font they chose was overused, but they needed data. No tool like FontReach existed, so they created it.
Those of us in graphic design are in the know about type features such as ligatures. In typography, a ligature occurs where two or more letters are joined as a single glyph in fonts that support them. A good example of a ligature is the lowercase f and the lowercase i characters. They can be displayed separately, but some fonts contain a ligature glyph of the f and i joined as fi.
One of the most exciting developments on the web of the last several years is web fonts. No longer are you restricted to the same 13 or so webfonts distributed with both Microsoft Windows and Apple’s Mac OS X. A whole new world of web typography has opened up!