Font and File Size
AbstractWhat is your favorite font? Is it Chalkboard, Comic Sans, Futura, or Curlz? Whatever your favorite font is, you can test it out with this fun science project.
Sara Agee, Ph.D., Science Buddies
Sandra Slutz, Ph.D., Science Buddies
Test how the font style of the letters (or characters) in a file might change the size of the file.
When you write a story on the computer you can make the text (your words) look any way you choose:
Three fonts are displayed with sample text in three different bullet points. The first text font is a sans-serif font with bold and even line strokes. The second font is a script font that appears italicized. The third font is a sans-serif font that resembles handwriting with long strokes and rounded edges.
You can change the way letters appear by changing the font. Each font is a set of symbols. There is one for each character (letter, number, or punctuation mark). The computer knows which characters to use by following a code. A word processing application, like Microsoft Word®, is a program that writes the code for each character as you type the letters and words in the viewing window. Each character you type is "remembered," or stored, by the computer program. When you hit save, the computer stores the characters in a file.
When you save a file of text, you might choose to embed the font in the file. By embedding it, you tell the program to save both the words and how the words look in the font you chose. Why would you want to do that? Well, imagine that you did not embed the font, and you emailed the file to a friend's computer. What do you think would happen if your friend's computer program did not have information about that font? The program might give your friend an error message, and it would display the text in another font. But if you embedded the font, your friend's program would have information about how to create those characters in that font. You and your friend would see the same thing on his or her screen that you originally made on yours. (If you are interested in creating your own fonts and experimenting with how embedding works, try the second experiment below in the Variations section.)
One thing to watch out for is that embedding the text changes the amount of information that is in the file. Each piece of information that is stored in a file takes up a certain amount of space in the computer's memory. Since a computer has a limited amount of memory, the size of each file needs to be measured so that the computer can keep track of how much memory has been used and how much memory is free (still available to be used). The amount of space that a file uses is called the file size and is usually measured in kilobytes (abbreviated KB) or megabytes (abbreviated MB; 1 MB is equal to 1024KB).
In this experiment, you will test how much memory is needed to store a simple piece of information, like the story of "The Three Little Pigs." You will change the font of the story, or whatever other text you chose, to see if the size of the file changes. Will the font change the file size? What if the text is unembedded versus embedded?
Terms and Concepts
To do this science project you should know what the following terms mean. Have an adult help you search the Internet, or take you to your local library to find out more!
- File size
- Kilobyte (KB)
- Megabyte (MB)
- What is embedded text versus unembedded text?
- How do you measure the size of a Word document file?
- What are some different types of fonts? Are different fonts made for different reasons?
Read this website for more information about computer memory:
- Indiana University Information Technology Services. (2010, December 2). What are bits, bytes, and other units of measure for digital information?. Retrieved May 11, 2011.
This website will give you a brief overview of the history of fonts:
- # Link Name="CompSci_p013.2" Value="HtmlAnchor" HtmlText="Clickinks.com" #]. (n.d.) Fonts of History. Retrieved May 11, 2011.
To see examples of many different fonts, try this website:
- Kaleidoscope Art. (n.d.) Font Examples. Retrieved May 20, 2011.
The text for "The Three Little Pigs" used in this science project was copied from this website:
- Ashliman D. L. (2008, November 23). Folktexts: A Library of Folktales, Folklore, Fairy Tales, and Mythology. Retrieved May 11, 2011.
This website offers help with creating graphs:
- National Center for Education Statistics. (n.d.). Create a Graph. Retrieved May 4, 2011.
Materials and Equipment
- Computer (PC). This project was written for a PC. The instructions below will not work for a Mac. If you do not have a PC, check and see if you can use a friend's, one at school, or one at your local library.
- Word processing software. Note: The Experimental Procedure is written for Microsoft Word on a PC, but any word processing software that allows embedded text will work. Microsoft Word for Mac does not allow fonts to be embedded and will not work for this science project.
- Graph paper
- Lab notebook
Experimenting with Fonts
- Choose a story to use for your science project. The story can be one you write yourself or one that you copy from somewhere else. If you use someone else's story, make sure to give the author credit. A box filled with some of the text for the story "The Three Little Pigs," copied from D. L. Ashliman's website Folktexts: A Library of Folktales, Folklore, Fairy Tales, and Mythology (see the Bibliography for more details). Feel free to use this story for your science project if you want.
- Start Microsoft Word and open a new file.
- If you do not know how to open files, save files, or change fonts using Microsoft Word, ask an adult who usually uses the program for help.
- Note: This science project can be done using any other word processing program that allows embedded fonts. Just modify the instructions to open and save files using the word processor that you have. Microsoft Word for Mac does not allow embedded fonts and cannot be used for this science project.
- Paste the story you chose in to your new file. Or if you are writing your own story, type the story in to the new file.
- This will be your first file. It contains the story in the default font (the one that your word processor chooses automatically if you don't give it any instructions). Save the file to your computer.
- Important Note: Save your file to a brand new file folder for your science project. Save all of the text files you create in this experiment to the same file folder.
- Give your file a name that describes the font (like Default_Pigs).
- Make a new file, using the same font, but this timeembed the font.
- To embed fonts in Microsoft Word 2003 or earlier:
- On the "Tools" menu click on "Options."
- Click the "Save" tab.
- Select the "Embed TrueType fonts" check box.
- Make sure that the two check boxes underneath ("Embed characters in use only" and "Do not embed common system fonts") are not checked.
- To embed fonts in Microsoft Word 2007:
- Click the "Microsoft Office Button."
- Click "Word Options."
- On the "Save" tab, click to select the "Embed fonts in the file" check box.
- Make sure the two check boxes underneath ("Embed only the characters used in the document" and "Do not embed common system fonts") are not checked.
- To embed fonts in Microsoft Word 2010:
- Click "File." In the "File" menu, click "Save as."
- Click the "Tools" dropdown at the bottom of the "Save as" dialog box. Choose "Save options."
- Click to select the "Embed fonts in the file" check box.
- Make sure that the two check boxes underneath ("Embed characters only used in this document" and "Do not embed common system fonts") are not checked.
- To embed fonts in Microsoft Word 2003 or earlier:
- Save the file, making sure to type a name for your new file that will tell you both the font type and the fact that the text is embedded (like Default_Pigs_Embedded).
- This new embedded text file and the original text file make a pair. The pair has two files, with the same text, using the same font. The only difference is that one has that text embedded and the other does not.
- Repeat steps 4–6 nine more times for a total of ten file pairs (20 individual files, half with embedded text and half with unembedded text) each using a different font.
- Change the font for each pair of files. In the end you will have used ten different fonts.
- Check your settings each time you save to make sure that you are always saving the type of file you want to (embedded or unembedded).
- After you have made and saved all ten of your file pairs, close Microsoft Word.
- Next, you will want to view the files you made to see their file size. Open the file folder where you have saved all of your science project files. Change the "View" options in the folder until you see a detailed list of all the files in there. The list should include every file's name and size in kilobytes (KB).
- If you cannot figure out how to change the folder view to see the file sizes, ask an adult who is familiar with the computer for help.
- Create a data table in your lab notebook and write down the font type and file size of each file.
|Font Used||Unembedded File Size (KB)||Embedded File Size (KB)|
Graphing Your Data
- Make three bar graphs to show all your data. You can make the bar graph by hand or use a website like Create a Graph. For all of the graphs, the y-axis (the vertical one) should show a scale of file size, in KB, starting at zero and increasing to just above the size for your largest file. The x-axis (the horizontal one) should have the bars representing each file you are graphing. Make sure to label each bar with the name of the file.
- For the first graph, make a bar for each of the files. You should have a total of 20 bars. Arrange the bars so that file pairs appear next to each other. For example, the bar for the Jokerman_Pig files size should be right next to the bar for the Jokerman_Pig_Embedded file size.
- Look at the graph. Does embedding text change the file size? Why or why not?
- If you know how to average numbers (or can ask an adult who can show you how), calculate the average size of the embedded files and the average size of the unembedded files. Is one larger, on average, than the other?
- For the second graph, make a bar for each of the unembedded text files. You should have a total of ten bars.
- Look at the graph. What happened to the size of the file as the font style was changed?
- For the third graph, make a bar for each of the embedded text files. You should have a total of ten bars.
- Look at the graph. Did changing the font style change the file size of the embedded text files? How do your second and third graphs compare to each other?
Ask an Expert
- Try comparing different font sizes or colors instead of changing the font style. Do this with both embedded and unembedded text files. Does changing the font size change the file size? How about text color?
- Try creating your own font using a font making program like Fontifier. What happens if you make a text file using your new font and open it on a computer that does not have your new font loaded? Try doing this with both an embedded and unembedded text file. How does the file size of text using your new font (both embedded and unembedded text files) compare to file sizes using common fonts?
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