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Find Substituted Fonts in PowerPoint

Learn how you can find out the substituted font in PowerPoint. Normally, it can be difficult to find out the actual name of the font.


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Product/Version: PowerPoint

OS: Microsoft Windows XP and higher






The situation is familiar: you or someone else uses a non-standard font (not a PowerPoint safe font) in your presentation. You then open this same presentation on another computer, and PowerPoint uses another font to display the same text. Why does it do so? The reason is simple enough: the font originally used is not available on the other system. And that is not even half the problem.

So what exactly is the problem? There are multiple problems here:

  1. The end user has no idea that PowerPoint substituted one font with another. There is no information provided at all.
  2. The font that is used as a substitute cannot be identified. If you have 500 fonts on your system, there's no way to understand why PowerPoint used a certain font as a substitute.
  3. If you have two systems that are completely identical, and both do not possess the original font, then PowerPoint will arbitrarily choose two different fonts on both systems - and there's no way you can understand this behavior pattern.

This problem and the solution can be understood better with an example. Look at the slide you see in Figure 1, below. You will notice that we have used a font named Capture it 2, highlighted in red within Figure 1. The text looks distinct, as you can see in Figure 1.

  • A non-standard font used in a PowerPoint slide
    Figure 1: A non-standard font used in a PowerPoint slide
  • Now we opened the same presentation on another computer that does not have the Capture it 2 font installed (seeFigure 2, and compare with Figure 1).
  • Substituted font
    Figure 2: Substituted font
  • PowerPoint does not warn and just opens the presentation without a hiccup. Look at the font name again, highlighted in red within Figure 2. You will discover that PowerPoint inadvertently misreports the font with the same name and does not mention that:

      - The font is substituted
      - Or the name of the font used as the substitute

    If the recipient is seeing this presentation for the first time, he or she has no clue that any font substitution has happened.

    There are some tell-tale signs that indicate missing fonts:

    • Text may be spaced differently than normal. In extreme cases, some text may even show outside the slide area. This happens because the length and width of the same characters in different fonts varies.
    • Text containers such as text boxes and even some shapes may be sized or positioned oddly.
    • Text characters may stack up strangely one over the other at the beginning of a line.

    So what can you do to overcome this problem? There are two things you can do:

    1. Report to Microsoft that there needs to be a better solution.
    2. Use a workaround to identify the font used. This workaround will only help if you know that a substitution has happened!
    We will explore both these options.

    Report the Issue

    You can report this problem to Microsoft. Even better, we already reported this issue. You can vote and raise the awareness about this issue so that they act to resolve this problem.

    Use a Workaround

    The workaround is to use PowerPoint's Save as PDF option to export your slides as a PDF. Once the PDF is created, open your PDF in one of the Adobe applications like Adobe Acrobat Pro or even the free Adobe Acrobat Reader. Then press the Ctrl + D keyboard shortcut in Acrobat to bring up the Document Properties dialog box that you see in Figure 3, below.

  • Document Properties dialog box in Acrobat Pro or Acrobat Reader
    Figure 3: Document Properties dialog box in Acrobat Pro or Acrobat Reader
  • Make sure you select the Fonts tab in this dialog box (see Figure 3 again). You will see the name of the font PowerPoint used to substitute the original font, highlighted in red within Figure 3, above.

    So at least you know now which font is being used to substitute the missing font!

    PowerPoint MVP, Steve Rindsberg has a resourceful page on his site called Troubleshoot Font Problems that is certainly worth exploring.

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