Using OpenType Features in Adobe Creative Cloud Apps


OpenType Pro fonts are tremendously fun to use, with their fancy swash characters and built-in intelligence about which variants to use based on a character’s position in a word or sentence. Adobe’s Creative Cloud publishing apps (InDesign, Illustrator, and Photoshop) let you exploit the power of these advanced OpenType fonts, but you have to know where to look.

How to find OpenType Fonts 

If you’ve been using Adobe’s applications for a while, chances are you have at least a few OpenType Pro fonts on your computer — just have a look at the font menu in InDesign, Illustrator, or Photoshop. An advanced OpenType font is usually noted by the word “Pro” in its name: Adobe Caslon Pro, Adobe Garamond Pro, Myriad Pro, Minion Pro, Tekton Pro and Warnock Pro are some examples you may find.

Tip: In the latest versions of InDesign CC and Illustrator CC, you can quickly search for OpenType Pro fonts by typing “Pro “ in the font name field at the top of the Control panel or Character panel. Only the fonts that have Pro in their names will then appear in the list — just be sure to include a space after Pro, to eliminate fonts that have “pro” as part of their main font name, such as Proxima. (Note: due to operating system limitations, this feature doesn’t appear in the menu bar’s Type > Font menu.) 


If you’re only seeing fonts that begin with Pro, make sure the search option is set to Search Entire Font Name instead of Search First Word Only:


OpenType Standard vs. OpenType Pro

OpenType fonts come in two varieties, named by Adobe as Standard and Pro. OpenType Standard fonts usually have the same character set as their TrueType or PostScript equivalents, with no additional capabilities. You can think of them as standard TrueType or PostScript fonts in an OpenType wrapper.

OpenType Pro fonts have extended character sets, often with true fractions, small caps, additional ligatures, swash characters, dingbats, and more. OpenType Pro fonts also incorporate advanced layout intelligence such as stylistic sets and automatic fraction replacement. 

Some favorite OpenType Pro fonts

One all-time favorite is Alejandro Paul’s Adios Pro, a technically intricate font bursting with a profusion of ornamental ascenders and descenders that offer extraordinary variety. The lowercase “h” alone offers 43 variants; the entire font has a staggering 1,470 glyphs.

Watch the slideshow of amazing examples in use at


If your project leans toward the more textual and less fancy, have a look at Warnock Pro. When Robert Slimbach was commissioned to design a font named after one of Adobe’s founders (John Warnock), he pulled out all the OpenType stops. Just about every possible text-related feature is included, so it’s a good one to experiment with when exploring the OpenType features in your favorite applications. has a strong collection of interesting OpenType Pro fonts, such as Estilo Pro by DSType, Horst by PintassilgoPrints, Bellucia by Correspondence Ink, and Billboard by Fenotype:


P22 ( also has an extraordinary collection of OpenType Pro fonts, such as Zaner Pro, which lets you change the swash at the end of a word by repeatedly pressing the tilde key on your keyboard!

If you need a handwriting font that randomizes the use of common characters, try Martie Pro, from Canada Type (

To invoke Martie’s magic, choose Contextual Alternates from the OpenType submenu on the Character Panel menu (a good example of how Adobe tucks away these features):

Accessing OpenType Pro font features

As shown above, Adobe’s OpenType features are hidden under several levels of menus and panel menus. While this makes it more difficult for you to explore those features, it does keep them out of the hands of newbies, who may be supremely confused by what they are. And since these advanced OpenType features are lost when documents are exported for EPUB or Web documents, tucking them away also prevents nasty surprises for inexperienced users. (PDF, being an Adobe technology, does support advanced OpenType features).

InDesign, a true publishing program, supports the richest set of OpenType features for book publishing. Access them from the Character panel menu:


Items with brackets around them are not available in the current font. (Font designers may choose to include whichever OpenType features they think will be most useful for their font.)

Items with a checkmark next to them are applied to the current selection of text on your page. You can toggle each of them on and off by selecting and re-selecting them.

In contrast with the options available for Warnock Pro, Adios Pro is designed for fancy typesetting, and so it mainly includes alternate characters and swashes. Its assortment of alternate glyphs (glyph is the proper name for character) is so large, the designer chose combinations of them and built them into several Stylistic Sets. When you choose one set, the text appears one way. When you choose a different set, the text appearance changes.

Unfortunately, access to OpenType features varies among InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop. For example, Illustrator has its own dedicated OpenType panel, with options available as buttons at the bottom as well as from its panel menu:

Photoshop’s support for OpenType features is similar to Illustrator’s, except you’ll find them on the Character panel:

Note that unlike InDesign, neither Illustrator or Photoshop supports Stylistic Sets! 

Some display fonts mainly show their magic through a wide variety of ligatures (unique combinations of two or more letters). Billboard is a good example — and because its main OpenType Pro feature is its collection of ligatures, you can access them by simply typing in ALL CAPS:

The Glyphs panel

While unrelated to typesetting in the strictest sense, OpenType Pro fonts also often include a variety of ornaments (dingbats) that complement the font. For example, Bellucia includes these ornaments:

To find these ornaments, or to find alternate glyphs for any given character, use the Glyphs panel. InDesign has the most features, followed by Illustrator. (As of this writing, Photoshop lacks a Glyphs panel.)



One great use for the Glyphs panel is to find alternate glyphs for an important character in your text. For example, you can see all the alternates for the “a” character set in Adios Pro by selecting it on the InDesign page, and then choosing “Alternates for Selection” in the Glyphs panel.

Double-click the one you want, and it will replace the character on the page. (But note: if you’ve already assigned a Stylistic Set to the text, the new glyph may refuse to replace the existing glyph.) 

For an eye-opening treat, browse the glyphs in Lucida Grande. In particular, explore the Symbols, or just scroll down the Entire Font to see multiple writing systems, circled numbers, and much more:

Another great font to explore is Apple Symbols, which includes I Ching trigrams and hexagrams, chess symbols, recycling symbols, symbols for dice, astrology, weather, hands pointing, braille, OCR banking (check) symbols, and much more.

What do all those options mean? 

While it’s beyond the scope of this story to explain every OpenType feature option, you can learn quite a lot by clicking through the available options with some text selected on your page. Obviously, fractions are useful in documents containing recipes. Swashes and alternates are useful when setting invitations and headlines. And the number options at the bottom of the list (Tabular vs Proportional and Lining vs Oldstyle) can make numbers look like they belong with the text or are set apart from it. If your favorite font has Stylistic Sets, toggle through them — the font designer put extra effort into combining specific glyphs and styles to make those Sets useful to you! 

With all this typographic power at your fingertips, may the typographic creative force be with you…

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