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Many printers specify that they have resident fonts--often dozens of them. I could understand why this was necessary years ago, when perhaps the choice was to use a resident font or to print the whole page in raster form (assuming even that was possible.) But now, from what I can tell, PCL and PostScript both support downloading fonts from the PC to the printer. Why have resident fonts? Is there any practical advantage to them? And, if there is a reason to use them, how would I use them? For instance how could a MS Word user use the resident font, or how could I as a Linux user use them with roff, LaTeX, or something simpler like a2ps?

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It turns out that programs like a2ps do not actually have font glyphs. Rather, they just come with font metrics for common PostScript fonts like Times Roman. The "metric" tells a program the sizes of the glyphs but does not actually have the glyph. A typesetting program like a2ps only needs the metrics. Then a2ps can rely on the printer (or another program, like GhostScript) to actually supply the glyphs. –  Omari Norman Jun 24 '13 at 14:29
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I have an older Postscript laser printer with resident fonts and they were typically provided that way for several reasons, among them:

1) Resident fonts were stored in ROM and didn't take up (afaik) the printer's memory during printing. This could make the difference between printing and not printing on a complex document that used up a lot of the printer's [limited] RAM.

2) On a slower connection (parallel or serial), a print job would print faster if it didn't have to send the fonts to the printer instead of just the raw Postscript / PCL data.

Typically if the document fonts have the same name as the printer font name, they will be substituted. You may have to create a mapping for this. In e.g., a2ps, you can set them in the prologue file: a2ps documentation

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