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Posted 16 May 2002

Retrieving font name from TTF file

, 12 Dec 2002
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Explains how to retrieve a font name from TrueType or OpenType files (.ttf)


Everyone can get a font name of one of installed fonts. But what if the font is still not installed in the system and you want to know what is that, programmatically? Of course you can temporary add it to system fonts and get its properties then (hmm... but how you will find now what was the font installed?). Well, maybe you can think about other ways, but I decided to look for specification of the TrueType and OpenType fonts file. Fortunately, Microsoft has very good articles on these files. If you want to know more about them, look at the end of this article for links.

Writing the code

Since all that interested me (and you in most cases) is only the font name and not other properties in the TTF file, our code is gonna be simple (actually only one function). The function will retrieve font name from given file and return it to calling program.

Data types definition

Since there is no structures defined in Windows header files (or I didn't find them), we gonna make our own. We need 4 structures and 2 macros (I will explain later, about them).

A TTF file consists of several tables, each table represent some data, regarding of its type. Some tables are required, some are not. We actually need only one of them, called "name", e.g. names table. This is the place where the font information is stored, like font name, copyright, trademark and more.

//This is TTF file header
typedef struct _tagTT_OFFSET_TABLE{
    USHORT uMajorVersion;
    USHORT uMinorVersion;
    USHORT uNumOfTables;
    USHORT uSearchRange;
    USHORT uEntrySelector;
    USHORT uRangeShift;

//Tables in TTF file and there placement and name (tag)
typedef struct _tagTT_TABLE_DIRECTORY{
    char szTag[4]; //table name
    ULONG uCheckSum; //Check sum
    ULONG uOffset; //Offset from beginning of file
    ULONG uLength; //length of the table in bytes

//Header of names table
typedef struct _tagTT_NAME_TABLE_HEADER{
    USHORT uFSelector; //format selector. Always 0
    USHORT uNRCount; //Name Records count
    USHORT uStorageOffset; //Offset for strings storage, 
                           //from start of the table

//Record in names table
typedef struct _tagTT_NAME_RECORD{
    USHORT uPlatformID;
    USHORT uEncodingID;
    USHORT uLanguageID;
    USHORT uNameID;
    USHORT uStringLength;
    USHORT uStringOffset; //from start of storage area

Now only thing left is macros I was talking before. The macros definition looks like:


Now what is that? The reason we need those macros is that TTF files are stored in Big-Endian format, unlike in Windows systems, where all files are in Little Endian. Yeah I know it sounds silly with all those "endians" :). Big Endian is used by Motorolla processors for example, where the higher byte is stored first, while in Little Endian (for Intel processors) the higher byte is the last. For example you have an integer variable 1 (which is 4 bytes long). Try to save it to file and open in any hexadecimal editor, you will see:

01 00 00 00    //Little Endian - Intel

This is Little Endian system (Intel). But for Big-Endian (Motorolla), the number will be stored vise versa:

00 00 00 01    //Big Endian - Motorolla

So these formats are incompatible. And TTF file as I said, is stored in Motorolla style (Big Endian). That's why we need those 2 macros to rearrange bytes in variables retrieved from TrueType font file.

Reading the file

Now we are prepared to read the TTF file. So let's get started.

First of all we need to read the file header (TT_OFFSET_TABLE structure):

CFile f;
CString csRetVal;

//lpszFilePath is the path to our font file
if(f.Open(lpszFilePath, CFile::modeRead|CFile::shareDenyWrite)){

    //define and read file header
    TT_OFFSET_TABLE ttOffsetTable;
    f.Read(&ttOffsetTable, sizeof(TT_OFFSET_TABLE));

    //remember to rearrange bytes in the field you gonna use
    ttOffsetTable.uNumOfTables = SWAPWORD(ttOffsetTable.uNumOfTables);
    ttOffsetTable.uMajorVersion = SWAPWORD(ttOffsetTable.uMajorVersion);
    ttOffsetTable.uMinorVersion = SWAPWORD(ttOffsetTable.uMinorVersion);

    //check is this is a true type font and the version is 1.0
    if(ttOffsetTable.uMajorVersion != 1 || ttOffsetTable.uMinorVersion != 0)
        return csRetVal;

Right after the file header goes Offsets Table. You can find here an offset to interesting you table, "name" in our case.

BOOL bFound = FALSE;
CString csTemp;

for(int i=0; i< ttOffsetTable.uNumOfTables; i++){
    f.Read(&tblDir, sizeof(TT_TABLE_DIRECTORY));

    //table's tag cannot exceed 4 characters
    strncpy(csTemp.GetBuffer(4), tblDir.szTag, 4);
    if(csTemp.CompareNoCase(_T("name")) == 0){
        //we found our table. Rearrange order and quit the loop
        bFound = TRUE;
        tblDir.uLength = SWAPLONG(tblDir.uLength);
        tblDir.uOffset = SWAPLONG(tblDir.uOffset);

We finally found the names table, so let's read its header:

    //move to offset we got from Offsets Table
    f.Seek(tblDir.uOffset, CFile::begin);
    f.Read(&ttNTHeader, sizeof(TT_NAME_TABLE_HEADER));

    //again, don't forget to swap bytes!
    ttNTHeader.uNRCount = SWAPWORD(ttNTHeader.uNRCount);
    ttNTHeader.uStorageOffset = SWAPWORD(ttNTHeader.uStorageOffset);
    TT_NAME_RECORD ttRecord;
    bFound = FALSE;

Right after the Names Table header, go records in it. So we need to run through all records to find information interesting to us - font name.

    for(int i=0; i<ttNTHeader.uNRCount; i++){
    f.Read(&ttRecord, sizeof(TT_NAME_RECORD));
    ttRecord.uNameID = SWAPWORD(ttRecord.uNameID);

    //1 says that this is font name. 0 for example determines copyright info
    if(ttRecord.uNameID == 1){
        ttRecord.uStringLength = SWAPWORD(ttRecord.uStringLength);
        ttRecord.uStringOffset = SWAPWORD(ttRecord.uStringOffset);

        //save file position, so we can return to continue with search
        int nPos = f.GetPosition();
        f.Seek(tblDir.uOffset + ttRecord.uStringOffset + 
                 ttNTHeader.uStorageOffset, CFile::begin);

        //bug fix: see the post by SimonSays to read more about it
        TCHAR lpszNameBuf = csTemp.GetBuffer(ttRecord.uStringLength + 1);
        ZeroMemory(lpszNameBuf, ttRecord.uStringLength + 1);
        f.Read(lpszNameBuf, ttRecord.uStringLength);

        //yes, still need to check if the font name is not empty
        //if it is, continue the search
        if(csTemp.GetLength() > 0){
            csRetVal = csTemp;
        f.Seek(nPos, CFile::begin);

That's all! Now we can return csRetVal containing our font name.

You can download the full working function and use in your code. I included also a demo project with same function, but customized a bit, so it returned also copyright and trademark information.

If you want to continue with TTF files, you can look at Microsoft's specification on them. But remember that deeper you are going to TTF, more differences between TrueType and OpenType you may find. Anyway, below are the links to articles about TTF.



This article, along with any associated source code and files, is licensed under The Code Project Open License (CPOL)


About the Author

Philip Patrick
Team Leader Varonis
Israel Israel
I was born in small town Penza, Russia, in October 13th, 1975 yr. So my mother tongue is Russian. I finished the school there and learned in University, then I came to Israel and since then, I live there (or here *s*)
My profession is a C++ programmer under MS Windows platforms, but my hobby is Web development and ASP programming.

I started interesting in computers and programming somewere in 1990-1991 yrs., when my father brought home our first computer - Sinclair ZX Spectrum (he made it by himself). So I learned Basic and joined the Basic programmers club at my school (me and my friend were the only 2 guys from all school there, lol). After I finished the school (1992yr) I decided to continue my study at University and got specialization Operation Systems and Software Engineer. Although I still like my profession, but I always wanted something new, thus I learned HTML, Javascript and ASP which turned to be my hobby Smile | :)

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Comments and Discussions

GeneralGREAT!!! just a little problem Pin
Jihodg5-Mar-06 8:21
memberJihodg5-Mar-06 8:21 

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