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Get ready for magic morphing fonts in your browser

Chrome and Safari can handle OpenType Variable Font tech that should open up design possibilities while speeding website loading.

Google commissioned two OpenType Variable Font typefaces, Amstelvar and Decovar.

Google commissioned two OpenType Variable Font typefaces, Amstelvar and Decovar.

Google

If you like websites that look polished and load faster, good news: A technology called OpenType Variable Fonts is about to arrive.

Adobe, Microsoft, Google and Apple created OpenType Variable Font technology in 2016 so designers and website developers could customize their typefaces. A font adapted with the technology essentially comes with a bunch of sliders that let people pick just how they want it to look.

OpenType Variable Fonts will arrive in Chrome 62, Google said on Wednesday. That version of Google's web browser just entered beta testing and therefore should be final in about six weeks. And Apple's Safari 11 browser for MacOS 10.14 High Sierra and iOS 11 adds support for the variable fonts. Apple has been testing the technology for months.

Designers can fiddle with parameters that make letters bold, with thick letter strokes, or light, with narrow ones. Or they can change the size of serifs, the doo-dads that cap the ends of some letters. Or make the strokes of the each letter hollow. Or make the letters wide or narrow. Or... you get the idea.

The Decovar variable font developed for Google can be customized in many ways.

Font from Type Network; illustration from Stephen Shankland/CNET

The technology can speed up website loading because one font can serve multiple purposes, saving on download times. For example, Apple likes its San Francisco font a lot, and one incarnation of it could be used for bold, short section heads and another for lighter, longer blocks of text.

Others are on board with the variable fonts, too. The technology is enabled in test versions of Mozilla's Firefox, and Microsoft said it plans to ship OpenType Variable Font technology in 2017 in its Edge browser.

Correction, Sept. 21, 2:43 p.m. PT: The story misstated the first version of Chrome that will get OpenType Variable Font support. The support arrives in Chrome 62.

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