To do this, OpenType includes layout features—commonly known as
They’re not mandatory in English. But as a side effect, OpenType layout features have allowed type designers to add luxuries to their fonts—like alternate figures, small caps, ligatures, ordinals, and fractions—that had previously been difficult or impossible. That’s the good news.
The bad news is that merely selecting an OpenType font doesn’t make its features available. Rather, your typesetting program also has to support the features you want to use. Even though many OpenType-enhanced fonts are available today, software companies have been slow to upgrade their applications.
This bit of background just sets the stage for the annoying truth—that OpenType features can add a lot of typographic sophistication to your document, but you can only use a given feature if it’s supported by both the font and the application.
If you still want to use OpenType features, some tips:
Designers of professional fonts (see font recommendations) will have downloadable specimen sheets that show you which OpenType features are supported by their fonts.
All versions of Microsoft Word since 2010 support a limited set of OpenType features (ligatures, alternate figures, and stylistic sets). But Excel and PowerPoint don’t support any.
All major desktop web browsers support OpenType features. Support is spottier among mobile web browsers.
The best OpenType feature support is found in professional page-layout applications like Adobe InDesign.