Originally, URW was the acronym for Unternehmensberatung Rubow Weber (business consulting agency Rubow Weber), named for the founders. After going out of business in the 1990s, it was revived under the name URW++ Design & Development. URW++ holds many of the rights (copyrights and trademarks) of URW.
Peter Karow of URW developed Ikarus, a digital format and software package to digitize and store type designs. After being shown first as a draft at the ATypI-Congress in Prague 1975 it soon became the leading digital type technology. After Adobe Systems started licensing BuildFont, their technology for converting existing digital typeface data into their proprietary PostScript font format, Ikarus gradually lost its leading position. Ikarus is being further developed by URW++ and DTL, Dutch Type Library, ’s-Hertogenbosch, the Netherlands.
URW is also known for their providing some of their fonts as free fonts. These are used in open source projects. For example, URW's versions of the standard PostScript typeface set is included in Ghostscript.
Among the fonts exclusively licenced by URW are URW Alcuin, designed by Gudrun Zapf-von Hesse, Corporate A·S·E designed by Kurt Weidemann, Kolibri, designed by Kris Holmes, URW Palladio (a free version of Palatino), URW Imperial and URW Linear, both designed by Albert-Jan Pool, URW Oklahoma by Achaz Reuss, as well as URW Antiqua and URW Grotesk, designed by Hermann Zapf.