Indesign tracking

dendicott's picture

I'm constantly swapping between the default metric and the optical in indesign when I don't have time to manually kern. Just wanted to gauge what people think of the options or whether they prefer to sit it at 0?

Thanks
Darren

Joshua Langman's picture

I almost always leave it set to Metrics, with some occasional manual tweaking.

jglick's picture

I prefer Optical.

John Hudson's picture

Optical kerning is too unpredictable. Even if you do prefer its results for some text in some typefaces at some sizes, it would be unwise to state this as a general preference, because for other text in other typefaces at other sizes it might produce truly terrible results.

With the metrics setting, you get the kerning provided in the font. So how good those results are depend on how well made the font is. Again, it would be unwise to state this as a general preference, because some fonts are going to be better made than others.

So, you have to decide which option is best for the individual font and the text you are setting. I almost always use the metrics option, but then I only work with well-made fonts. I occasionally use the optical setting for larger size type -- e.g. on title pages --, if the fonts have been kerned for text sizes, and then do manual editing. But in those cases my preference would be to use a display type that's been designed and kerned for those larger sizes.

[BTW. The thread title is misleading. This is about kerning, not tracking.]

Nick Shinn's picture

So how good those results are depend on how well made the font is.

There is also the question of taste.
Some well-made fonts are strongly kerned, others not so much.
I prefer less, these days.

And then there is justification style.
With ragged setting or a variable word space in justified, strong kerning is fine, but for a classic justified setting with word space at 100%, minimal kerning is more suited to the look.

It would be interesting if one could adjust kerning globally, the same way one adjusts tracking.

**

The kerning of Richler is designed for text setting; I recommend people consider Optical for display settings.

charles ellertson's picture

I occasionally use the optical setting for larger size type -- e.g. on title pages --, if the fonts have been kerned for text sizes, and then do manual editing. But in those cases my preference would be to use a display type that's been designed and kerned for those larger sizes.

At our shop (& I'm talking about typesetting, not design), we just assume any display type will need manual kerning. Even if there is a "Display" font, what works at 24 or 36 point won't work at 72 point, and what is best depends on not just a pair of letters, but the entirety of the display text.

Use this frame of reference. We charge between $3.75 and $4.00 a page for setting text, and $8.50 a page for front mater display. (Let's leave out questions like is that for "editorially correct on disk" [yes] and "does that include proof sets" [no], etc, etc., it's that ratio that matters.) And BTW, the dedication page and copyright page don't usually take that long, the halftitle is only one line of type, and even the contents page is usually reasonably quick. All that money (usually $42.50 to $51.00) is really spent on the title page, you just can't submit a bill in that form.

That money -- time, really -- is spent on handwork, necessary even after the interior designer has specified all the typefaces, type sizes, linespacing, and line breaks, etc. I plan on spending between 30 minutes to an hour setting the all the front matter -- over half of it on the title page -- and we lose money on the setting of it.

For text, "handwork" should be limited to things that cannot be kerned in a font, such as kerning across fonts -- an italic d or l or i followed by a roman close parenthesis or roman close quotes. This is the only place we use optical kerning, and it is only a starting point -- we have a script that fetches one instance of every pair that involves two fonts. (Actually, the script also notes the number of times that pair occurs in a text, but that's just to show how important the pair might be.) When the pair is presented, it is shown with optical kerning. If that's good, we leave it alone; if not, we enter a hard kern. Then a second script goes & puts all those kerns, either the instruction to use optical kerning with the pair, or a hard kern, in the setting file.

As John said, the results of optical kerning are variable. I would say you cannot trust it in setting long runs of text. If the kerning within a font is not up to snuff, you either modify it in the font (best, if the EULA allows), or kern it external to the font with an auxiliary program. Otherwise, use a different font. For an interior designer to say "Oh, the letterforms are so pretty" or something like that, is just not professional.

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