Towards an Opentype User's Guide, What to add?

dezcom's picture

There is an interesting part of thread http://typophile.com/node/15724 people should see. (Look at the end where Mark posts his plans for his fonts and where Karsten has posted his little manual.)
I wonder if we all put our collective heads together, we could develop the primary needs for an Opentype guide/manual which type designers could post with their fonts. There are a great many Opentype bells and whistles which go unused just for lack of knowledge.
I am hoping this will end up as a document aimed at graphic designers and typographers who use type in more sophisticated ways than the typical word processor folks but not so geeky that people get lost or turned off by it.

The floor is open . . .

ChrisL

dezcom's picture

I should add that it is aimed at users of type, not designers of type.

ChrisL

dezcom's picture

Here are some starter questions a user might have if there were Q&A sections:
1. How do I access fractions in my OpenType font? Will it build non-standard fractions for me?
2. What is the best way to get to Alternate characters?
3. Are lining figures always the default?
4. There are some discretionary ligatures that I want but others that I don’t. Can I do this?
5. Explain the contextual alternate process?
6. ?

ChrisL

Si_Daniels's picture

The Adobe OpenType readme seems to cover most of this - are we re-inventing the wheel here?

Cheers, Si

John Hudson's picture

Yes, I think the Adobe documentation is pretty good for the typical Latin typography font.

Some fonts require pretty individualistic documentation. The user manual for the latest version of SBL Hebrew is 22 pages long.

k.l.'s picture

I'll never joke again.

The Adobe OT Guide should be regarded as the standard document for OT users (and I refer to it too). Moreover, OT fonts should stick to the basic features and their functionality. So users can develop a feeling of familiarity with OpenType in general. Using terminology consistently would help too, think of "Std" or "Pro", as would more standardized OT-feature interfaces.

My sole point in the other thread was Stylistic Set features which may differ in every font. Btw, it is an advantage that this is so.

As to the "starter question" however, you are right. I think that *if* a font differs from the (quasi)standard, this should be mentioned, so users know what they will get.
Like, are proportional osf & currency symbols the default ones? Prebuilt fractions only or arbitrary fractions? What does calt do? Even, what does the character set look like? Pro can mean quite different things from foundry to foundry - even if the term is applied correctly.
This is not an encouragement to divert from (quasi)standards, but to make known if this is the case.

dezcom's picture

"The Adobe OpenType readme seems to cover most of this"
The Adobe readme is good but not what I was talking about and not intended as a replacement. Also, users don't read it. You have to bundle it with fonts to have a prayer. Also, it is Adobe's. Would other foundries want to send you to Adobe's type site or bundle Adobe literature with their own fonts? I doubt it.
The premiss for my question is: Why do so few people seem to know about the features of the fonts that they purchase? What would help in that area? Would this not help add to the feeling of VALUE in typefaces that go the extra mile?
I am thinking about something that would be modified for every new typeface that would be BUNDLED with the typeface and explain its individual features. It would be Chinese menu style with assortments of mix and match text blocks that type designers and foundries could customize on a case by case basis.
Look at Karsten's "manual". It is a start.

ChrisL

dezcom's picture

"This is not an encouragement to divert from (quasi)standards, but to make known if this is the case."

Brilliant!

What he said.

I am just trying to "make it known".

ChrisL

dezcom's picture

I guess if I am going to mention Karsten's link, I should at least provide it:
http://www.kltf.de/downloads/KLTFTiptoeManual.pdf

ChrisL

dezcom's picture

I should also post a link to OpenType feature a lá Typotheique:
http://www.typotheque.com/static/opentype_features/

ChrisL

Miss Tiffany's picture

Dez, why not a wiki entry with all this stuff? I think that would be useful (too).

dezcom's picture

Tiff,
I was kinda hoping to drum up some interest first. Seems like no takers so far :-< Might have been smarter to post this in General Comments first.

Also, I am Wiki Shy :-o

ChrisL

Miss Tiffany's picture

You can always move it.

dezcom's picture

"You can always move it."
How do I do that?

ChrisL

dezcom's picture

Thanks Tiff!

ChrisL

k.l.'s picture

Some more links:

www.kltf.de/downloads/OpenTypeResources-kltf.pdf

(It will be updated from time to time,
though I try to keep it concise.)

dezcom's picture

Thanks Karsten!

ChrisL

Nick Shinn's picture

Here's my "dream tool". Think of it from the point of view of end-user usability, as interactive, not a static pdf.

At the moment, the best gizmo to check out the features of an OT font is the OpenType Preview panel in FontLab.

Down the left are the buttons for the features (although the names could be spelled out in full).
There are two large fields where you can enter text.
The top one ("source") shows the font plain, the bottom one ("result") shows it with the OT feature activated by selecting a button at left.

This gizmo could be "loaded" for a particular font, so that the default text string for each feature shows the glyphs (or some of them) where the feature is present.

It's awkward to put your new OT font through its paces in InDesign, because the OT menu is buried, and because some InD commands, such as small caps, don't tell you whether the feature is true OT or not, (At least, that's how it is on CS 1 -- I have just licensed some fonts to an outfit running Quark 3.5 on Mac OS 9.1, which suggests to me that a stand-alone OT previewer that comes with the font would be preferable to relying on graphics applications for demonstrating font features.)

I've suggested to several font distributors that this would be a good tool to have online. I wish I had the know-how and resources to implement something like this.

dezcom's picture

MyFonts has a section as well:

http://www.myfonts.com/info/opentype/

ChrisL

dezcom's picture

Unicode from the horses mouth:

http://www.unicode.org/glossary/index.html

ChrisL

dezcom's picture

"Here’s my “dream tool”. Think of it from the point of view of end-user usability, as interactive, not a static pdf"

Terrific Nick!

ChrisL

Mark Simonson's picture

House Industries' Ed Interlock test drive on their website implements (at least) the contextual substitution feature. I think the Letterror guys helped them implement it using Python on the server. Underware has a similar thing for their Bello test drive.

http://www.houseind.com/index.php?page=showfont&id=150&subpage=lettersetter

http://www.underware.nl/site2/index.php3?id1=bello&id2=testbello

dezcom's picture

Thanks Mark for hangin' out your Underware :-)

ChrisL

Nick Shinn's picture

Those are very nice. Especially Underware's.

dezcom's picture

Karsten's PDF has a very good list of sources.

ChrisL

k.l.'s picture

Hello Nick! Underware's tester seems to be close to
what you want. (I have not recognized it before.)

The idea is really good take alone for "educational"
purposes: the before/after or with/without offers
kind of first hand experience of what OT features
are.
Would be a nice addition to any font management
/ font purchase application.

Most of all, it shows what you'll *miss* if you use
the wrong software. ;-)

dezcom's picture

"Most of all, it shows what you’ll *miss* if you use
the wrong software. ;-)"

Hmmm, Seems to be a hint in there somewhere;->

ChrisL

Si_Daniels's picture

I passed Nick's dream tool spec over to Filip Fortes (http://fortes.com/daily) - I think it would be easy to create such a tool using Avalon - check out some of the XAML code posted on his blog.

Si

dezcom's picture

Very cool Si!
I think you and Nick are on to something with enough pizzzazz to actually get used!

ChrisL

crossgrove's picture

This sounds a little like the Multiple Master Tool that ATM came with; it showed as many axes as a font had, with sliders to select instances from what was actually available. That convention of letting the utility flex to fit the design's feature set would be cool.

Knowing that OT font features may vary from one design to another, maybe this tool could accomodate some starter text that the type designer specifies, which will show the features individually and in combination. If the design has a lot of swash, or ligatures, or specific goodies, that could be part of the starter text. I have a few features planned for an upcoming release which, when used together, multiply the options. I'd like to illustrate those combinable features from the start as well. How to display this elegantly? I agree the separate feature buttons are good, and the before/after split screen is a must. Maybe the tool's default is to start up with all the compatible features on, and the user can switch them off at their discretion.

I have to say, I think it would be so very nice if this tool was open-source or made freely available to all foundries; it will benefit smaller foundries the most. Could be a free download from everyone's website. Think iTunes here....

dezcom's picture

Carl,
It should be Open-source indeed. This would be a marketing tool anyone could use and would benefit the entire industry. At last, we could demonstrate the VALUE added in good type design.
I hope you will share your progress with us all here and that we all will do the same.

ChrisL

Mark Simonson's picture

A feature like that would fit perfectly into a font management utility like FontExplorer. They've already got the iTunes thing going for it. Of course, there's no reason why something like this couldn't be a standalone app (i.el, open-source or whatever).

Nick Shinn's picture

Thanks Si.
Yes, Karsten, Underware have got it up and running, with a few features.

dezcom's picture

"Underware have got it up and running, with a few features"

Yes, it now has an expanding pouch :-)

ChrisL

dberlow's picture

"At the moment, the best gizmo to check out the features of an OT font is the OpenType Preview panel in FontLab."

The normal user, fortunately, has the glyph palette of ID with a pull down menu to show all the those characters native to the various features. . . Remind me to remind them to roam.

At least that's the best we can do until the "other shoe drops"...(thought bubble: I wonder if MS apps.'l be using the same list of feature names as Adobe?, and when...)

k.l.'s picture

Though the glyph palette only shows the relevant glyphs, but not how the feature works.

"(thought bubble: I wonder if MS apps.’l be using the same list of feature names as Adobe?, and when…)"

This is one point.
Another is if applying same features will deliver the same results. ;-)

dezcom's picture

Adobe and Microsoft worked on the standard together. Adobe seems to have done the heavy lifting in the implementation arena. One would hope that the nature of their collaborative venture would induce Microsoft to play ball by the same rules. That is not to say that Microsoft has never interpreted standards their own way before but in this case, I can't see why they wouldn't stay with Adobe on this since the work is already done.

ChrisL

paul d hunt's picture

Adobe seems to have done the heavy lifting in the implementation arena.

Well, i'm not sure that's so fair to say. I don't know about using foreign languaes in Adobe apps much, but if you're using devanagri in word, it's amazing to watch all the automatic ligatures pop into place. it seems to me that adobe has implemented feature support for typographic features fairly quickly. i think microsoft has been for several years developing language support for its apps. i assume that the next release of windows and office products will have greater implementation of OT features both language and typographic, at least i hope they do...

dezcom's picture

Paul,
I was refering to the design/publishing part--the high-end user. This of course is Adobe's main customer base. I didn't mean that Microsoft was sitting on their hands. I aplaud their language support e4fforts as well.

ChrisL

paul d hunt's picture

i luv the fonetik spelling uv e4ffort. ;^P

dezcom's picture

I forgot to leave off the "ff" though:-)

ChrisL

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