To LIG or not to LIG?

loavesandfishes's picture

To lig or not to lig? That is the question.

When should I use ligatures and when should I not?

I know that for formal publications it is generally accepted that you should use ligatures …

But for ads, flyers, biz cards??????

Any thoughts??

Si_Daniels's picture

> ads, flyers, biz cards??????

Yes, but if it's too much work use InDesign and better fonts (openType) where the ligs should get placed automatically for you.

dave bailey's picture

I'm going to agree with sii here, the type foundry/designer didn't put the ligs in the font for fun. Use them! :-D

Alessandro Segalini's picture

You can have a ligature of six question marks.

timd's picture

What ligatures are you talking about? Generally I would use fi, fl, ffi and ffl, if available, but for me many other ligatures (st, ct for example) are far better kept as options, certainly they have a place in some setting.


Alessandro :)

luc's picture

Regarding Sii's comment that OpenType fonts are "better"
because ligatures are placed automatically.

Fonts are inert objects. Ligatures are placed by applications
that use fonts. The only responsibility of a font is to
store enough information so that applications can work
with ligatures. Type 1 and truetype fonts can both store
ligatures. In the AFM files of type 1 fonts, one can store
additional information that may help applications with
automatic ligature subsitution and placement of ligatures
on the page. The famous GPOS and GSUB tables in OpenType
can be introduced in truetype fonts as well--there is nothing
that ties these tables umbilically to OpenType.

So, how exactly are OpenType fonts better?

dan_reynolds's picture

The famous GPOS and GSUB tables in OpenType
can be introduced in truetype fonts as well—there is nothing
that ties these tables umbilically to OpenType.

Doesn't that just make the TrueType font a TrueType-flavored OpenType font?

Si_Daniels's picture

> InDesign and better fonts

Luc, nice to see you here again. You may have missed my point, I said InDesign and OpenType fonts provide an automatic solution. By better fonts I meant OpenType fonts with more ligatures (mapped using GSUB) than your typical Type 1 font. As opposed to same OpenType fonts with the same number of ligs as your typical Type 1 font.

Theoretically someone could write a page layout app that would do a good job with sets of Type 1 or regular TrueType fonts (perhaps referencing an online database mapping the expert sets in some kind of virtual GSUB). But is seems like an awful lot of work when OpenType provides all the information an app needs.

Cheers, Si

luc's picture

Hi Dan-- Wie gehts?

You are right that GPOS and GSUB are typical tables in
TrueType flavored OpenType fonts. But they can be found
in many blue-blooded TrueType fonts as well. These are
mostly for Arabic scripts where positioning and replacement
are crucial.

Thanks to google's capability of opening binary files such
as TrueType files, you can find examples of such fonts by
a simple search such as
filetype:ttf GSUB

I do not wish to hijack this thread though.

All the best and see you soon,


Si_Daniels's picture

Luc is correct here - GSUB and GPOS predate OpenType by several years, and were used in shipping Arabic fonts before OpenType.

See the "TrueType Open" Spec posted here...

OpenType was positioned as "TrueType Open version 2".

dan_reynolds's picture

Mir geht's ganz gut, danke!

typequake's picture

Oh, hello?!

Many typefaces do not require ligatures. Some of the not-so-obscure ones include Trump, Sabon, and perhaps you've heard of it - Palatino.
Just don't kern the roman.

pattyfab's picture

Use the ligatures where they are available. fi fl ff ffi ffl especially, I'm with Tim on the "optional" ligatures, it depends on how you want your type to look.

Giampa's picture

As always I urge ligatures to be used. However tracking can cause problems. As always I urge that tracking be turned off. At least always until Adobe adopts my self tracking ligature invention.

As always!


loavesandfishes's picture

From InDesign CS2 Help System:


InDesign can automatically insert ligatures, which are typographic replacement characters for certain letter pairs, such as “fi” and “fl,” when they are available in a given font. The characters that InDesign uses when the Ligature option is selected appear and print as ligatures, but are fully editable, and do not cause the spell checker to flag a word erroneously.

    Discretionary Ligatures

Discretionary Ligatures Font designers may include optional ligatures [i.e. – “ct”, “st”, “sp”] that should not be turned on in all circumstances. Selecting this option allows these additional optional ligatures to be used, if they are present.

© 2005® Adobe® Systems® Incorporated®. All® rights® reserved®.

loavesandfishes's picture

"Mir geht’s ganz gut, danke!"

I believe "dan_reynolds" was speaking in a foreign language.

dan_reynolds's picture

Oh, that's just because Luc asked me at the end of his post how I was doing (in German). Neither of us have German as our native language. I just said that I was fine. Sorry for the whole inside-joke thing, HK.

quadibloc's picture

@loaves and fishes:
I believe "dan_reynolds" was speaking in a foreign language.

You are correct. The language is known as "German", and is spoken in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. Prior to World War I, it was also used in the Alsatian region of France.

Khaled Hosny's picture

6 years later is a bit too late for a sarcastic reply, I think.

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