FontLab's <em>ScanFont</em>

Miss Tiffany's picture

Has anyone used FontLab's ScanFont? If yes, what are its strengths and weaknesses. --- I'm just wondering, aloud, if it might help jumpstart something on which I'd like to work.

matteson's picture

I fooled around with the demo version a little while ago. It beats the pants off of Adobe Streamline for tracing vectors from bitmaps. Which I suppose is an endorsement, since that seems to be all it's for.

Miss Tiffany's picture

Nathan, could you define or articulate "beat the pants off"?

As I understand it, this is a "plug-in", of sorts, for FontLab. So, for instance, if I were helping someone create a font from there handwriting...

matteson's picture

"Beats the pants off" means it works a lot better. Sorry, I lived in Tennessee for 12 years and my hillbilly creeps up once in a while.

I believe Scanfont is a small standalone app, more so than a plugin. But yeah, I used it to trace a friend's handwriting and it did a swell job. A hell of a lot easier than tracing it in Illustrator, and much prettier output than I could get from Streamline.

plainclothes's picture

Nathan said...
I believe Scanfont is a small standalone app, more so
than a plugin.

so can it be used in place of Streamline for non-font
generating purposes?

sometime in the near future I will be designing and
producing a book on the Indus Valley script. the
assignment will include transforming rubbings of a
number of the characters (over a hundred) into vector
art. I don't usually do this sort of production work, but
I'm doing a favor for an under-paid, under-appreciated
professor who is getting this published. I've really got
to manage my time on this one and I fear that darn
character table is going to kill me!

matteson's picture

As far as I know, the only requirement for ScanFont is that the raster image you process has to be a bitmapped TIFF. So, I think that it'd possible to run those rubbings through it and get some good quality vector images. You'd probably have to put each one in a glyph cell and export the glyph as an EPS.

matteson's picture

Here are 2 images I just made in ScanFont's demo. They're from a crappy black and white image of the Sukothai Stone. Not a rubbing unfortunately. Both are from 300 dpi TIFFs, but the first (the spotty one) was bitmapped with a diffusion dither, and the second was bitmapped with a 50% threshold. They were output from FontLab as EPS files (which could be done in ScanFont, but not in the demo version). Maybe this helps.

hrant's picture

> I will be designing and producing a book on the Indus Valley script.

Heavy. So has your prof deciphered it or something?

As for sicing SanFont on it, I'm sure if you prep the scan of the rubbing a bit it'll work just fine.


John Hudson's picture

If you prep the images carefully, e.g. by adjusting curve contrast before converting to b/w, you can get pretty good results from ScanFont. Also, you can edit the position of glyphs on the bitmap within ScanFont, so you can align to and specify a common baseline.

I don't use ScanFont very often, but when I do I usually select the tightest fit in the tracing options. This will result in hundreds of nodes, but will very closely wrap to the bitmap outline, including all bumps and nicks. I then put the resulting outline in the mask layer in FontLab and construct a clean outline on top of it.

I have S.R. Rao's book on decipherment of the Indus Valley script. Fascinating stuff, although I have only skimmed it.

plainclothes's picture

thanks for the info, all. it looks like ScanFont is just
what I need -- thank the almighty DTP god (no
blasphemy intended)! I really want to do the work
justice, though I know the author's standards are not
as demanding as mine. it's kind of a nice turning of the
tables, actually.

Hrant said...
Heavy. So has your prof deciphered it or something?

from what I understand, he has made discoveries that
could be an important next step in understanding the
astoundingly complex script. of those who have
reviewed it, everyone has been exhuberant about its
pending release. unfortunately, given the small
academic audience, the run will be quite limited -- just
enough to distribute among important international

bieler's picture

I think ScanFont is a plug in of sorts since you must have FontLab or TypeTool to buy it, according to the FontLab web site.

I'd actually recommend having both ScanFont and Streamline as they are intended for different purposes and you can use them together. Streamline is more intuitive. Be nice if Adobe would at the very least upgrade the import and export features as long as they are still bothering to market the software. Last time it was upgraded was about the last time Fontographer was upgraded.

twardoch's picture

ScanFont works as a plugin for FontLab on the Mac. On Windows, FontLab and ScanFont are independent applications. However, when ScanFont is installed on Windows, FontLab "automagically" gets a new feature of tracing the background.

delve's picture

I see the new version of ScanFont (4) is out for Mac now.
Any word on when the Win version will be available and will
it still be twice as much as the Mac version?

yar's picture

Please note that ScanFont 3 for Windows includes TypeTool, while Mac version is a plugin to TypeTool which you can buy separately or as a bundle. There is no price difference, but on Windows you cannot buy ScanFont separately from TypeTool - they are integrated.

Speaking about version 4 for Windows: we are working on it, but it is too early to comment when it will be available. When finished, it will be (a) plugin to FontLab and TypeTool for Windows and (b) go for the same price as Mac version.

delve's picture

Thanks for clarifying this Yuri. FWIW, I'm a licensed user
of FontLab 3.x on Mac & PC and considering getting a license
for ScanFont for both but have no need for TypeTool. So, for
now, ScanFont 4 for the Mac it will be.

Best wishes to your team with developing the Win version!

ideagent's picture

I just purchased ScanFont which I'm using in conjunction with FontLab 4.6 for Mac OS X. The major benefit that I see to using SF is it's ability to import eps files that contain all a fonts' glyphs, and separate them into cells that can be sized and exported into FL. This is an amazing time saver!

The problem I am having is defining which cells they are exported to. I am still trying to figure out the program, but this part so far has me stumped. I would like the letter "A" to end up in the cell defined "A" in FL. So far, all letters end up in random cells.

Yuri, any clue what I am doing wrong??

Mark Simonson's picture

Two things:

I don't know if there is an automatic way to do it, but once
the glyphs are in FontLab, you can simply drag them to the
cell you want. What, you want OCR, too? :-)

Gotta use a backslash to get that bold to work.
HTML tags work, too.

ideagent's picture

Ouch. See where typing fast and not proofing gets ya?

Yes, I've been doing the old drag and drop method. It would be nice though if you could define cell in SF. I'm not expecting the program to "read" my font. It would have a hell of time doing it!

John Hudson's picture

When you separate shapes in ScanFont, you can assign names to the shapes that correspond to glyph names in FontLab. You can assign names for individual shapes or to a sequence of shapes, which is particularly useful if you have a scan of a lot of letters. ScanFont should use these names to put the traced outlines in the appropriate glyph cells in FontLab.

yar's picture

If you have FontLab 4.6 you can drag cells from ScanFont 4 directly to FontLab's Font window.

It will not work with earlier versions of FontLab.

ideagent's picture

Yuri: thanks for the tip. It works great!

>You can assign names for individual shapes or to a sequence of shapes, which is particularly useful if you have a scan of a lot of letters.

John: How is this done? When I export the cells from SF, they don't end up where they should in FontLab.

yar's picture

Tom, SF-Mac version 4.0 and SF-Win version 3.x are very different. I think that John mean Win version which allows to name cells inside ScanFont. We decided to not include this feature to version 4 on the Mac because it will not add much value - it is so easier to just drag-drop a cell to the correct place in the font than to fill in all names.

OCR seems to be a good idea for ScanFont but we yet not made good algorithm that is really shape-independent.

ideagent's picture

Yuri, thanks again, that makes sense. I was dragging one cell at a time and it was getting a bit tedious. I didn't think to select multiple cells and drag them to a starting point in the font. Once I did this, it all made sense. (I'm a little slow to catch on!)

This feature does not seem to be covered very well in the documentation. At least I wasn't able to find it.

Ramiro Espinoza's picture

A good alternative to ScanFont is the FREE Trace Master included in the FontMaster Light version ( This TraceMaster is fully functional and works really fine. After generating the eps you can open them in FontLab.

Syndicate content Syndicate content