Fontlab 5 interface peeves

billtroop's picture

I have lately been using Fontlab 5 on the PC for some time, and recently switched back to the latest publicly released Mac build. I have been very happy with it, although I save multiple versions every day or so, just in case. But in spite of the truly wonderful things about this program, there are some things about the metrics window that have irritated me so much that I must speak out in ill temper. Apologies if these issues have already been raised.

Why isn't the tab useful in the metrics window? Look how Fog does it. The tab is a useful key. It is there to be used. So USE IT!

Why do kerning and metrics have to be two completely different operations, with enormous amounts of time lost whilst switching between them? For example, you are in the metrics mode. You have adjusted sidebearings. Now you notice a kern that is required. You now have to switch to kern mode. Now focus is lost on the character you were working on. So you have to select it again. DUH. So you select it, adjust the kerning and now . . . return to metrics. But you have lost focus. You have to select the character again.

Look how Fog does it.

Sidebearing and kerning adjustments all take place fluidly at the same time, with simple, easily remembered keystrokes. Why is there this artificial, time-consuming dichotomy between the two operations in Flab?

Why don't cursor keys work in the intuitive, expected manner they do in fog? Why do they either do something unexpected, or nothing at all?

Cursor keys are there to be used!!!!!!

CURSOR KEYS ARE THERE TO BE USED!!!!!!

LOOK AT YOUR OWN PROGRAM, now you own it!

Final example:

Let us suppose you are in metrics mode, and you are directly editing the metrics values in the value boxes. Up/down cursor will let you move up and down between width, left sidebearing and right sidebearing. But what happens to cursor right/left when you want to move to the next character? NADA! What happens when you want to move one element up to the character name box, as you can in Fog, and then move focus to the next slot, or gracefully move on to the next character? NADA!!!!

What possible reason can there be for such behaviour in a version 5 program?

Finally (really), suppose you now want to get into the tempting little kerning box. You can't.

You now have to switch to kerning mode, at which point . . . you lose focus and have to select the character again. OK. You're in kerning mode now. And you _can_ move up to the width/sidebearing cells with cursor up/down. But you still can't move up to the character name box and change the character you have selected, either by typing it or by using the keystroke for previous/next character. Also, the cursor keys now only control kerning. You can no longer change width values via the cursor keys.

Why all this confusing kerfuffle?

What is the intellectual justification for it? Is there some great philosophy of interface design here that I am missing?

Is it too much to ask to get these SIMPLE things RIGHT? I am totally exasperated at the total pointlessness of it all. This is not good enough! Yet I can't return to Fog at this point . . . . at least not until the metrics window gets antialiasing. Yet . . . I believe I could do this kind of fitting much more quickly in Fog . . . .

and what became of the fitting enhancements I and several others have been asking for, for . . . a decade? There's a lot of programming hours in a decade . . . . . . . . . .

William Berkson's picture

>when you enter ‘@’ into sample string it is automatically replaced by “current glyph” - glyph in GW that is active

Nice. I missed this in the manual--or is it just not there?

yuri's picture

It is not in the manual, just checked that. We will fix that in the next update.

William Berkson's picture

>not in the manual

There are also a series of keyboard short cuts not in the manual that I have kept discovering. [ctrl + plus activates zoom, shift + control + alt activates measuring tool, ctrl + alt activates right sidebearing of selected glyph in metrics window, etc.]

Life will be better for us users of FontLab if this stuff is not only all in the manual, but also is explained as part of a *work process* as several have noted in this thread.

In other words, you take a task, like spacing and explain in the manual three ways to do it, step 1-5, and how each function is used at each step. I have a feeling that if this effort is made in consultation with you programmers, you will catch almost all of the omissions from the manual, as you have for this case.

And of course if it is not in the manual effectively it is not in the program, even if it actually is.

billtroop's picture

>This is certainly not the same as having this feature built into MW, but it may help.

No, it doesn't help. It's way too cumbersome to have to use the preview panel and the metrics window simultaneously open so that the preview panel can now do something that the metrics window should be doing. This isn't a serioius solution. At least not the way I have been able to figure it out from trying it out based on what you wrote.

Further questions about the metrics table. Why doesn't pressing an alphanumeric key bring you anywhere? It should at the least bring you to the next character beginning with that letter, then the next, etc. etc.

And why on earth doesn't page up/page down work in the metrics table? How on earth are you supposed to navigate through this table then? ? ?

It is all hopelessly inept and you should all be embarassed to present such things in version 5 software. Excuse such harsh words, but if there ever was a time to speak plainly, it is now.

I don't accept your other points, which I will take in turn:

>Bill, every designer has very different approaches to do the same things with the font. I am listening to many designers and I’ve spent quite some time learning how some of them work.

Either you're not listening hard enough or you're listening to the wrong people. The kind of behaviour I have described just within this message should not exist in any program, period. And I know perfectly well you're not listening either to Berlow or to me (not that I mean to put myself in the exalted position of Berlow).

>In ideal world it will be possible to adjust every tool and every UI element of the program to fit any possible type designer. In a reality we have to make a tool that will suit as many designers (professional and not) as possible. So we have to make compromises.

Yuri, this isn't about compromises. This is about good interface design and bad interface design. You have a table. The metrics table. You can navigate through it ONLY by pressing cursor up/down as far as I can tell. Or the mouse. Why don't al/num characters have input? Why doesn't Pgup/PgDn work as expected? That isn't about compromise or preference. That is just about decent interface design.

>Again, it give us no excuse to make errors and we always try to fix them.

In the category of bug fixes, we are all tremendously grateful to you as you know -- except Erik. I am not talking about errors. I am talking about design.

>But you are right, we really need to learn more. I will be in Frankfurt on Typotechnica in few weeks, then I will certainly come to Brighton. Maybe TypeCon too. If anyone is ready to share any FLS or Fog experience with me - I will be glad to run my camera.
Actually, it will be even better if anyone interested can just record some routine font-editing process (metrics editing or anything else) with good screen-capture software. It will let us analyse the workflow and isolate any UI problems that eat time.

This is a mountain must come to Mohamet excuse! However, if you want to set aside a day for me in Brighton, I'll set aside a day for you in Brighton. Just name the day. But while I admit I could help you out somewhat, it's not really me you need: it's Berlow, who has designed more professional quality glyphs than anyone else on the planet. Perhaps he expects you to come to him. Heaven knows, others have. Perhaps you mind that? Others, too, did, no doubt. But they made the pilgrimage, and they came away enriched. We all benefitted.

>However, it is also necessary to just learn FLS if you want to use it at full power.

Yuri, I don't think that's fair, you know I sometimes read the manual . . . . .

yuri's picture

> It is all hopelessly inept and you should all be embarassed to present such things in version 5 software. Excuse such harsh words, but if there ever was a time to speak plainly, it is now.

Well, metrics table (and many other MW improvements) was first introduced in FLS5 so for this block of features this is really a 1.0 release. For many features (like multi-line, table, "metrics tools") we actually took Font Studio as a sample, not Fog. For others (new metrics panel) we took Fog. Some features (live OT class-based kerning editing with exceptions and kerning/metrics templates) we had to invent new UI - there was nothing like that before. I don't think it is fair to blame us for UI misfeatures in new MW which is just really new. It is improving in any new update and will continue to be improved. I expect that new feedback that will come from TypeTool 3 (which has simplified version of FLS MW) will let us improve it even more.

Rob O. Font's picture

[watery dissolve]

The right hand is operating the arrow keys, or the bracket keys.

The left hand is operating the modifier keys, Shift, Option, Command and Control.

The hands never move, except to type a non-adjacent glyph (alphabetically), that you need displayed.

(In the last versions of fog3.5, when the glyph repertoire out-distanced the length of the keyboard and memory of the kerner, another keyboard command brought a window so you could type the desired glyph number.)

The arrows, unmodified, accomplish all movement of the cursor amongst the cells that represent either values or glyphs.

In glyph cells, cmmd - [ or ] go to next & previous glyph.

In the side bearing value cells, cmmd-arrow (left -, right +) change the width value by 1 unit (Cmmd Shift 10 unit change to the value.)

In the side bearing value cells, cmmd-option-shift arrow (L or R only), change the kerning value. (Cmmd option Shift arrow X10 change to kerning value.)

[watery resolve]

I'm pretty sure that's how it worked. Numbers were not typed, and there were not separate cells to cursor to to affect kerning vs. spacing. (If I didn't mention a key above, it wasn't used!)(I can't remember if or for what Control was used for, but it's far from the action anyway)

It's somewhat Ironic, it was so fast that I didn't need class kerning, remembering every value as if it was entered seconds ago ;)

The ideal, (90% of which exists!;)) would be to kern the first style manually and "like the wind", distill it purely numerically to classify and test the class kerning, and then, use and modify the class control kerning pairs as you design the next style of the family with kerning nearly complete.

We pretty much do this, I think most others do too, except for the "like the wind" part.

Also, I don't think anyone needs to increase their carbon footprint on account of this issue by running around kerning in public, but if that will help, I will gladly represent those who do kerning this way, have done it this way and would like to do so again, or don't do kerning this way but might be interested.

I will investigate recording a kerning vidoe. I thought about this a while ago, but a problem I see is to textually display the input of the keyboard (instead of video-o-fingers), to a recoding of the metrics window, and I'm not that kind of guy. Failing that, I will be making semi-decadic journeys to both Europe (TypeBerlin) and the West Coast (TypeCon) this year and if anyone approaches me armed with an old enough Mac, I will be armed with a new enough Victorinox data knife. :)

Cheers!

billtroop's picture

>Well, metrics table (and many other MW improvements) was first introduced in FLS5 so for this block of features this is really a 1.0 release.

Fair enough. But consider a brand-new, super-duper, four-dimensional relational database that doesn't . .
. . .

. . . .

let you tab from field to field.

Consider for that matter a webform, any webform in the world, that doesn't let you tab from field to field.

What would you do with it? You would close it. You would not give information to an organization that was so dodgy that they couldn't design a webform that let you tab from field to field.

Yet you expect users to put up with this in the software you write for them.

And while we're bashing beloved font programmers, Earth to Erik Blokland. Erik, have you fixed those errors in the code for the Robofab tutorials yet? Have you fixed that dodgy four-for-three code yet?

billtroop's picture

>Failing that, I will be making semi-decadic journeys to both Europe (TypeBerlin) and the West Coast (TypeCon) this year and if anyone approaches me armed with an old enough Mac, I will be armed with a new enough Victorinox data knife. :)

Well Yuri? Why wait? What's the matter with tomorrow? Offers like this don't come every day. And please let me not hear one more syllable about blogs, email, screen captures and videos (forsooth!) - - - - if David's videos are as good as his writing . . . . you see? You have to sit down with the guy. Here's your chance. Besides, Yuri - - - - you're not going to take it seriously unless it costs you something -- at least a plane ticket -- to get it. A couple of days. It might take awhile to establish how to COMMUNICATE together. David Berlow is not the greatest communicator in the world. But he is the one person in the world who can most help you to write better software.

yuri's picture

Living in US you have no idea what it takes to make a trip there from here. Let me take a first step and try to implement some things and check if they are good. I've spent months getting FontStudio metrics UI into FLS, now I will spend some more time getting Fog35 there.

billtroop's picture

I have to take another look at FontStudio. You already long since put in the most important FS feature (thanks to Bill!), namely cursor control of handles, which is one of the best things about working in Flab. I don't remember liking the metrics window particularly, and consider this: there are two known people mad about FontStudio, L de Groot and C Twombly. A lot of other people consider the Fog interface a lot more important. Which is the one worth spending your time on? We do need more zoom, in spite of well-established methods for tricking Flab into zooming more than it wants.

I don't live in the US. See you in Brighton?

Important thing in learning from Fog35 metrics is also learning from Fog 4/5 metrics without ruining it all . . . . but in any case, the metrics table is a feature unique to Flab, and I think it is potentially great. Even with all this complaining, I can't think of doing first pass fitting without it, especially now that I have customized the strings.

Question: at what point size can you rely on screen accuracy with Flab metrics window, assuming a normal text PS font and key screen resolutions such as 1024x768, 1600x1200, 1600x1920, etc. That is to say, at what point size will a one or two or three unit cursor movement be accurately reflected onscreen, with pixel shifting artefacts cancelled out? An interesting resolution/anti-aliasing calculation . . . . .

yuri's picture

OK, I improved navigation in the MW table. Tab and Shift-Tab scrolls cells horizontally and vertical arrows browse glyphs (without closing the editing field). I also added there Ctrl+Arrow increment/decrement of the value (without closing edit field) so panel and table behave the same.

What can I say? It works. It works much better than before. Thank you!

billtroop's picture

That's great. Keys in MTable should work same as in MPanel. Consider also that the in the panel, the cell identifying the key should also be active. One thing great is the way you can keyboard-select by half-spelling the character in MW. For example, d gets you d, da gets you dagger double, and dagger gets you dagger. Nice.

Now, let's get serious. About metrics. I'm starting fresh. I select sidebearings of 150, 150 for H. OK. Let me now press a button and have those values proliferate to I, left side of B, etc.

You can see where this is leading, and how much time it can save? Like, more time than any single font-building feature invented since 1989?

twardoch's picture

> I select sidebearings of 150, 150 for H. OK. Let me now
> press a button and have those values proliferate to I,
> left side of B, etc.

In the Classes panel, set up two metrics classes: one named ".H1" with the LSB scope activated, where H is the key glyph and I and B are dependent glyphs, and one named ".H2" with the RSB scope activated, where H is the key glyph and I is the dependent glyph. You can proliferate the values now using either the small button below the "H" glyph ("copy to...") or using the Metrics Assistance.

You can also go into the LSB field of "I" and type "=H".

A.

billtroop's picture

>You can also go into the LSB field of “I” and type “=H”.

In the current instance I am running, doing that will give you a value of 0, which is not the value of LSB. Obviously something is wrong -- maybe it's OK on Win?

Building classes thing sounds good -- would you recommend Mac or Win for this?

Can you do something like say RSB of n is 5% less than LSB of n?

yuri's picture

> Can you do something like say RSB of n is 5% less than LSB of n?

Yes, with classes (which can be auto-generated) and Metrics assistant.

malcolm's picture

Although we have FL5 we have never used it for serious production work. We still use FL4.6 on both Mac and PC.

It is just not financially justified in the amount of time and resources it takes to make the change to 5 - compared to the increased benefits of running 5 over 4.6.

just my 5p's worth.

twardoch's picture

>You can also go into the LSB field of “I” and type “=H”.

> In the current instance I am running, doing that will
> give you a value of 0, which is not the value of LSB.

It does work in the Metrics panel (which is the horizontal Fontographer-like thing) but not in the Metrics table (which is the vertical FontStudio-like thing).

As Yuri pointed out, the Metrics/Kerning table is a 1.0 release in FontLab Studio 5, i.e. the very first implementation of this kind of work.

Please keep in mind that font technology has been a "running fox" in the past years. Digital image editing has followed virtually the same principles for decades, so Photoshop has been a mature application for years. The novelty of digital photography RAW image "development" has brought about brand-new 1.0 applications such as Aperture and Photoshop Lightroom. At Fontlab Ltd., we have not developed a brand-new application just for OpenType font production, but instead, we integrated many of the new concepts into FontLab Studio. So to some extent, FontLab Studio is a "5.0" application but in some regards, it's "1.0".

In fact, I consider FontLab Studio 5.0 the most important upgrade to the FontLab product since the switch from 2.5 to 3.0. While we did not revamp the UI completely in FontLab Studio 5, we have improved practically every single aspect of the application. I do realize that some people still use FontLab 4.6, but I must admit that I'm quite surprised with that. Especially since we release 5.0.2 a year ago -- an updated that fixed many important problems and bugs that were still there in 5.0.0 and 5.0.1.

I'm currently working on some ideas for better communicating with users and on improving the way feature suggestions and problem reports can be submitted. I will announce some solutions soon.

Regards,
Adam Twardoch
Product and Marketing Manager
Fontlab Ltd.

billtroop's picture

>>You can also go into the LSB field of “I” and type “=H”.

> In the current instance I am running, doing that will
> give you a value of 0, which is not the value of LSB.

It does work in the Metrics panel (which is the horizontal Fontographer-like thing) but not in the Metrics table (which is the vertical FontStudio-like thing). <

Not on the Mac it doesn't. You get zero.

yuri's picture

> It does work in the Metrics panel (which is the horizontal Fontographer-like thing) but not in the Metrics table (which is the vertical FontStudio-like thing).

Another thing to fix.

billtroop's picture

Anyone else reading this will be terribly confused.

I forgot to write above my quote: it DOESN'T work (type in I for LSB) in the Mac version. Yuri, who is capable of reading thoughts amongst his other accomplishments (it's one of the great secret achievements of the Soviet science), realized what I meant, but others may not. I can't wait to try it out in Win -- but trust me, anyone who can't get 5.02 to be rock solid stable on the Mac has got something wrong with their system.

Yuri, here's another weird slight bug in the Metrics Table. If you are in Metrics mode, and switch to Kerning mode, and then switch back to Metrics mode, the sort order (Glyph) gets wrecked and can't be re-sorted. You have to close the entire metrics window and then re-open it. Observed so far only on Mac. All the more reason to be able to kern in the metrics mode panel . . . although I appreciate the logic of making the separation. Fog did too, because you could make kerning visible or invisible in the metrics window, though you could always see the values. Also irritating is that if you change from SB by guideline back and forth, you lose your place in the metrics table. Keeping focus in the metrics table is important, if it is going to be used at all, though there is of course the difficulty of balancing that against the metrics panel's needs.

dezcom's picture

"but trust me, anyone who can’t get 5.02 to be rock solid stable on the Mac has got something wrong with their system."

My what astounding confidence! Pretty amazing prediction coming from someone who has never seen my system. I would be curious what rigorous testing you did to come to this absolute conclusion?
I find it curious that the ONLY program that ever freezes on my system is FontLab 5.02.
The most common way the spinning beach ball from hell begins its endless path to the error message "FontLab is Not responding" is when I zoom in on a part of a glyph. It does not happen every time I do it but at least once a work session. I use the keyboard shortcut command and spacebar plus dragging a bounding box with the mouse around the area I wish to zoom to. This works just like the Adobe apps but they are much more stable. It goes to wongaland more often when zooming in the mask layer but it happened to me three times in a row in the glyph window just an hour ago.
ChrisL

billtroop's picture

Certainly that should never happen. It's too common an operation. Are you sure you're on the latest build of 5.02? What's your hardware setup and are you on OS 10.4.8? (I'm afraid to switch to 10.4.9.) Do you always run some other program at the same time? If all else fails, since it is so easy to have a separate partition or boot disk on Mac, why not try a completely fresh install of 10.4.8 with no additional programs? At the moment I'm using only a Ti-book 800 with only 512 MB RAM. I'm always simultaneously running at least Cog or iTunes, Unison, Safari, Font Explorer, Quark 7, and Fog OS X. If I try to run much more on this particular machine, it slows down. I would almost hazard a guess that there is a video driver problem. This might have been solved if you are on an earlier version of OS X. Why don't you contact me offline and let's see if we can't troubleshoot this.

k.l.'s picture

A.T. -- I do realize that some people still use FontLab 4.6, but I must admit that I’m quite surprised with that. Especially since we release 5.0.2 a year ago

Wasn't there a recent post somewhere mentioning Freehand 9 and XPress 4? I.e. two to three versions before the current one, not just a 0.4 difference. (How many years have passed since these have been published?) Also, I know people who are happy with CS1 and have no plans to update to CS3. I don't think these are exceptions, it's reality.

Karsten

david h's picture

> ...the ONLY program that ever freezes on my system is FontLab 5.02.

True and true. FL and Force Quit are really really really good friends. The problem is/was with OS X 10.4, 10.4.7, 10.4.8, 10.4.9.

billtroop's picture

It's not possible to help with HW/SW problems if you don't give any HW/SW details. Checking for latest external peripheral drivers is important, too. For example, are you using a Wacom tablet and have you got the latest driver installed? (My rock solid FL 5.02 system works fine with 6.0.0-3.) Here's a small user group and some are having no problems at all and some hare having a lot. If we could identify a common thread amongst those who are having problems (like maybe it's the same video card or driver), then we could get somewhere. In a reasonably standard system, there are only so many things that can go wrong. The video system is one of them. Pointing devices and any other kind of peripheral need to be looked at too. Fontlab is too small a company for it to test on every likely Mac configuration, but I am certain this problem can be solved. If I didn't have pretty extensive personal experience with 5.02 and its stability, and know others who have had the same experience, I wouldn't be so sure that the problem must be relatively easily isolatable. As a first step I would go into System Profiler (from the Apple Menu/About This Mac/More Info/Save as/, save the info, and email it to Adam. If you were feeling really sadistic you could cc me, as I would be interested to have a look.

billtroop's picture

Here's another interface suggestion for the metrics window.

You open up the metrics window with a key combo. THE FIRST THING you want to do is to start typing a string!!!!

So you start typing. And nothing happens. Nothing at all. Here's a great example of a completely wasted opportunity. Focus should automatically go to the content bar or whatever it's called in the MW -- so that if you want to do something -- like type -- something actually happens. This is a perfect example of good interface design. You use a key to open something; You press some more keys and something else happens. It's simple, easy to grasp . . . . . that's the way it's all supposed to be . . . . . . . .

dezcom's picture

I am running the most current build of OS-X (10.4.9). My system is a 2 and a half year old G-5 Mac Dual processor desktop with 4 gigs of RAM. I have the standard mouse and keyboard--no Wacom or any other such devices. I never run any other program while working in FontLab. Occasionally, I have a small text editor open when using FontLab when I am writing Opentype features since the built-in text window in the FL5 opentype panel is run by voodoo. (I began using a Mac under system 2 before multitasking and got in the habit of quitting a program before opening a new one.)

ChrisL

billtroop's picture

There really shouldn't be a problem on a new system like that. Have you tried installing a new partition, absolutely clean install, with no additional programs other than Fontlab? If your stability problems then went away, you would know there was some kind of conflict with some other installed software. If they didn't go away, you would I think be safe in deducing there was a hardware problem. I _have_ had problems in the past. There is something one can do on relatively simple system that conflicts with Fontlab. Whatever it is, I'm not doing it now. I don't even have Acrobat installed on this system. I'm really curious about this.

billtroop's picture

There really shouldn't be a problem on a new system like that. Have you tried installing a new partition, absolutely clean install, with no additional programs other than Fontlab? If your stability problems then went away, you would know there was some kind of conflict with some other installed software. If they didn't go away, you would I think be safe in deducing there was a hardware problem. I _have_ had problems in the past. There is something one can do on relatively simple system that conflicts with Fontlab. Whatever it is, I'm not doing it now. I don't even have Acrobat installed on this system. I'm really curious about this.

Another interface suggestion: MULTIPLE BACKGROUND/MASK LAYERS. Like 1 through 9. This could be tremendously useful -- I would love to have it right now. And of course, undo/redo that is layer-specific. And being able to perform transformations whether the mask content is bezier or pixel flavoured.

Nick Shinn's picture

I use the keyboard shortcut command and spacebar plus dragging a bounding box with the mouse around the area I wish to zoom to.

I never have that problem.
However, I don't use keyboard shortcuts with the zoom tool.
I'm running FL5 on an Intel Mac.

The only time FL5 has frozen on me is when I dragged a zoom marquee box around a referenced path, so I always just click to select those.

Bert Vanderveen's picture

@ChrisL:

In case you had your Mac update itself (eg automatically), or you used the incremental Updater that's on Apple's site — download the Combo Updater (MacOSXUpdCombo10.4.9PPC.dmg) from Apple's site and run that. The Combo updater is more reliable.

William Berkson's picture

I am finding the @ symbol in the preview window extremely convenient (=time saving). It works--substituting the selected character--not only when you select a glyph in the metrics window, but also in the glyph window. That means with the @ symbol in a control string, the character you are working on drawing or re-drawing automatically jumps into the control string in the preview window. That is very convenient also. Please document in the Manual!

While I am at it, here is a bug: with a character selected in the metrics window, on a PC if I move the left side bearing with the arrow keys + ctrl, then I can switch to the right sidebearing and continuing working with the arrow keys + ctrl & alt. But if I work on the right sidebearing first, then the left sidebearing is frozen, and to activate it I have to click on the character again.

dezcom's picture

"...FL5 has frozen on me is when I dragged a zoom marquee box around a referenced path,"

Perhaps the 2 problems are related since they both involve the marquee box?

ChrisL

dezcom's picture

Thanks Bert! I will give it a try.

ChrisL

twardoch's picture

> Wasn’t there a recent post somewhere mentioning Freehand 9
> and XPress 4? (...) I know people who are happy with CS1
> and have no plans to update to CS3. I don’t think these
> are exceptions, it’s reality.

That's true. But I also know that financial reasons are one of significant factors in such case. Upgrading the Creative Suite or QuarkXPress -- especially if you also own some plugins or extensions -- usually means spending many hundreds or several thousands of dollars. Going from FontLab 4.6 to Studio 5 is US$99, which I think is an excellent price for the value of what you get.

However, since I use FontLab Studio 5 very very often, and I have considerably contributed to the new version, I obviously like the outcome. Perhaps the objective advantage of 5 vs. 4.6 is not that huge, though I still think it's significant and definitely worth the upgrade price.

Simply speaking, many of the problems that 4.6 users have simply go away in 5.

A.

dezcom's picture

FL5 is way better than 4.6 and worth the $99. Let's hope there continues to be improvement in the near future.

ChrisL

billtroop's picture

For some reason, the thread on Carol Twombly now contains some discussion which should have been included here. The major point I want to make is that the Flab implementation of cursor controllable handles a la Studio is half-hearted. The glory of studio is that you can tab from control point to node to control point to control point on NEXT node, to NEXT node, to second control on point on NEXT node, and so on. You can keep on going, so long as the points are selected. This is one of the greatest bits of aesthetic fine tuning a computer program has ever offered. Flab should do it this way. Any reason why not, Yuri?

yuri's picture

Combination of PgUp-PgDn and Tab is not enough for node-handle navigation?

dezcom's picture

"Combination of PgUp-PgDn and Tab is not enough for node-handle navigation"

I didn't know about that one! Someone really needs to write a book called "Really Cool Shît You Didn't Know About FontLab"

ChrisL

William Berkson's picture

>Someone really needs to write a book

Yeah, it's known as the manual, which is the most serious weakness of the FontLab program. And yes, the manual is an integral part of the program.

It's weaknesses include:

1. Missing documentation, such as the fact that if you shift, then click and hold on a curve it will control move the handles, but not the nodes--mentioned in another thread--and other things mentioned above and elsewhere.

2. Things documented, inventory style, but *not* put into the context of a work process. This includes the 'PgUp - PgDn and Tab' controls just mentioned by Yuri. It is in the manual, but not in an accessible way--hence neither Chris nor I nor I would guess most others know about it. --I did know about the page up page down, but not the tab control.

billtroop's picture

Sure it's good enough. But when is good enough, good enough? It's three keys to do what FontStudio does with one.

Let's look at it more closely. Let's look at the hand movements.

With Studio, everything is accomplished with the tab key in the left hand and the cursor arrows in the right hand. No need to move. No need to think about what you're doing. Your eye/brain is in complete control. It is a seamless, thrilling, creative experience.

Now let's look at FontLab with the extra keys.

You may easily be working on a keyboard where PgUp/PgDn is physically distant from the arrow keys. You may be on a Mac laptop where you have to press FN to get PgUp/PgDn. You may be on a Dell where the arrow keys are at the bottom of the keyboard and the Pg keys are at the top.

The two extra (and quite unnecessary) keys you are asking for create a lot of extra hunting and pecking, even for touch typists.

So no, it isn't good enough. The goal should always be that you are looking for ways to make things the MOST simple, the LEAST intrusive.

Why use three keys when you can use one?

Why create extra movements (from arrow keys to Page/Up/Dn keys) when you don't have to?

What makes the Studio experience great is that you can contemplate the glyph and perfect it and NOTHING gets in your creative way.

That said, it is a good thing in FontLab to have keys that navigate from point to point. I'm not convinced those should necessarily be Pg/Up/Dn because it might also be nice to have those for moving the glyph or metrics window up and down. Maybe Pg/Up/Dn really should be allowed to do just that.

Nevertheless, here is the compromise I would propose, combining the best parts of FontLab and FontStudio:

Leave Pg/Up/Dn as point navigation tools. Simply change (perhaps by a live option -- not a preference) the way Tab works. Instead of Tab confining you to one point (if you want to go back, you have Shift-Tab anyway), let Tab get you from handle, to node, to handle, to next node, like Studio does.

Now you have the best of both worlds, and you have improved upon the Studio experience, because Studio will only let you dance from node to node if they are all selected.

DOES FLAB HAVE A SLOWDOWN KEY?

In Fog, there's a key, I forget which, perhaps control, perhaps option, whatever, that slows down movement in metrics and glyph windows, allowing you to have much finer cursor control. With Flab, I am always running out of precision. I want to drag a handle in the metrics window by five units, but the minimum change is ten -- for example. Is there a key that I can press that will stretch this all out as I can in Fog?

In addition to multiple background layers, have you thought about different right and left points for the measuring line, not to mention right and left anchor points in glyphs for the measuring line? Not to mention measuring lines that are unique on a glyph by glyph basis, rather than being global?

yuri's picture

Tab key and PgUp-PgDn are separated because node and handles are different things. It is much easier to adjust handles with single Tab key than to break your fingers with Shift-Tab. But you are right, there could be an option which extends Tab over all available handles and nodes.

There is no "slowdown key" in FLS. There is "live zoom" which I think is much more useful. While you are dragging node (or anything else) you can very quickly zoom in and zoom out with Z and X keys. You don't have to release mouse button.

We had "slow key" in FL 2.5 but I always had a problem with that feature (same in Fog): it is not really easy to move mouse in slow mode to position the point as you want it. Live zoom works much better for me. When mouse is not pressed - Alt-wheel works as zoom tool.

However, slow key is good in metrics window, I will try to find a way to integrate it.

Rob O. Font's picture

"You don’t have to release mouse button."
...is there a keystroke for locking and unlocking the glyph window so the other shortcuts become possible without going to the lock?

"PgUp - PgDn and Tab’ controls just mentioned by Yuri"
Lefties rule! but really who's this for? if you're in the glyph window, on the little buggers outline, who needs to tab through the points and for what? fog's point info panel let one change all sort of things about a point from a dialog box. So tabbing through the points and changing things was useful in some old way that was fully kbd-based but I've forgottten. Does FL have such a dialog box for points?

"FontLab 4.6 to Studio 5 is US$99"
Are there any first-class ugrades available for this flight? I'd go as high as $299 for my own private hybrid FLOG Classic! ;)

twardoch's picture

> Does FL have such a dialog box for points?

Edit / Properties.

A.

billtroop's picture

Adam, I must say I find that Flab property box rather confusing compared to Fog's, which is pretty straightforward. What advice would you give someone trying to bridge the gap? David, FontStudio is obviously too primitive to have appealed much to you even in its infancy, but I do think the tab-dance through handles/points is a really elegant modus operandi. I can see why designers as disparate as Twombley and de Groot like it so much. I am more and more frustrated by the separation of kerning and metrics in Flab. I'm doing metrics. I see a problem, I want to do a kern. Now I have to switch to kerning mode, an annoying hunt and peck with mouse move. Now I have to switch back to metrics. But whoa, the switch, in the Mac version, means that the metrics table is in no sort of order, and can't be re-ordered -- and there are now all kinds of problems with the arrow/opt shortcuts. The only cure is to close the current metrics/kerning window and open a new one. Lots of time lost there, and much fraying of temper. Although I can see some philosophical justification for separating the two operations, there now appears to me no practical benefit; the separation only seems to make things worse. Even if the bug with the re-sorted metrics table were fixed, it would still be tedious to keep on switching back and forth. The operations in reality are not separable. David, what's your position on this?

billtroop's picture

OK, here's my first crash in 5.02 within Mac within recent memory. Open four-master font, open metrics window, switch to kerning mode. Open the metrics table -- called the kerning table? Delete some pairs that only have 0 values by highlighting and pressing delete key. Sure to crash.

Yuri, another problem with metrics/kerning tables is that you can't select a group of values to delete. Obviously, the table should be fully editable.

So: is there ANY method in the metrics view to view kerning?

Rob O. Font's picture

"> Does FL have such a dialog box for points?

>Edit / Properties.

Ahh...but a. it doesn't seem to know what properties are important (to a type designer), or b. whatever in the world to do with TT point properties?

Fog once again provides a perfect model that should be looked at.
Fog allows: adjustment of coordinates, flipping point to on-off curve, start-point definition, and point type definition. Catch up! (or tell me what I'm missing in this undocumented little buttons that seem to do nothing.

From the "Did you know?" departamenté: FL allows a glyph to be 1/2 TT and half T1 at the same time! (this makes it 1/2 as hard to convert to one format or aother, I s'pose ;)

crossgrove's picture

"I’m doing metrics. I see a problem, I want to do a kern."

I don't work this way, usually, so I don't share your passion for a single kern/metrics view. I actually like having the operations separated so I don't accidentally destroy a width instead of add a kerning pair. I recall that with FOG, I had to be careful to avoid that pitfall.

While it doesn't solve the overall problem, there is another way you could get around this: It's possible to have 2 metrics/kerning windows open at once. Leave them both open. One can be in kerning mode and the other can be in metrics mode. Switch back and forth between windows and nothing is lost.

dezcom's picture

"Switch back and forth between windows and nothing is lost."

I like that idea, Carl.

ChrisL

billtroop's picture

I don't! Nothing is lost except my sanity and my focus. There's a little checkbox in the Fog metrics window. Show kerning. Don't show it. Way to go. I should not be having to look at two windows. Besides, there is never enough screen real estate anyway. I want a metrics window to be as big as possible -- preferably filling one of the at least two monitors I always use. I don't want that screen real estate being completely wasted by an unnecessary window. Not only do I have to switch back and forth visually, but there is the matter of all the additional mouse/pointer movements that entails. Good software is about minimizing effort. How do I minimize how long it takes to get from a to b. Period. Nevertheless, Carl, I am grateful for the suggestion. I was too annoyed for it to occur to me. It's not ideal but it is a workaround.

I also take your point about inadvertently making a kern instead of changing a width in Fog, but since you must be in the kern cell to do that, it doesn't seem to me to be that easy. It is always possible to do unintended things in a metrics window. I do it all the time in Flab, and rather more so than I used to in Fog, it seems to me, because of the unintuitive way it works. For example, you have left sidebearing and you have right sidebearing. You have, to the left of the spacebar on a Mac keyboard, the command key, and to the left of that, the option key. So you've got this little pair of keys, in a row, that control your right and left sidebearings. Common sense, everything that man has learned since the invention of the wheel, dictates that the leftmost of these keys, option, will control left sidebearing, and that the rightmost of these keys, command, will control right sidebearing.

Where does FontLab get off reversing this natural order?

I think I'll go a little further. Though I really do like the Flab paradigm of letting you change sidebearings without being in the cell (the way Fog demands) it is just because of that I think it is easier to make an inadvertent mistake in Flab, especially because the natural order of left and right is inexplicably reversed.

Needless to say, this indignant argument only applies if you are using a Powerbook keyboard that doesn't mirror the option and command keys each side of the keyboard. On a full keyboard, you could use the right hand side of the keyboard. But that still isn't intuitive. You should be using the left hand to control whether right or left sidebearing, and the right hand, on the arrow keys, to control the amount. Let cmd-opt together control kerning (since we want to reserve the control key for slow-down). David has pointed out how adept Fog is at utilizing your right and left hands and getting them to work together.

All of this said, it seems to me I must have forgotten some Fog shortcut for adjusting metrics values -- what have I missed?

David, I'm very glad to hear your comment on the Flab properties box. I was too embarrassed (if you can believe that) to ask the same question. Fog properties are a great model. Being able to switch point type is great/set startpoint, etc. -- everything is great about it.

Would someone from Fontlab care to explain how the point property box works and how it relates to Fog's?

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