New TypeFace Digitalization Application

hernan_la's picture

hi guys!

i'm a graphic designer and typography lover.
With a couple of partners (systems and mathematics ingeneers), we gonna develop a new application for digitalization of typefaces.
We really wish to know, what you think about the applications like FL and FOG. And which features you add or remove.
Thanks a lot!.
Sorry by my BAD english.

keep on touch
best regards.

hrant's picture

I think it might be more productive to write Python scripts for FontLab, increasing its functionality with specific typographic tasks.


Diner's picture

Start with FOG and add a smooth alised look, the ability to zoom infinitely, generate open type, use python like robofog, have a very nice user interface - mac looking, and top it all off with yearly updates. You'd sell at least 2,000 of 'em.

Stuart :D

PS: Font Lab doesn't import vector outlines from Illustrator OR Freehand. Until that changes, Font Lab is not on my radar screen as a viable font development utility.

peterbruhn's picture

I second Stuart.
Don't forget to add a library for different point parts, like Fontstudio.

hrant's picture

Stuart, you've just listed a bunch of things that FontLab 4.5 does... BTW, most people who end up with FontLab also have Fontgrapher; in fact they often rely on FOG for the initial "set up" of their fonts (including importing from an illustration app), subsequently moving the stuff to FontLab to get a better end result.


hrant's picture

Note that there's also DTL FontMaster... So I think Hernan's technical capabilities would be wasted on a *fourth* font design app, and better used in extending an existing one.


Diner's picture

I think the problem I'm seeing recently is that there have been too many claims as to the all-in-one nature of developing fonts in Font Lab. For many of the reasons above, I have been reluctant to spent the time or money to learn if this is even somthing I really need or not.

While I'm pleased to see Font Lab continues to update its software and it gets better every time, the benefits of Font Lab haven't become so obvious to me that I could see it being a worthwhile purchase.

Hrant I also don't understand there are post-production benefits of Font Lab. I've heard the same from many peers but it hasn't been explained to me where exactly Font Lab picks up after Fontographer leaves off . . .

Stuart :D

hrant's picture

FontLab allows you to write scripts using the Python language - somewhat like Action scripts in PhotoShop (automating a sequence of actions), but you also get direct access to all the point data, so you can do almost anything. It requires "programming skills", but it's really very lightweight stuff, with great possibilities nonetheless.


hrant's picture

OK, a quick example:
Last Thursday at ATypI-Rome, Adam Twardoch demoed a script he wrote which takes a font and decomposes any "precomposed" accented glyphs back into the base+accent characters. He used a simple "shape-guessing" algorithm, and the whole thing was about 2-3 pages of code.


hernan_la's picture

We already thought in an sub-application inside the application, which it'll can say to the user in percentage relation between form and counterform. we thought it's really important, because with this tool, the designers could know how much is the gray that a type will generate.

what do you think about this tool?

PS: we gonna compile this application for MAC, PC and LINUX.

PS: excuses by my english again.

hrant's picture

> the designers could know how much is the gray that a type will generate

This is a great idea. Both as a tool for research (like finding out the "Average Value" and "Standard Deviation" of the typical text face) as well as a development tool (like seeing if all your glyphs fall within some norm range). So is this going to be a stand-alone utility that runs like on a PS font, or a FontLab script, or both?


hernan_la's picture

i said subapplication. maybe i made a mistake. it will be a tool of the new application.
and the idea is that this tool will works with glyphs separately or with kerning pairs too..

you know what i mean?


eljavo's picture

I have used most of the Font creation applications and Fontlab is good, but most type designers use Mac platform, and Fontlab haven't upgraded their app for mac platform. I tested 4.5 for PC and works great, but generally all the people I know wouldn't like to switch to windows just to use it, everybody sticks with fontographer for that. A new application (OS X Compatible) with all those goods would be very much appreciated and applauded, and I suggest:
- Illustrator and Freehand compatibility (cut and paste)
- Easier Bezier tools
- Kerning pair previews
- Truetype, postscript, opentype compatibility
- Cross platform


hrant's picture

> most type designers use Mac platform

There will be an "indentical twin" version of FL4.5 for MacOS soon.


eljavo's picture

Hrant, not trying to be rude, but FontLab has left mac alone for a long time and just developed the windows platform, just like deneba's Canvas. I would love to see that and also a much accesible pricing, now days some designers have to put money together to buy one license, instead of getting their own license as it should be. At least in my country.

hrant's picture

> FontLab has left mac alone for a long
> time and just developed the windows platform

You call that rude?! What a disgrace. ;-)

Seriously: From what I've seen they totally understand that they need to support the Mac side. Maybe they don't have enough Mac programmers on staff? Honestly, it looks like the equivalent Mac version is in the pipes.

> also a much accesible pricing

I would advise that you talk to them directly and privately about that.


eljavo's picture

Well, just don't want to get the wrong impression, some people take things as a personal attack.
I agree with you and understand that most software companies get more revenue from Win platform, but the majority of graphic designers are on Mac platform, and they won't change (I know it as a fact: I teach design on several universities in Central and south america, know all designers and even some calligraphers use only macs) So maybe they are barking on the wrong tree.
I'll write them about al these concerns.

hernan_la's picture

Hi Javier,
i'm agree with you about the preferred platforms of designers. i'm one of them.
anyway, we gonna develop the three platforms at the same time (MacOS, Windows and Linux)

in which paryt of Central and South America do you teach?. I'm from Argentina.

best regards. hernAn

t1mmy's picture

Just to throw more fuel on the fire, which is more preferred on a PC, fontographer or fontlab? I just used fontlab on a friend's PC and it is 10x slicker, in my opinion, than the PC version of fontographer. I've really been able to fix my fonts up more accurately and now can export open type faces.

I agree the inital layout in fontographer is nice, but I'm really thinking of dumping fontographer all together.

p.s.-I have a PC because at the time I started Macs were just more incovient, now I wish I had a Mac.

hrant's picture

FontLab 4.5 all the way, either platform.


fonthausen's picture

Dont forgat the spacing-and-kerning(metrics-)- window logic of f.grapher. I like the way one can jump from one glyph metric to another by just using the arrow(keyboard).

Maybe an idea: give the designer the possibility of having a sketching/designing paper. like as if you would work in AI or Freehand. So ones gets more glyphs on one page/window. you could even try to combine that with a function which alters automatically the right glyph in the font ---get it? --- example: you have a worksheet/sketchsheet on which you have several versions of an 'a' and other glyphs. then you decide/assigns which version is to be used. and PLOP, the 'a' in the final(?) font is changed.



sevenfingers's picture

that's a good idea (sketchbook), in fact, it's a great idea. Infact, I would like to have an illustrator with typeface creation capabilities. yes indeed, that would be great.

hrant's picture

All software interfaces are still deeply retarded, after all these years.


hernan_la's picture

Jacques: that's a great idea. i already talk about this with the programmer equipment and we gonna work on it.


fonthausen's picture

HHP >>All software interfaces are still deeply retarded, after all these years.

Jacques : is this the way you look? It is a little bit the way you sound....


Stephen Coles's picture

No, no! That's me!

hrant's picture

That's definitely Stephen. I'm Stephen's dad.


core's picture

and here is the result from the swedish jury:

core's wish list
-i want to work with the font without having to generate the result. because i end up with twenty different font generations and i have to name them differently and change the font ID all the time so they don't collide with each other... that is: i want to drag-drop the font to the font application, work with it and simply hit "save", close it and i'm done. and the font should automatically update itself in ATM/suitcase. understand?
-i want a sketchpad layer with some simple drawing tools, 256 colors.
-i want the pathfinder functions from illustrator.
-i want the possibility to edit the curves and the metrics in the same window. like in the fontographer metrics-window, but also that i can access the bezier curves directly without opening a separate window for that character.
-i want an antialias-button (switch on or off).
-i want a two meter wide computerscreen on the wall with a touch control, so that i can design my stuff with my hand directly on the screen! and pull and yank the bezier handles with my very fingers!

that's it for now!

Joe Pemberton's picture

Martin... I'm forwarding your wishlist to Santa.

Jacques, Hrant looks like this:

Mark Simonson's picture

Martin wrote: i want the possibility to edit the curves and the metrics in the same window. like in the fontographer metrics-window, but also that i can access the bezier curves directly without opening a separate window for that character.

I suggested something similar a while back on the T-D list. I do most of my design work in Illustrator mainly so I can edit characters in context with other characters. Having to edit characters in isolation has always felt constraining.

Since then, I had another idea that might be even better: A plug-in which would allow you to develop a font directly in Illustrator. Even if it was just to get the basic design down (i.e., minus hinting, encoding, etc.) so you could export a font to be finished in FOG or FL or whatever.

I picture something similar to the symbol library, but with glyph names listed. Each glyph would be defined in the drawing window by drawing a glyph and a bounding box (to define the ascent, descent, and side bearings), selecting both and choosing "Create Glyph..." from a menu or by dragging them onto a glyph name in the palette.

Glyphs could be dragged out of the palette to the drawing area and placed next to each other to form words. Any defined glyph could be edited in place. If the side bearings (of the bounding box) are changed, the characters to the right would move themselves accordingly. It may also be possible to create kerning pairs, etc.

The palette would have an "Export Font..." command to export the font at any time for further work in another program (for hinting, special encoding, etc.).

I see this as mainly a tool for the design phase, not as a tool for producing finished fonts. All the well-honed tools of Illustrator would be at hand (rather than try to recreated them in FOG or FL or whatever).

Existing tools and plug-ins in Illustrator already perform similar specialized functions (the symbol library, the graphing tool, etc.) why not something for creating fonts?

soupermie's picture

im like really curious... how far are you with this app??

delgadovic's picture

a strong autotrace engine would be just great.

jhowes's picture

Whilst discussing prospects for a new type digitisation program, does anyone know if a program called Font Designer, written by B M Parkinson, was ever developed further? I have v. 1.1, issued in 1992 - it's still in some ways my favourite for certain types of work!

yar's picture

I only can say that that program is the reason why FontLab has its name :-) Original name of our font editor of that time was FontDesigner (first version was DOS-based) and after we realized that there is another font editor with the same name we decided to change name to FontLab.

There was an article in some magazine comparing two font designers (I think I still have a copy somewhere), but I never heared anything about that program.

Btw, can you explain that "certain types of work" which you still prefer to make in Font Designer?

jhowes's picture

Fond memories. I also had Yuri's Font Designer v.1...

Last time I used Font Designer in earnest was to digitise an 'Italian' type of 1821, a really delightful exercise in geometry in which the designer had reversed the thicks and things of a Fat Face design; I've also used it for another font in which rigorous geometry was important, a version of Edward Johnston's Underground type. Neither of these fonts have been commercially released, by the way.

Font Designer 1.1 has a beautifully intuitive way of constructing an outline, a way of storing serifs, stems etc in a library, and good options for drawing guidelines. It's also - and this I think is why it continues to appeal to me - got a totally understated interface. The screen is uncluttered, and there's very little getting between me and the character I'm working on. In that respect it's not unlike Aldus PageMaker 5. Technically I shouldn't imagine that FD 1.1 now has anything going for it that Fontlab doesn't have in spadefulls, but that hasn't stopped me dusting it down recently for a new project I'm working on. I'll probably use it as my drawing tool, generate a Type 1, and then pull that into Fontlab.

The program itself has a hardware dongle, but I do have a demo which I'd imagine could legally be sent to anyone who asks.

Incidentally, does anyone have unwanted copies (software + original manuals, preferably with packaging!) for these and similar programs? I'm Curator of the Type Museum, London, and recognise that this is an area we should start collecting seriously - the museum already has unrivalled collections of punches, matrixes and hot-metal equipment. Anyone willing to donate their obsolete software, please contact me off-list (

dylan's picture

Font Lab 4.6 has been released today. Anyone care to weigh in on the improvements? AND, if you were to buy an OSX compatible font creation app today, would this be it? Is there anything else available for OSX? Thanks, all!

What's new in this version:

Autogeneration of basic OpenType featurs for T1 fonts.

Level 2 and Level 3 EPS import/export - Makes it simple to exchange EPS files with the latest versions of Adobe Illustrator.

Improved blend algorithm - inserts fewer points; can blend composites and even hints.

MM-compatible Type1->TrueType conversion - speeds up creation of families of TrueType fonts.

TrueType hinting of Multiple Master fonts - with correct interpolation of instructions where possible.

Better user interface - smart panels in Macintosh version, expandable zoom panel in Windows version. Updated design of properties panel in both versions.

blokland's picture

Today the Dutch Type Library released version 2 of DTL FontMaster. The release includes free light versions of four of the modules. The light versions of Bezier- and IkarusMaster are fully functional and only have one restriction: not more than 256 glyphs can be stored per database. With the light version of DataMaster it is possible to generate PostScript Type 1 fonts for Mac OS (only with the Mac edition) and Windows. The light version of ContourMaster makes a complete testing of font databases possible, which results in a listing (automatically improving is not enabled). However, the improver functions of Bezier- and IkarusMaster can be used on character level to make the necessary corrections.

blokland's picture


Thanks for the listing of possible improvements of DTL FontMaster. Although FM already has a lot of functionality which will be probably overlooked by many users, the FontMaster Team is constantly discussing the necessity of new functions. FM was originally produced for internal use at the Dutch Type Library and normally the enhancements of the modules is based on internal needs at DTL.

OpenType generation is fully supported by DTL FontMaster, of course. FM was the first program which automated the OTF feature generation. Also the database system was made for handling large glyph sets. With the light version we already made a lot of technology available for free and for many users the functionality will be more than sufficient. The OTF production is, of course, part of the full version.

To reply on some of your other suggestions:
The standard guidelines are automatically placed based on the information in the Font Header and you can place as many as you like in the V/H Guide Lines section. You can store as many glyphs in a slot as you wish. Coordinates can be edited using the Edit Coordinates window, which shows a full listing of all points. In the Windows version the right button can be used to paste and cut.

Internally at DTL there is no real demand for an OS X version, but -as I stated earlier- we will probably produce one, if only to underline our commitment to Mac users.

hrant's picture

> ability to optically correct chars for the generation of italic/oblique versions even for small caps

This would be one serious feature.


.00's picture


anonymous's picture

Martin et al,
What you are describing has been available in CorelDRAW since version 3, on either Mac or Windows. (Now at version 11). It doesn't handle the hinting or kerning pairs, but all the rest of Martin's wishlist, it does.

And then the font can be brought into FL for polishing.

Just a thought from a newbie here.

anonymous's picture

What should be practical while keeping the simplicity of the interface:

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