Where are my Ligatures...?

JonPhillips's picture

As an old-school-trained typo (ie: pencils and character counting, definitely a dead art) I sometimes struggle with applications like Flash, which seem never intended to natively support what I consider to be basic typographic considerations such as ligatures.

Using my Mac, I can easily type Option-Shift-5 for an 'fi' lig and Option-Shift-6 for an 'fl', but what do I do when I want more ligatures?

I'm specifically after an 'ffi' lig, which I don't know the key combination for. But how would I determine the key combos for this, or for an 'ffl' - especially when I have an expert set available?

Is there an app or utility which would look at the font and tell me what key combo to use? I seem to remember something that did this under Mac System 7, 8 and 9 (showing my age now, lol), but can't find anything similar for OSX.

I'm not sure if this final bit of info is relevant or not, but it's an Open Type font I'm using - a well-crafted one too, so I'm sure the ligatures will be present.

Please help me find them!

JonPhillips's picture

PS : It's really annoyed me that my single quote marks in the post above are all facing the same way. Apologies to anyone else similarly offended.

ralf h.'s picture

There are almost 100.000 characters defined in Unicode. Not everyone can have a keyboard shortcut by default. ffi and ffl certainly don't have one.
Which app do you use to type? In apps like InDesign ligatures can be replaced by default. In apps like word these ligatures may not be available at all.

Ralf

kentlew's picture

In old Postscript fonts, these ligatures, when provided, would have been accessible via the keyboard because they would have been put in place of other characters (rather than having a place of their own). So, for instance, typing a W would yield the ffi character in an old Adobe expert set. Other foundries had/have different standards. (For instance, H&FJ and Font Bureau would put ffi in the ∞ position in their regular fonts.)

In an Opentype font, however, ff-ligatures have their own unique place, but cannot be accessed via the keyboard. They must be deployed via OpenType layout features (specifically the {liga} feature). Or they may be manually inserted, if the application offers a method to do this (such as the glyph palette in Adobe applications).

If your application provides neither of these, then you may be out of luck.

-- K.

Nick Shinn's picture

single quote marks in the post above are all facing the same way.

SmartyPants software contextually substitutes single and double "dumb" quotes by curly quotes, however:

All single quotes are treated as "right" quotes -- this allows the apostrophe for abbreviation to work correctly.
So you have to adopt the North American style of using double quote marks for primary quotations, to make the system work correctly.

JonPhillips's picture

Many thanks for the above replies, it's great to have so much expert help available.

I'd like to ask one more question regarding kentlew's post above :

"In an Opentype font, however, ff-ligatures have their own unique place, but cannot be accessed via the keyboard. They must be deployed via OpenType layout features (specifically the {liga} feature). Or they may be manually inserted, if the application offers a method to do this (such as the glyph palette in Adobe applications)."

Please can you explain the {liga} feature you mention? I think I broadly understand what you mean, but in an application like Flash (where I have my specific problem), apart from using key combinations, how would I deploy the ligatures I need?

I think I'm basically asking how do I find the characters I require?

ZacharyScheuren's picture

Maybe there’s an easier way, but on OS X you can open the Character Palette which is in your System Preferences under International/Input Menu. From there you can view Glyph for whatever font you need and drag the ligatures you need into Flash. There has to be a better way, but I haven’t had much time to look.

eomine's picture

Flash currently lacks support for OpenType advanced typographic features.
OpenType substitutions (ligatures, for example) don't work in it.

Adobe is working on a "new low level text framework" for the next Flash Player. Priorities seem to be bidirectional / complex text layout support. Maybe we will finally have OT support in Flash?

I wonder how this will perform in terms of CPU load... I imagine it could get very heavy very quickly, AS code and OT lookups running at the same time.

-- omine.net

ZacharyScheuren's picture

It is true that Flash does not support OpenType like it should, but you can still put ligatures in as I said above. Because it doesn’t support automatic substitutions like other programs it can be rather annoying to do, but it does work.

ebensorkin's picture

I don't recall opentype liga or calt features being supported in Flash. I will have a look. - Nope. I don't think so. Not even in CS3. You could always import outlines from Illustrator if it's a one-off headline.

ZacharyScheuren's picture

Flash won’t take everything, but you CAN put in ff ffi ffl st and maybe some others. You just have to try the one you want, but as JonPhillips said, he was looking specifically for ffi which works fine for me in Flash CS3 by dragging from the Character Palette.

Miguel Sousa's picture

> on OS X you can open the Character Palette which is in your System Preferences under International/Input Menu. From there you can view Glyph for whatever font you need

This is true as long as the glyph as a Unicode value assigned to it (either PUA or not). Unencoded glyphs do not show up in the Character Palette.

Nick Shinn's picture

ff, ffl, and ffi all have standard Unicode values (in the code page "Alphabetic Prsentation Forms") -- so foundries that include them in fonts are likely to give them the appropriate cooding.

JonPhillips's picture

I found Zachary's tip the one that worked best for me in this instance, but thanks very much to everyone who contributed advice and opinions.

kentlew's picture

Jon -- In case you check back, and in case it still might not be clear from the foregoing, OT layout features, like {liga}, are bits of programming inside the font that provide rules for substitutions and the like. In order for a user like yourself to take advantage of these features, an application needs to provide support for them.

There are specifications for certain features to be activated by default; others are discretionary, to be applied on an ad hoc basis. The application needs to be written to implement these kinds of OT layout features and then provide an interface for the user to activate or deactivate them.

Apparently Flash does not do so yet.

Levels of support for OpenType layout features vary widely between applications still, and this whole arena is still in a state of flux.

HTH. Sorry to have left you hanging earlier. I'm glad that Zachary provided a workable solution for you.

-- K.

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