FontLab or Fontographer?

Number3Pencils's picture

I'm going to be upgrading from TypeTool to a better program, pretty soon here. I had planned on upgrading to FontLab, but I just disovered that I could instead upgrade to Fontographer for $300 less. So, my question is, what would I be missing if I didn't spend those $300? The big limitations on me from TypeTool are that it won't let me put more than one character set in a font, it takes lots of effort to make all the accented characters, and it's a bit unstable. Would Fontographer solve these problems? If I wanted to export in .otf format, would I have to buy FogLamp, or is there another utility that I could use? And what does FontLab have that Fontographer doesn't?

blank's picture

…and it’s a bit unstable.

FYI, so are Fontographer and Fontlab.

Jackie Frant's picture

I'm on a Mac and I have used Fontographer since its initial concept. Those guys in Texas were great - too bad they sold out.

Meanwhile, I had a demo of FontLab -- and for the Mac I was too impressed. It was good for opening OT fonts and for saving them. The Fontographer I have doesn't even recognize an OT font -- but it is great for making Mac Type 1 fonts.

Don't know if that helps you - but I think you can still try a 30 day demonstration from each and decide for yourself. Then you can report back here an let us know.

Goran Soderstrom's picture

I would strongly recommend FontLab. I was using Fontographer at first (for about two-three months while learning how to make fonts...) but very soon I felt it was very limited. You cant make an OpenType font in Fontographer, and you cant use any OpenType features at all. OpenType is the new standard, and that makes Fontographer outdated.

Speaking of old, the whole application has an old, almost retro-touch over it. It feels like using an application in MacOS 7.5 or something with anti-aliasing always OFF, which makes the bezier curves look not so smooth. FontLab is smooth and you see the letters as you see them in apps like InDesign etc. Fontographer is looking more like some old CAD-vector-drawing tool. Think of the difference between game consoles. Fontographer is like a Commodore 64 or Atari 128 while FontLab is more like Xbox 360 ;-)

Other than that, I would also like to add that FontLab has a whole bunch of helping tools that really helps you when making fonts, and you can also add all the great python scripts available.

Go FontLab, you wont regret it!

cuttlefish's picture

While you're at it, don't forget to give FontForge a try. It's come a long way in the last few months even, now that it has a Spiro drawing mode that no other font editor has (if you install libspiro first, among some other dependencies you may need to install too). It will generate OpenType fonts and a bunch of other formats both common and obscure. It's a little weird and initially uncomfortable working in an X11 window when you're used to Mac software, but you'll get over it, and if you find you don't like it at least you aren't out any cash for trying.

Number3Pencils's picture

I hear a lot about OpenType features. What kind of stuff can you do with them? Is that the kind where you can put in all sorts of ligatures and stylistic alternates and such?

(It's now very obvious that I approach font designing mainly in a "drawing letters" way, and have little idea about any programming aspects)

Also, I'll check out FontForge.

Number3Pencils's picture

I looked at FontForge (the website - I haven't run it yet), and it seems to have the same problem as Fontographer in that it has anti-aliasing perpetually off. Is that true?

cuttlefish's picture

Antialiasing is not enabled in draw mode (the glyph window) of FontForge, but it IS on in the font and metrics windows. I'm not sure why. I'll have to ask George.

Mark Simonson's picture

Just out of curiosity, I've been playing around with FontForge. I've read a bit about it in Fonts & Encodings and learned that it has some features that don't (yet) exist in FontLab, which could make it useful as a supplementary tool to FontLab, such as support for Raph's spiro curve drawing system, creating AAT fonts, and the ability to add OT features not yet supported by the AFDKO (and therefore not yet supported by FontLab). Also, it has .ufo support, which makes it compatible with tools like Superpolator and MetricsMachine.

I can't seem to get the spiro tool to work though. The button on the tool bar to activate it is greyed out and disabled.

eliason's picture

I can’t seem to get the spiro tool to work though. The button on the tool bar to activate it is greyed out and disabled.

You may have to download the libspiro part. See Michel Boyer's post at this typophile thread.

Mark Simonson's picture

Ah, thanks, Craig.

Number3Pencils's picture

So there's no way to turn it on in the glyph window, then?

cuttlefish's picture

Not that I'm aware of just yet.

edit: Dave Crossland told me it IS possible to get anti-aliasing in the glyph drawing window of FontForge, but it requires a custom build and, I think, an extra library or something. The current default builds do not include the feature. I'll relay the details if anyone is interested.

charles ellertson's picture

I used Fontographer from the early nineties for over 10 years. Once you got use to working around its many bugs, it was OK for making Type 1 fonts. It was fairly intuitive, unlike (in my opinion) FontLab. I imagine I whined & complained when I had to learn FontLab after using Fontographer for 10+ years.

Now I wouldn't go back. Part of that was due to some of the nice points of Fontographer being phased out (the behavior of the kerning window) with Macromedia's release 4.X. A lot of it has to do with not having to work around all the bugs. FontLab has a few, but nowhere near what you had to put up with using Fontographer.

As to OpenType features -- if you will be making fonts you would like InDesign users to buy, you need to be making OpenType fonts, which means including OpenType features. Adobe and Microsoft are big players these days. They seem to committed to OT technology, and that is probably more important than whether or not OT is, in some abstract sense, the best format.

cuttlefish's picture

Bump for my edit.

cuttlefish's picture

Here is a similar thread from the Build subforum:
http://typophile.com/node/40227

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