f + umlauts

Florian Hardwig's picture

[continued/excerpted from this thread: The Most Useful OpenType Ligatures]

I really wish to see a text face with a solution for f+umlauts.
In German language, ‘fä’, ‘fö’ and ‘fü’ are anything but rare, just think of ‘für’ [‘for’].
In a lot of classic serif faces the drop of the ‘f’ reaches out quite far to the right. That’s why there are ligatures like fl, ff, fi – to avoid collision, right?

So, dear type designers: before doing fancy things like including ‘ffj’ and ‘ſſl’ ligatures, 5 different ampersands and a truckload of ivies, please consider addressing this umlaut issue!*

See this illustration:

Yellow is (to me) only just acceptable, red isn’t anymore.
And, of course: the bolder, the more clotted it gets.

By the way, I didn’t pick 4 fonts by Adobe because they were especially ‘bad’ – no, this problem is inherent to all faces that have an extensive ‘f’. I used these fonts as they are commonly regarded as being – in all aspects – very well equipped OpenType text fonts – and still suffer from this particular issue.

In my humble opinion, merging the ‘f’ drop with the left dot of the umlaut (as in ‘fi’) can’t be the way to go – that would look really awkward. I’d love to have an alternative ‘f’ with a narrower top for those cases, preferably with automatic substitution, via the lig feature.

And while doing so, don’t forget the triple combinations :°)

I don’t think this problem is limited to German language; the Swedish among others will benefit aswell.

*) Don’t get me wrong; I very much appreciate all those special equipment. All I want to say is: first things first.


I see this came up before in this thread, though not especially focussed on umlauts – starting with Charles’ 4th comment. There, Thomas Phinney called that less sweeping ‘f’ a “Linotype f” – I suppose this then was due to technical limitations.


cerulean said:
MUFI fonts have fä, fö and fü ligatures. They use the solution you reject as awkward, but considering the nature of the project I must assume there is historical precedent for the form.

Yes, Andreas Stötzner’s Andron Scriptor Web lets the ‘f’ drop merge with the left dot – even though there’s no urgent need.

Peter S. Baker’s Junicode takes a different stance. While its ‘fi’ and ‘fj’ do merge, its ‘f’+umlaut combinations offer a different solution: the ‘long f’ gets automatically replaced by an alternate! Exactly what I had in mind, great.
(It additionally has ‘true’ ligatures, but to me, these ligatures with just an elongated ‘f’ bar feel like an end in itself – and ‘fä’ being discretionary)

Andron (with ligatures off/on)

Junicode (with ligatures off, w/ alternate ‘f’, w/ ligs on)

They both introduce a single-storey ‘a’ for ‘fä’. Is this only to avoid collision? Then, I think that’s not a good idea; just imagine how odd words/lines would look like which feature ‘fä’ and a regular ‘a’.
Or do I miss the point, and these ligatures are for a specific historic application only? Who can shed light on this? Highly appreciated.

And: Are there more recent & decent digital fonts with an alternate ‘short f’, like Junicode?

Thanks, F

William Berkson's picture

Following your discussions of this on Typophile, Charles, I also did the f + other accents—some examples are in the above linked PDF. Also in things like "of Thomas", I used calt to adjust the word space. I made four alternative f's plus separate glyphs for f followed by i_dieresis and by i_grave. Also three calt classes for use with f and spaces and other things. It seems to all work smoothly. (Not shown in the PDF.) I didn't think of f+space+J, but my J is descending, so with the terminal f before the space, it doesn't seem much of a problem—though it might not meet your standards!

Syndicate content Syndicate content