A Tabular Question

kentlew's picture

A question for those of you who use tabular figures: What characters do you need to have on consistent tabular widths?

Numbers, of course.

What about period and comma -- are these important to have on the same width? Generally, I would expect them to line up on themselves, so if period and comma were the same width as each other, would they need to be the same width as the numbers?

What about colon (for times)? Semicolon?

Is it important to have a space specially fitted to the tabular width?

Is it important (or useful) to have tabular fractions? On the same width as the numbers, or is it enough that they all be on the same width across fractions?

Arithmetic operators: + – × ÷ = < > ±, etc. ?

Monetary symbols? Percent? Section symbol? Parentheses, braces, and brackets?

There seems to be a wide variety of implementations among OpenType fonts with the {tnum} feature, so I'd be curious to hear from users -- designers who actually make annual reports and financials and timetables . . . what else? -- what they expect/need from their tabular figures.

-- Kent.

ebensorkin's picture

edited (hopefully) for clarity

Nick, I think I made my point in the way I did because of a custom version of some Adobe faces I was asked to make. It had the space set to the tabular width and you could simply type out your numbers and add a space or more at the beginning of a line if you had numbers with different character counts and perversely insisted on having your text left aligned.

Believe me, I think the way you describe handling it is far superior. But the dumb but robust quality of the custom font I made was in my mind notable; and represented an extreme example of typographic priorities. The MS approach struck me as less extreme but similar in that robustness in the face of the typograhically ignorant user.

Again I am not advocating that as an approach I am just saying it exists and for a reason.

I am learning a lot from this thread.Thanks!

Rob O. Font's picture

"But there’s be no point, other than for pining nostalgia buffs."
...well, apparently not. I mean, there is a lot of education left to pull out of that old hat...

"The digital equivalent would be to have..."
...a monospaced font. There is no substitute.

Cheers!

Nick Shinn's picture

A separate monospaced font? Come on David, get with the tour! These days, you're supposed to PUT EVERYTHING on ONE REALLY BIG OPENTYPE FONT!!!! REAL MEN have THOUSANDS OF GLYPHS on their REALLY BIG OPENTYPE FONTS!!!!!! Especially if they work for REALLY BIG CORPORATIONS!!!!!!!!!!!!

Jens Kutilek's picture

Karsten wrote:

If period and comma were half of the tabular-width, then it would be ok to apply such a ’tnum’ to list numbers. (A character style with ’tnum’ applied to the number only would work best, rather than applying ’tnum’ to the entire paragraph.)

Well, you could write the OT feature code so that you can apply tnum to the whole text, but only commas and periods between numerals would be substituted, but do we really want more of this auto-formatting intelligence? ;)

Another question (raised above already) is, is it sufficient if period and comma are of equal width, whatever it is, or does it need to be the width of tabular numerals?

Do comma and period need to have the same width at all? E.g. some countries will use the period as decimal separator and the comma to mark the thousands, and other countries vice versa, but is it likely for both versions to occur inside the same table?

A point not mentioned in this thread so far: What about Tabular figures and punctuation having the same width across different weights of the typeface? That could be very useful if you, for example, wrote an invoice and you wanted to highlight the total amount using the bold weight, and all the figures would still align.

Jens

Florian Hardwig's picture

A point not mentioned in this thread

Yep, good one!

Rob O. Font's picture

"Do comma and period need to have the same width[...]? E.g. some countries will use the period as decimal separator and the comma to mark the thousands, and other countries vice versa, but is it likely for both versions to occur inside the same table?"
You lost one of us. . and , are not tabular-spaced for one kind of use in one kind of country.

"What about Tabular figures and punctuation having the same width across different weights of the typeface?"
The tradition is the same tabular figure width width across typefaces, so within a family, assuming it's designed for the purpose, this is not a problem, or news.

"REAL MEN have THOUSANDS OF GLYPHS on their REALLY BIG OPENTYPE FONTS!!!!!!"
Gang of bangs aside, there is a 1 millimeter wide (filled with spaces), 100 mile deep (it's never going to close), crack between unicode and the applications preventing this in production fonts. In the foundry, yes, real men have all the styles, all the glyphs and all the spaces of a whole family in a "font", but this does not please the really big corporations until they need modifications in a hurry.

Cheers!

Jens Kutilek's picture

The tradition is the same tabular figure width width across typefaces, so within a family, assuming it’s designed for the purpose, this is not a problem, or news.

Hm, tradition ... depends on what fonts you look at. Adobe don't seem to do it (I looked at Myriad, Minion, Arno, Garamond Premier), FSI not generally. Arial, Times NR yes, but even most other system fonts have different TF widths in different weights.

Jens

Florian Hardwig's picture

Myriad? Minion?
Jens, you have to think even more traditional! ;°)
Check out Frutiger, Palatino, Helvetica, Optima, Franklin Gothic, Univers.

But there are also some very fresh fonts with consistent figure widths across weights; e.g. KLTF Grotext.

Nick Shinn's picture

I've always tried to make figures the same width in Regular and Bold, but it wasn't always possible for every typeface, often one or the other just looked too gnarly. In fact, it's a characteristic of the faces you mention, Florian, that the lining figures are a bit nasty for text work, the beauty of which has been sacrificed for utility in tabular settings such as financial reports.

The great thing about OpenType is that the norm is for applications to provide four sets of figures, so foundries can supply beautiful proportional figures, and utilitarian tabular (monowidth) figures in the same font, with oldstyle and lining variants of both.

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