Fontographer or FontLab Studio

Creative19's picture

I'm looking to get back into type design after being away from it for quite a while.

I'm a bit long in the tooth, (I'm one of the people who can actually remember the last glorious days of hot metal) and when I last had anything to do with font creation on a Macintosh, Fontographer was the industry standard program.

I've just checked the comparison charts between this and FontLab Studio on their website, (which didn't really give me the information that I wanted) and I'm now not sure whether I need to spend the extra money.

Essentially, I'd like to be able to create OpenType typefaces, (possibly sometimes using an OpenType face as a starting point for the creation of the font). The programs look broadly similar to each other in terms of what they can and will do, and I'm not really sure what the pros and cons are of the two programs when compared to each other.

Can anyone help please? Thanks!

Greg Stanton's picture

FontLab is geared toward the professional — there's not much it won't do. It has a steep learning curve, and it is more expensive than Fontographer. Leslie Cabarga's book, "Learn FontLab Fast!" is highly recommended.

I prefer Fontographer. The interface is much, much easier, and it's generally a joy to use. All of the shortcomings of the current version will be addressed in a later update, as promised by the developer.

I'd get both, as I prefer doing most of the work in Fontographer, and fine-tuning and finishing up in FontLab.

If you can only get one, and a full battery of OT tools is a deal breaker, FontLab is probably the better choice.

oldnick's picture

Since you're already familiar with Fontographer, why not wade into the FontLab product line with Type Tool 3? If you decide that it's right for you, you get all but $9.00 of the purchase price back by upgrading to FontLab...

keith's picture

Unless you're aiming to become a font engineer, I think you'll find that Fontographer 5 is just what a long-in-the-tooth type designer needs. Fontographer's huge advantage for me is its superbly intuitive drawing tools.

Fog enables and encourages me to think about designing rather than fighting with the TypeTool user interface that is not as elegant or FontLab's which is complicated by more bells & whistles than I'll ever need.

Fontographer 5 now opens and generates Fontlab quality OpenTypes, glyphs look beautifully antialiased, keyboard commands are still where they used to be in Altsys Fontographer - better because command+7 gives you a really useful 1600% view of a glyph. If you're already familiar with ye olde Fontographer, version 5 is just as delightful to use and has added Fontlab funtionality too.

oldnick's picture

keyboard commands are still where they used to be in Altsys Fontographer

This is simply not true.

charles ellertson's picture

I prefer Fontographer. The interface is much, much easier, and it's generally a joy to use. All of the shortcomings of the current version will be addressed in a later update, as promised by the developer.

Ah, but there is "later," "much later," and "FontLab later."

twardoch's picture

> keyboard commands are still where they used to be in Altsys Fontographer

We've tried to keep the old Macromedia Fontographer 4.1 keyboard shortcuts, except when they conflicted with standard Mac OS X keyboard shortcuts.

A.

oldnick's picture

We've tried to keep the old Macromedia Fontographer 4.1 keyboard shortcuts, except when they conflicted with standard Mac OS X keyboard shortcuts.

Well, that certain makes all us Windows users feel better...

twardoch's picture

Sorry, I was talking about the Mac version. The Windows version of Fontographer 4.1 was quite different from Fontographer 5.0 for Windows. Many of the old keyboard shortcuts were kept, but some had to change as well.

Creative19's picture

I've just had a look at the Glyphs program. Nice interface design.

I think on the whole I'm leaning towards Fontographer. Reading through the page again, I am correct in thinking that it can output fonts in OpenType format right?

Cristobal Henestrosa's picture

Yes, it can.

Now, please note that Fontographer can create OpenType fonts, but you cannot create OpenType features inside Fontographer (i. e., automatic glyph substitutions such as ligatures, small caps, contextual alternates and so on). According to Adam, http://typophile.com/node/65415, 17.Jun.2010 8.13am: “The main organization for the windows is largely the same as in FOG 4, i.e. a Font Window, a Glyph Window, a Metrics Window. No classes editor, no OpenType features editor, no Preview panel etc. You can specify OpenType Layout features in an external text editor using the AFDKO 2.5 syntax. We plan auto-generation of OpenType Layout features for common European scripts in a later version, but there won't be a "visual" feature editor -- this is something for FontLab Studio. I mean, you can use Microsoft VOLT or the demo version of FontLab Studio, or one of the DTL applications or FontForge etc. to develop the features if you want. Or a text editor. Or something else”.

twardoch's picture

Yes, in the Font Info / Advanced / Encoding dialog, or the Generate / Advanced / OpenType PS / Format Options dialog, you can point to an external text file which contains the feature description in the AFDKO 2.5 format.

emkeyser's picture

I am a bit new to this and my question may reveal exactly how new I am. (Please be kind.)

Can an OpenType font be imported into Fontographer 5.0 to have some modifications and additional glyphs added and then generate a new OpenType font without losing any of its original open type functionality?

twardoch's picture

Emkeyser,

unfortunately, FOG is still missing an important bit, which is decompilation of feature definitions into the Adobe FDK format. FontLab Studio can do this (you can download the demo version, open an OpenType font, save the decompiled features into a text file, and proceed in Fontographer). The DTL OTMaster which is also available from our website can also do it, and does a somewhat better job since it supports the AFDKO 2.5 syntax.

Best,
Adam

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