Font tagging ala ID3

gigantoid's picture

Hello, first post here. I did a search but couldn't find any information on my interest.

First off let me say that I am not a type wiz and cannot name ID a font like most of you can. I just don't have the eyes or education for it. That being said I have quite a few fonts and use Suitcase to activate and browse them. And I find the process terribly limiting and time consuming. I have specific needs when looking for the font and would like the ability to sort fonts in a program by sans, serif, illustrative, script, blackletter or choose a font and have the program show me fonts in a similar style etc.

First question is there a system like this in place built into the font standard to tag the file with characteristics like an mp3 file?
Why not? (if applicable)

Second question. What are your thoughts on this idea? Not everyone has the depth of knowledge of fonts but many people know what they are looking for and currently searching alphabetically or via foundry is not efficient. True I can go to a foundry and search their particular fonts that way but once they reach my computer they become unsorted. A user/consumer shouldn't be forced to create a filing system that should be built into the files themselves.

Thankyou.

Mark Simonson's picture

I like your idea of a tagging scheme like mp3 files.

There does exist something like this for fonts called the Panose System. It's rather rigorous with one of its goals to enable similar fonts to be substituted when the specified font is missing. Unfortunately, it's not well supported. I think PageMaker used it, but I don't know of other apps that do. Also, not all font vendors use it. And a Panose number by itself is not very user-friendly--2053700203 vs. Geometric Sans Serif for instance.

In FontLab, there is something called "IBM Class" and "IBM Subclass" which would seem to be closer to what you suggest, but I don't know how much it's supported.

The whole idea of tagging fonts with keywords is even disliked by some font vendors because it "pigeonholes" a font and might artificially limit its exposure to customers on, say, a font vending site.

gigantoid's picture

I'm told that Font Reserve and Suitcase X1 (I use Suitcase 9) have something similar but I think it uses some sort of pre established database rather than reading the files and creating one from them.

Mark Simonson's picture

Yeah, I was going to mention that, too. I don't know where their information comes from. I think it's hard-coded into the program's database rather than being drawn from the fonts, sort of like a spelliing dictionary in that you can add your own info to it.

Thomas Phinney's picture

The main problem with Panose is that it is designed for font matching, not for the ways people think about font categories.

Font Reserve's database is a hard-coded list of font family names and corresponding classifications, originally developed by me around 1995-96, before I went to Adobe. They have added somewhat to it over the years. I think it works reasonably well. The idea is not that it could ever be complete, but it can get probably 70-90% of the average professional user's fonts classified, and if they want to classify the rest, they can. Essentially a big "leg up" on organizing your fonts.

Cheers,

T

Mark Simonson's picture

Font Reserve's database is a hard-coded list of font family names and corresponding classifications, originally developed by me around 1995-96, before I went to Adobe.

Wow, Thomas, I had no idea.

It's nice that Font Reserve has it, but wouldn't it be possible to have something like this available online like the CDDB so any and all programs that deal with fonts could take advantage of it? It doesn't seem like it would take long to build up such a database if it was done the same way CDDB was done (i.e., by users).

Thomas Phinney's picture

I've been looking at getting ATypI to take on hosting a font database. This would be one possible aspect of the database.

T

gigantoid's picture

Thomas: It's good to have the insight of your experience.

My thinking is that the databse while good is most effective for established font families. While many newer fonts may not be included within the software DB. If the files themselves contained the necessary information it would make the list much more relevant and up to date and allow a greater usability of the fonts on your system. Not only could one search for serif but the underlying characteristic of an italic swash version.

I'm using an older version of Suitcase (ver. 9) and should try either Font Reserve or X1 to see how well the sorting is before taking this further, but I think the idea is valid and should think of expanding the standard to include the use of meta data within a font file.

Thomas Phinney's picture

In terms of what will work in a font management app, I agree that it would be ideal if there were a useful, standard system that newer fonts used, and that older fonts were pre-classified by the application according to the same system. The IBM system would probably be fairly workable for such a purpose, while Panose would not (as noted above).

Cheers,

T

Stephen Coles's picture

Chris - excellent thought.

Mark - You're not far from something I've been building for a
few years. The creation of its web face is just now underway.

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