do FontLab support OpenType features for Arabic script?

Soroush's picture

Hi there.

Another newbie question :)

Do you use FontLab to generate OpenType features of Arabic script? When I try to compile/generate some font with fina, medi and init features, generated output is always deformed or reordered. So I tried to write complex (=unstable) scripts to generate VOLT code from FontLab font, but it's sometimes unreliable.

Any suggestions?

Khaled Hosny's picture

AFAIK, people who do Arabic fonts with FontLab always use Volt, actually any one doing complex OpenType layout and using FontLab seems to be using Volt as well. The other option is to write feature files by hand and compile it externally using AFDKO which what FontLab is using under the hood anyway.

Myself, I like to keep my glyph design and OpenType works always in sync, so I use a font editor that can do both reliably.

Vladimir Tamari's picture

Myself, I like to keep my glyph design and OpenType works always in sync, so I use a font editor that can do both reliably./em>

Which font editor, Dr. Hosny? FontForge? I am sure many people here would like to learn in detail about your experience, with thanks.

Khaled Hosny's picture

If not FontForge, what else ;)

My experience is very positive, actually it is the sole font editor that I've ever used. The most important "feature" of FontForge (besides being free, as in freedom, software), is its very responsive maintainer who has always been more than willing to implement features or fix bugs mostly within few hours. Thanks to its freeness, I can now even implement the features I want, patches are always welcomed.

As far as Arabic is concerned, it supports all OpenType features that I ever needed (mark positing, glyph substitution, contextual and non-contextual and so on). It has a powerful GUI where all OpenType work can be done, but also supports Adobe OpenType feature files and can merge them to existing fonts or generate them from existing features in the font. Also, unlike Volt, it preserves existing OpenType tables and the font and thus can be further edited.

It has also have powerful scripting, both Python and its own scripting languages, that simplify many repeated tasks, but also allowed me to do many neat tricks.

I developed many Arabic fonts using FontForge, lastly is my Bulaq Naskh revival, and there are more Arabic fonts in the pipeline.

Vladimir Tamari's picture

If not FontForge, what else ;)
Thank you Dr. Hosny for the positive and informative comments. Perhaps you can re-publish them in a new thread devoted to Arabic on FontForge.

In the past I briefly tried FontForge on Ubuntu (Linux) Operating System and it worked well. Today I installed it on Snow Leopard (it is displayed within the X11 protocol which has to be installed as well) and it looks great on a big screen. However it kept crashing when I tried to delete a glyph outline I am not sure if it is the X11 or FF that is causing this.

Your generous commitment to free type and wide experience in Arabic type design emboldens me to suggest that you kindly compile and publish a detailed explanations of key steps in the use of FF for Arabic. That would be a great service to the community.

For example is there an 'empty' FF OT file for Arabic that can be the basis for a designer to "fill in" the glyphs of his or her design? I mean one in which الل the basic glyphs are named and displayed, with standard substitution and other tables necessary for the correct operation of Arabic (Persian Urdu, etc.) will be included in the file.
ألف شكر و بارك الله جهودك

Khaled Hosny's picture

I wrote a preliminary tutorial in Arabic while ago, it can be found here, I did not manage to finish it, unfortunately, but is should cover the basics. Having a font template is a nice idea, I don't currently have one for that purpose, but you can use the KACST One font as a base (the font itself is GPL, but the layout code has all been done by me and I put it into public domain). As part of the Bulaq Naskh revival, there will be a font with a simplified subset of glyph alternate and more conventional OpenType code (i.e. more widely supported than the current Amiri font) and I hope to provide it a template for other to use freely.

Vladimir Tamari's picture

The tutorial seems very clear and well thought-out, many thanks I will study it carefully. Yalla shidd elhemme [encouraging words] and finalize it as you intended.
KCAST One.sfd downloads as a text file in the browser. I copied/saved that as a text file with .sfd extension. FF did not recognize or open it. I wonder why.
FF works fine on the Mac except for the use of the keyboard delete shortcut.

Khaled Hosny's picture

Try this (just right click and save as), if it doesn't work then most likely that your FF installation is too old and can't open new files.

Vladimir Tamari's picture

No luck but I will try later. FF is newly installed on OS10.6 but is crashing often; I read that on 10.5 X11 was giving problems with FF so X11 may still be the problem.

Khaled Hosny's picture

Sorry, I can't help much, but check this thread for ways to install recent FF builds.

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