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I'm a long-time TeX (on Linux) user, new to the art of type design, but very interested in it. My first impression of the digital typography world as it exists today is that I'm going to be as much a minority here as I am in the world of digital layout, by way of platform and software used---it seems dominated by the Apple and Microsoft OSes and the commercial software applications that run on these two OSes.
I'm trying to figure out why the Metafont language is so apparently underused---is it an OS issue?
It's confusing to me because Metafont seems like such a powerful tool for industrial application. If TeX is your compositing system it would seem to make sense to use Metafont, and it is free, and powerful---yet few designers use it, unless somehow I am missing something. But considering how long it has been available, there don't seem to be all that many metafonts around---according to the Metafont fonts list, there are only 62 fonts in .mf format that are publicly available!
Is it that Metafonts cannot be easily converted to Type 1 and other more popular formats, thus remain a niche for TeX users only? (If so, can't a tool be written to successfully convert mf to Type 1/TTF formats?) Is there some other great limitation to Metafont that would make it a waste of time to learn and master, or is it simply that most type designers prefer the "visual sketching" (my term) approach of the FontLab/TypeTool/Fontographer/Illustrator/etc method over the "algorithmic programming" method of Metafont?