Question about #s

pablohoney77's picture

Should numbers be tabular or proportional by default? (Assuming the font is OpenType format) Or does it really matter?
What characters besides numerals need to be set on the same width for tabular lining? (dollar, Euro, yen, sterling, period (decimal), comma, fractions, others???)

pablohoney77's picture

thanks, Stephen. I think i'll go with proportional as the default and tabular as one of the OT features.

pablohoney77's picture

how common are tabular oldstyle numerals? are they worth messing with?

charles ellertson's picture

Alvin Eisenman wrote a piece for Font & Function some years ago entitled REINTRODUCING LOWERCASE FIGURES & SMALL CAPITALS, which is well worth reading if you can find it. (Sorry, I don

charles ellertson's picture

Bloody thing gave me an error message so I re-posted it. So it turned out the first one did go through. We don't need it twice, that's for sure.

I can edit the second posting, but not delete it. You just can't find a teenager when you need one.



pablohoney77's picture

thanks for the info, Charles. that was rather insightful, especially the part about actually redrawing figures for tabular settings. (it was too much common sense for me think of that!) do you know of anyone else who follows this practice?

oh and you can usually just ignore those error messages. just make sure you copy your posting, back out of the message and then go back in to double check that it actually posted.

dezcom's picture

It is hard to read your user's intentions when designing a typeface. If your intent is to make your font more marketable to everyone, I would suggest including both lining and oldstyle figures. If you must choose one, I would make it lining but at a height somewhere between cap height and x-height. This makes the numbers less obtrusive in the text but still allows for the tables found in annual reports and price catalogues. Like Tiffany, I think business cards set in oldstyle can be disruptive when you have so many phone numbers and addresses and zip codes all packed into such a small size card. This again is the users choice and why having both sets is always the best solution.


eomine's picture

IIRC the new FF Unit does have special tabular figures, plus lining figures and oldstyle figures. And Adobe OT fonts usually have the 4 styles of figures: tabular lining, tabular oldstyle, proportional lining and proportional oldstyle.

[update: see Mr. Spiekermann's post regarding FF Unit's figures here.]

pablohoney77's picture

and then there are numerator figures, denominator figures, scientific inferior figures, scientific superior characters... ad nauseum ;^)

hrant's picture

It depends on the style/usage of the font.
In general, for a text face I would make one or both of two main styles: hybrid proportional, and 3/4-lining fixed-width. And unless the caps are very short I wouldn't align the latter with them (in general). This will cover you 90%. BTW, see de Groot's numerals for the best in the west.

As for non-numeric characters that might benefit from having a relationship with a fixed-width numeral width, certainly the currencies should be that width - and here's a trick I learned from JF: make stuff like commas and periods (and the en dash) exactly half that width, and make the blank space character that width too. That way you can easily pad the widths as necessary.

* Actually, you would of course determine the space first and then double it to get the fixed-width for the numerals.

BTW, Paul, dude, are you guys gonna give credit when the Lanston stuff is [re-]released? You've been mining our heads like there's no tomorrow! ;-)


pablohoney77's picture

You've been mining our heads like there's no tomorrow!

Just delving into the dark mysteries of text fonts. I've always been more of a display guy myself, but you know how one thing leads to another...
Anyway, I've been relying on your collective knowledge for almost a year now, this is no new development! ;^)

dan_reynolds's picture

Paul, my suggestion would be to include every possible numeric format in the OpenType font. Then, the user has everything to choose from. If that means ten different numeric styles, then so be it (as long as you can program that)!

And I, for one, enjoy seeing all of your questions. Keep 'em coming!

>BTW, Paul, dude, are you guys gonna give credit when the Lanston stuff is [re-]released? You've been mining our heads like there's no tomorrow! ;-)

This wouldn't really be necessary, IMO. We all use Typophile to get our questions answered.

Stephen Coles's picture

I'd say it depends on the use for which the type is designed.
If your goal is mainly long text: do proportional. If you think it'll
be used most often in forms and data: tabular. If you want it to
be used for both, you really need both.

Miss Tiffany's picture

From a user's pov, I really appreciate when typefaces include both. Not all of us like to set business cards with oldstyle numbers, too much dancing. Of course, that is only one instance and I'm probably in the minority.

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