Author Archive

Thomas Phinney

Thomas Phinney is President of FontLab. Previously he worked at Extensis (web fonts and font management tools) and Adobe (as product manager for global fonts and typography). Thomas is also a type designer, teacher, writer, and consultant on fonts and typography. He has been consulted by Apple, Adobe, Microsoft, Oxford University Press, a “big three” US auto maker, the US Treasury Department, and PBS “History Detectives,” among others. He teaches type design with Crafting Type and has been a repeat guest lecturer for MA Typeface Design at the University of Reading. Since 2004 he has been a board member of ATypI, the international typography association. His typeface Hypatia Sans is an Adobe Original with over 3000 glyphs per font.

Job: FontLab QA tester (p/t)

Do you love font editing apps?
Already trying FontLab VI?

Work from wherever you want, whenever you want. One weekly (virtual) meeting. Part-time, paid at an hourly rate.

Apply to: “thomas” at the obvious domain.

QA or Quality Assurance is software industry jargon for “testing software so it doesn’t suck.” This part-time position will help test, log and reproduce bugs with FontLab VI, currently in Public Preview. The app has been rebuilt from scratch, the interface is new, and there are many new features—hence many possibilities for bugs. This job is ideal for someone who has some experience with FontLab Studio 5 and is learning VI.

There is plenty to be done at FontLab, and an energetic candidate with varied skills and interests will be given other tasks if they want them! Given the right candidate, this position could be combined with one or both of our other part-time positions: doc writer and tech support.

Requirements:

  • Experience using FontLab VI, currently in Public Preview
  • Ability to work independently, “self-starter”
  • Communicate well in written English
  • Mac preferred, as we do screen shots on Mac
    • If Mac, 2560×1600 retina screen (or better) recommended.
    • If Windows, 1920 x 1080 (or better) screen recommended.

Primary duties:

  • Create plans for rigorous testing of feature areas
  • Test also new features and newly fixed bugs
  • Understand and reproduce bugs reported by users
  • File new bugs in bug tracking system (ZenHub), explaining how to reproduce
  • Verify whether supposedly fixed bugs are actually fixed

Possibilities for Growth

  • Help write and edit FontLab VI documentation
  • Create tutorial/educational videos for FontLab VI
  • Test and write bugs on TransType and other products
  • You tell us what else you can do!

Job: FontLab Doc Writer (p/t)

Are you a type tech geek & writer? Get paid to become a FontLab VI guru!

Location: wherever you want to work from, remotely!

Hours: part time, whenever you want. Show up for a weekly virtual meeting.

Apply to: “thomas” at the obvious domain.

The Docs Writer will take a major role, with other staff, in documenting FontLab VI. The interface is largely new, and there are many new features.

There is plenty to be done at FontLab, and an energetic candidate with varied skills and interests will be welcome to do other things too! In fact, given the right candidate, this position could be combined with one or both of our other part-time positions: QA tester and tech support.

Requirements:

  • Good written English skills
  • Some familiarity with a font editing app, such as FontLab Studio 5, Glyphs, RoboFont or FontForge
  • Writing experience (bonus: software documentation or other instructional materials)
  • Works well independently, “self starter” (a cliché, we know!), copes well with ambiguity, can help define problems as well as attacking them afterwards
  • Mac or Windows computer (Mac preferred)
    • If Mac, 2560 x 1600 retina screen (or better) recommended.
    • If Windows, 1920 x 1080 (or better) screen recommended.

Primary duties:

  • Write, edit and expand FontLab VI documentation (considerable portions already written)
  • Help change the draft docs to be process-oriented
  • Illustrate docs with screen shots as appropriate

Optional Duties / Opportunities for Development

  • Create tutorial/educational videos for FontLab VI
  • Make product workflow & feature suggestions

Appreciated Bonus Attributes:

  • Experience using FontLab VI, currently in Public Preview
  • Interest in using FontLab VI outside of paid work
  • Experience with other font editing apps
  • Familiarity with Markdown (a lightweight formatting language used in both our bug tracker and our docs authoring system)

Job: FontLab Tech Support Engineer (p/t)

Do you love helping people & teaching?

Work from wherever you want, whenever you want. One weekly (virtual) meeting. Part-time, paid at an hourly rate.

Apply to: “thomas” at the obvious domain.

This part-time position will handle incoming requests for help using FontLab apps, primarily for FontLab VI—possibly others depending on your background and interests. The VI interface is largely new, and there are many new features. Currently support is primarily by email. This job is ideal for someone who has some experience with FontLab Studio 5 and is learning VI.

There is plenty to be done at FontLab, and an energetic candidate with varied skills and interests will be welcome to do other things too! In fact, given the right candidate, this position could be combined with one or both of our other part-time positions: QA Tester and Documentation Writer.

Requirements:

  • Familiarity with a font editing/creation app, preferably some with FontLab VI
  • Ability to work independently, “self-starter”
  • Sympathy for end users
  • Communicate well in written English
  • Mac or Windows
    • If Mac, 2560×1600 retina screen (or better) recommended.
    • If Windows, 1920 x 1080 (or better) screen recommended.

Appreciated Bonus Attributes:

  • Experience using FontLab VI, currently in Public Preview
  • Interest in using FontLab VI as an end user
  • Have both Mac and Windows computers
    • or have space to install a Windows “virtual machine” on your Mac hard drive

Primary duties:

  • Respond to user inquiries via our support portal and user forums
  • Understand user problems with the application; reproduce problems and determine if bugs exist
  • If there is a user error or misunderstanding, help the user understand how to better use the software, by explaining things, quoting sections of the user guide, whatever is needed
  • Explain features, bugs, and workarounds to users
  • File new bugs in bug tracking system, explaining how to reproduce
  • Verify whether supposedly fixed bugs are actually fixed
  • Point out when existing documentation (or video) is unclear or incomplete

Possibilities for Growth

  • Help write and edit FontLab VI documentation
  • Create tutorial/educational videos for FontLab VI
  • Make product workflow & feature suggestions
  • Test and write bugs on TransType and other products
  • Depending on timing of hire, might help us migrate to new support system
  • You tell us what else you can do!

Deprecated vs. discontinued

Sometimes a particular app or utility we offer gets old, and we have no intention of updating it, generally because of lack of customer interest. Discontinued programs we do not promote at all, have no web page for, and do not appear in our regular store. Deprecated ones we have no current intention of updating, label the web page as such, but do still have a page for and store presence (ScanFont, BitFonter).

Mostly, we discontinue: just remove those product pages and discontinue the product entirely. I have done this with a number of things we have offered, such as FOGlamp (it converted Fontographer native files directly to FontLab Studio—newer versions of FontLab Studio just open those old FOG files). In such cases, if you desperately need it for some reason, contact our sales department and they may be able to hook you up.

But sometimes a product has a peculiar combination of attributes:

  1. It wasn’t selling enough units that it makes sense for us to update it or make a new version.
  2. Some people who want it or need it have no reasonable other alternative. Maybe any competing products don’t have the same features, or are not offered on the same operating systems. Or they just do not exist!

So, we keep web pages live for these programs and sell them, because we know a few people really need them. We also label them as deprecated. What does that mean?

  • We have no current plans to create a new version of this product. (Some or all functionality from this product might be folded into something else.)
  • Support for this app has some limitations. We still try to support it, but if there is a problem that is a known bug… well, there may never be a fix. Our expertise/ability to support it will likely be in a gradual decline.

Mac-specific issues for deprecated apps:

  • In some cases (BitFonter, ScanFont), the Mac version of this product no longer runs on any recent MacOS, and our solution for Mac users is to bundle the Windows app in a WINE wrapper. This makes a larger app that is running the Windows version under emulation, on a Mac.
  • Generally, the Mac version of the app has not been updated to be “retina savvy.” This means that on any recent Mac hardware with a double-res “retina” monitor, the app will still work, but some elements of the app will run at half that resolution and seem blurry. This can be worked around to some degree by running your Mac in a higher but non-retina screen resolution, but that is a compromise between blur and things getting smaller. If you run at full resolution but non-retina, everything will be very crisp but half-size. A utility such as QuickRes or DisplayMenu can help give you more choices for non-standard Mac resolutions. (Note: Even some of our non-deprecated apps are not retina-savvy. I will have a separate post about this soon.)

Encoding choices for symbolic fonts

Sometimes people make fonts that don’t have letters and such in them, but instead have some kind of symbols.

In many cases such symbols have legitimate encoding slots in the Unicode standard, which is used to dictate encoding for most fonts made today. But working with unusual characters from Unicode can be a bit of a pain. So sometimes people assign unusual symbols to the same slots as A, B, C, etcetera. This is technically wrong, but often convenient.

Here is a quick guide to the options and tradeoffs when creating a symbol or “pi” font. This advice is applicable across all font creation tools, not only ours.

Options:

  1. Use “proper” Unicode codepoints for all glyphs in your font. This means looking up correct Unicode codepoints for the symbols.
    • Disadvantage: People won’t be able to type the symbols directly, unless you create custom keyboard drivers for your font. Likely they will need to use a character picker built into their OS or app.
    • Advantages: If they switch fonts to another one that has the right symbols properly encoded, their content will remain correct. Unicode/text purists won’t complain.
  2. Use “normal” codepoints for your symbols, so that your symbols are assigned to a, b, c, 1, 2, 3, etc.
    • Disadvantage: If people switch fonts, the symbols will turn into alphabetic gibberish, and it may not even be apparent what was intended. Also, that alphabetic gibberish really is the underlying text, so this approach will confuse screen readers, search, and other things that rely on understanding the text. As a result, it is considered technically “wrong.”
    • Advantage: Can by typed off the keyboard!
  3. Use Private Use Area Unicode codepoints. These are codepoints reserved for special purposes, that have no pre-set meaning.
    • Disadvantages: Has all the disadvantages of using proper Unicode, plus most of the disadvantages of of assigning the symbols to alphabetic codepoints
    • Advantage: usually none, unless others have used these PUA codepoints in some consistent way.

How to Choose

Personally, if the font is going to be used to create public documents and text, I will tend towards option #1. If nobody is going to need to manually enter text using the font, or not often, I will tend towards option #1, If neither of those things is true, and the content will have more limited use or be in a closed system, I will tend towards option #2.
What if your symbols don’t even have proper Unicode codepoints? In that case, the first option is unavailable to you. You might consider whether there is a semi-standard solution being used for those symbols (for example, there is a block in the Private Use Area that has often been used for Klingon).
Thanks to the user who wrote me the question that prompted this blog post!

FontLab VI ship update

For the latter part of last year, and all this year, we have been expecting and saying that FontLab VI would ship, well, “this year” (2016). But we are not going to make that, as became clear to us earlier this month. Instead, we currently expect to ship in February.

FontLab VI in action

FontLab VI in action (click for full size)

We could have hurried up with the last couple of things and “just shipped it.” But anybody who has used software a long time knows what that will do—FontLab VI just needs more “bake time.” That is, time for us all continue to give it a real workout, doing extensive and ongoing type design tasks, so we can find and fix a bunch more bugs and usability issues before we ship it.

We continue to make prerelease builds available, and even more frequently! Another one just came out on December 15th. If you already have a Public Preview build on Mac or Windows, just launch it and it will prompt you to download and install the newest built. If not, you can register and get emailed a download link from our Preview page. When you find problems in the Public Preview, please report them in our user forum! We appreciate your help and feedback in making this a better app.

FontLab VI, like previous versions, is a very flexible tool that can be used in many ways. That means it has many possible workflows. This is great, but means the app will really benefit from feedback from real-world users trying real-world tasks. Not just us doing things the way we would do them.

We really want to make FontLab VI a great tool for type designers and font friends everywhere. Thanks for your support.

TransType 4 half price sale Cyber Monday!

TransType logoEffective immediately, TransType 4 for Mac and Windows is on sale for half price for Cyber Monday 2016. Buy now!

  • Full: was $97, now $48.50
  • Academic Full: was $48, now $24
  • Upgrade from version 2 or 3: was $39.95, now $19.97

Convert Mac and Windows fonts, reorganize font families, batch conversion, web fonts, special effects filters, and more! All in an easy-to-use app with a simple interface, so you don’t have to be a font geek to use it. All about TransType 4.

Sale ends Tuesday, November 29, 2016, 8 am PST.

TransType 4 organizing and editing

Free FontLab VI Public Preview for Windows

FontLab VI iconWindows users, your font editor of tomorrow is nearly ready! For all you Windows users who have been patiently waiting for something new and better than FontLab Studio 5, there is now a Windows version of the free FontLab VI Public Preview. (Plus an updated Mac Public Preview.)

Visit fontlab.com/vi, learn about the features, register and download FontLab VI Public Preview for Windows now! Once you’ve downloaded and installed it, you can use its current full functionality. The current build will expire by the end of the month, but you will be notified of a new Public Preview build via the built-in auto-update system. FontLab VI Public Preview will remain free until we ship the final app!

What’s FontLab VI?

FontLab VI is our next-generation professional font editor, crafted for type designers and font geeks. Five years in the making, we’re still putting finishing touches on it. It’s a massive upgrade over FontLab Studio 5, and remains the only true cross-platform type design and font creation app. With FontLab VI, you get the same high performance, clean user interface, and innovative font making tools on Mac OS X and Windows.

108_flviwin-glyph_1280x720

What’s new in FontLab VI?

Seasoned FontLab Studio 5 users will find lots of familiar elements in FontLab VI, but we’ve carefully upgraded and polished each of them. The new Font Window allows for visual sorting, smart searching and filtering, and provides a table view that exposes lots of numerical glyph data. We’ve unified the Glyph Window and Metrics Window so you can access the Metrics and Kerning tools right from the main app toolbar. We’ve renamed the Class panel into the Groups panel, but it remains the home for Kerning and OpenType groups.

In place of the limited Components, FontLab VI introduces Cloned Shapes that keep bidirectional live links between contours that appear in different glyphs. FontLab VI still has the View, Transform, OpenType Features and Python Scripting panels, but we’ve redesigned each of those functions so you can achieve your goals faster.

FontLab VI also brings a lot of brand-new functionality. You can automatically Create Overlaps and even attach TrueType Hinting commands to PostScript outlines. You can scale your contours up and down or slant them back and forth losslessly thanks to FontLab VI’s internal fractional coordinate system. We’ve invented new contour design tools: the superfast Rapid drawing tool, Tunni Lines and Genius points for better curvature control; the Fill tool that lets you forget about path direction and allows you to simply turn contours or intersection areas black or white; the Power Brush for quick prototyping of calligraphic strokes; and the awesome Power Nudge mode that lets you typographically correctly condense, expand or transform your contours in a fraction of the time.

FontLab VI supports all of Unicode 9, including color emoji, and all of OpenType 1.8, including Arabic or Indic shaping as well as color and variable OpenType fonts. Speaking of variable fonts: in this build, you cannot yet generate them, but you can open them, and you can set up an unlimited number of font-wide or per-glyph Masters in a MutatorMath- and OpenType Variations-compatible design space, which is backwards-compatible with FontLab Studio 5’s Multiple Master model but much more flexible.

FontLab VI has unlimited glyphs, unlimited layers, multi-line multi-glyph editing, full color support, tag-based multi-glyph guides and zones, Anchor-based mark attachment, complex metrics linking via expressions, and the list goes on and on. And you can convert between various font formats, including .ttf, .otf, .vfb, .ufo, .glyphs, and all the color OpenType fonts such as OpenType+SVG.

flviwin-multiglyph_1280x720

What’s the Public Preview for Windows?

With the FontLab VI Public Preview, you get the full current functionality for free until we ship the final version. You can create, open, edit and generate fully-functioning OpenType fonts, you can turn your images or Illustrator artwork into fonts, you can do spacing, kerning, hinting. And you can use FontLab VI Public Preview alongside of your other tools such as FontLab Studio 5, Fontographer or RoboFont.

Because we develop FontLab VI on a cross-platform framework, the feature set of the Public Preview for Windows is practically identical to the established Mac version, and we expect only a few platform-specific bugs, likely largely interface-related (most other bugs that occur are cross-platform).

The Windows version of FontLab VI is a 32-bit app that runs on both 32- and 64-bit versions of Windows XP through to Windows 10. We have specifically tested it on Windows XP, 7 and 10. When we release new builds of the Public Preview, you will be notified via the built-in auto-update mechanism.

Final notes

Please report bugs in our user forum.

Some keyboard shortcuts in the menus are marked with a “Meta” modifier key. They are not accessible. The Mac has three modifier keys: “Ctrl,” “Alt” and “Cmd,” while Windows computers only have two that can be used by app developers: “Ctrl” and “Alt”. We’re working hard on providing sensible keyboard shortcuts for our Windows users, but this will take a while yet!

macOS 10.12 Sierra & FontLab products

Just a quick note to say that we have done spot testing of our current Mac apps with macOS 10.12 Sierra, and we have seen no new issues so far. We have also had no bug reports from users so far that turned out to be Sierra specific, either. So as far as we can tell, there are no such issues!

FontLab plans for new OpenType 1.8 variable fonts

Moments ago, at the ATypI conference in Warsaw, representatives from Google, Microsoft, Apple and Adobe unveiled version 1.8 of the OpenType specification, featuring a surprise in the form of variable fonts (a.k.a. OpenType Variations). This is an extension and updating of the 1990s GX Variations technology invented by Apple, and a functional superset of Adobe’s Multiple Master technology.

Links which should all be live shortly if they are not already:

The variable fonts enabled by this technology will offer more freedom to type designers and font users, and smaller file sizes for packaging font families. Type designers can enable one or more axes of variation, such as weight, width, or optical size. These can be done with true typographic finesse—we’re not talking artificial stretching and automatic algorithms.

FontLab has already recently begun work on integrating support for variable OpenType fonts in FontLab VI. Indeed, sharp-eyed users of the most recent FontLab VI Public Preview builds may note that they already contain a “Variations” panel, which already features some of the key flexibilities allowed by variable fonts but not in, say, Multiple Master: masters at any point in the design space, and potentially many more design axes. FontLab VI will ship with some degree of OpenType Variations support, and we will continue work on OpenType Variations afterwards, both for FontLab VI and other products.

Variations panel prototype from FontLab VI (build 6101)

Variations panel prototype from FontLab VI (build 6101)

Long-time type industry watchers might be aware that FontLab was the first font editor to offer designers a full visual environment for working with Adobe’s Multiple Master technology. I did my own Master’s thesis in this area, and FontLab’s Adam Twardoch has been suggesting for several years, to anyone who would listen, how it wouldn’t be hard to add GX Variations to OpenType.

So needless to say, the FontLab team is very excited to see the unveiling of this new technology, and is fully supportive of this announcement. I have already written an article for Communication Arts magazine about OpenType Variations and what it means for designers, and next week I will be talking about it at the WebVisions conference in Chicago. You can already see the seeds in our latest FontLab VI Public Preview, and there is more to come!