Things are so busy inside our team that I sometimes forget that our buzzing beehive of activity is not externally obvious. But as none of the FontLab team made it to the TypeCon and ATypI conferences of recent weeks, I thought I ought to share: below are some things that might otherwise be mentioned in presentations, Q&A afterwards, hallway conversations and over lunch, dinner or drinks. The reason we skipped these conferences is simply that we are busy finishing FontLab VI!
Behind the Scenes
Our tireless developers Yuri, Dima, Sofia and Oleg have fixed over a thousand bugs during the Public Preview period, to date. We are down to only 46 bugs on our to‐do list — plus 18 fixed bugs we need to verify in our next internal build. (Usually our internal builds come once or twice a week with fewer fixes than that. But Yuri has been working on a big feature…)
Besides bug fixes, we have just a couple of key feature areas left to be implemented. Right now, Adam is working with Yuri to bring full support for Variable Fonts into FontLab VI. (Adam was one of the few visionaries who saw and evangelized the potential for reviving GX Variations in OpenType several years ago, and I did my own Master’s thesis in this area. So we are both very excited about it.) Adam and Yuri have also been working on finalizing the export of OpenType fonts in all their varieties — CFF, TrueType, various color formats, and so on. You will see fruits of these efforts in coming builds.
Our newest team members Pooja and Igor are both themselves type designers. So they are ideal people to be testing FontLab VI. They have also been working to complete the FontLab VI User Guide, alongside me, Adam, and our veterans Jim and Alex. Igor and Pooja will also become a core part of our support team when VI ships.
Sales and orders point‐woman Lisa has been giving me feedback on my ideas to smooth out our ordering process before FontLab VI ships.
For my part, I have been coordinating our team efforts, working on a new support system and store changes, contributing to the User Guide, juggling all the usual administrative things, and generally preparing for the release of FontLab VI.
We’re delighted that our FontLab VI Public Preview (for both macOS and Windows) already has several thousand regular users. That’s how many people download an updated build every couple of weeks when we publish a new one. Many of you have also reported problems and suggestions on our forum, and shared your experiences using FontLab VI. Thank you all! Your feedback is important, and we’re processing it constantly. Please keep the suggestions and bug reports coming!
We can’t wait to deliver the best FontLab app ever!
Although our recent FontLab VI Public Preview builds on Mac have supported OS X 10.9 “Mavericks,” the latest and future builds will only run on 10.10 “Yosemite” and higher.
Making this change allows us to use a newer version of our development framework and give you a higher‐performance app. Our research suggests that about 4 to 5% of Mac users are on 10.9, and that all Apple hardware that is capable of running 10.9 can also run 10.10 and 10.11.
So for those on 10.9 and using FontLab VI Public Previews, it is time to upgrade!
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 (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.
Windows 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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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)
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!
If you have a public preview build from within the last month, just launch it, and use the built‐in auto‐update feature. This should work even after the build expires at the end of the month.
Otherwise, you can sign up for the Public Preview on the main FontLab VI page, and that will automatically send you an email with a link to the newest Public Preview download. Yes, this will work even if you already signed up before.
We’ve just posted a FontLab VI update, Public Preview 2 (build 5844) for Mac, because the initial public preview just expired on December 31st, 2015. We still don’t call this a “beta”; that would imply being feature complete and fairly stable. We are not there yet!