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!

New FontLab VI Public Preview for Mac download

We have a new Public Preview (5926) available!

FontLab VI logo

Download the new Public Preview (5962) build:

  • 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.

Discuss and post bug reports in our user forum.

We still don’t call this a “beta”; that would imply being feature complete and fairly stable. Although we are not there yet, stability and usability continue to improve.

FontLab VI Public Preview 2 for Mac

FontLab VI logoWe’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!

FontLab VI Public Preview Available

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We are pleased to announce that preview builds of FontLab VI are now open to the public! No nondisclosure agreement needed.

See the main FontLab VI page to learn all about the app, preview features, and download a pre-release build to try it yourself!

Check the public FontLab VI forum to discuss features, interface and implementation, and report bugs to our eagerly waiting team.