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Re: [Pkg-fonts-devel] Font devs: source formats and software?

Hi there, Paul.

On May 07 2011, Paul Wise wrote:
> Is there anyone involved in developing/maintaining/creating fonts on
> this list?

Very lightly:


> What do you use as a source format? Is it binary or text-based?

Fontforge's sfd files are the source files for the little that I do and they
are text files (though not very much readable, in the sense that you usually
don't edit them with a text-editor).

> What kind of limitations does it have? Does it have comments?

I know little about the limitations. For me, it seems that the worst thing
is that OpenType (which is the "compiled" form of the fonts) don't have
(AFAIK) italic correction, which is something that does not seem to be
intrinsic to the source files that Fontforge uses.

Regarding comments, I usually use git to hold comments (when I feel
necessary, I usually use verbose comments to mention some gotchas).  I also
reserve comments to scripts that I use to assemble the fonts in a final

> Can I put separate glyphs in separate files?

I don't know about that with sfd's but Fontforge *does* understand files in
a XML-style thing:


In particular, take a look at:


> Can it do the fun OpenType stuff like this:
> http://www.linuxlibertine.org/index.php?id=87&L=1

If you go the UFO route, you can specify external properties that the files
should have in an XML file (Apple's plist files). Some of the metadata also
goes inside what are called feature files (those with suffix .fea). The
feature files are usable regardless of the format.

> Let me start this off. I don't do any font development but I want to
> change that eventually (probably by reviving MPH 2B Damase). I've been
> involved in fonttools for a while, so I pick the source format
> associated with it. It is a tool that transforms binary TTF/OTF/etc
> files into an XML format that closely resembles the structure of the
> binary files.


> As XML it has comments. As XML it should be possible to
> use XInclude or something to split out glyphs, haven't tested that
> though. As XML it isn't particularly nice for modifications with a
> text editor. You can put hinting bytecode assembly instructions in it.
> Not sure about the OpenType features.

Just go with Fontforge's sfd files and you'll be better with support from
other people.

> Anyone got any links to font development related wiki pages?
> When this thread is over I will collate the information on a
> freedesktop.org or maybe OFLB wiki page.

I would love to have that.

Unfortunately, the little that I know was learned the hard way (well,
sometimes, reading documents in PracTeX, sometimes reading George
William's---author of Fontforge---documents etc.).

And, of course, experienced font authors as Khaled Hosny have helped me a
lot in the little that I know.

I have a small wiki that I have compiled for myself that I was planning on
transforming in a tutorial for DebConf'10, but the proposal was rejected and
I interpreted that as lack of interest of the community at large in the
process of having a tutorial on fonts.

(You can see the proposal that I sent past year in a message yesterday to
Christian and carbon-copied here).

If there is any interest, I would be willing to distill the little knowledge
that I have (read: my annotations) and co-propose that with someone else,
but I have to warn again that I am *not* an expert, just a newbie.

To be honest, I think that my quest may be finished with [Crimson Text][1]
although junicode and Linux Libertine are very good candidates (even more
now that they are planning to support mathematical typesetting with the
OpenType fonts).

[1]: http://aldusleaf.org/


Rogério Brito : rbrito@{ime.usp.br,gmail.com} : GPG key 4096R/BCFCAAAA
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