Fontographer 4.7 is a powerful, no nonsense font editor. It allows the user to modify
or create fonts. The application is as complex as you would expect a professional
application to be and assumes that the user is well educated in font physiology.
Fontographer expands existing fonts to include fractions, symbols, foreign characters,
and logos in Type 1, Type 3, and TrueType fonts, or create an entire typeface from
scratch. Fonts created with Fontographer can be used in any program with a font menu.
Fontographer 4.7 for Mac OS X was released in November 2005 and is the first upgrade
to Fontographer in nearly a decade.
- native support for
Mac OS X
- support for the Euro
- updated encodings
- copy-paste compatibility
with new Illustrator and Freehand versions
- numerous bug fixes
Fontographer v4.7 requires Mac OS 10.3 (Panther) or later, 5.1 MB of disk space and
at least 10 MB RAM. Stepping out of Never Never Land, you really need at least 15
MB of disk space for the application and other parts. You'll really need at least
16 MB of free RAM. That means that if you are using a G3 or G4, you will need at
least 160 MB of RAM and a graphics card with at least 16 MB of video RAM. A G5 will
need at least 384 MB RAM, and a graphics card with at least 64 MB of VRAM. There
is currently no Intel version of Fontographer, but it will run on an Intel Mac under
Installation is very straight forward. Launch the self contained installer application
and decide where to install the Application (default is the Applications folder on
the System disk). The installer presents the End User License Agreement (EULA). You
have to scroll all the way down to the bottom of it before it lets you accept it.
After Installation, the installer's last action is to open a finder window with the
application and supporting items included with the application.
To get started, I first downloaded a Fontographer PDF users manual from http://www.fontlab.com/fontographer. The Manual is 530 pages long.
I'm considered a heavy reader, but let's face it, it can take a while to read a novel
half that size, and reading a manual is seldom as entertaining (unless you happen
to like reading manuals). Fortunately for the novice, you can begin poking about
by just reading the first section. Your first experience with Fontographer is best
handled by copying an existing font, like one of the samples included with the application,
and opening it with Fontographer.
Opening a font with Fontographer
For new users, modifying
a commercially produced font is a good way to become familiar with the tools, their
behaviors and how to properly set the font spacing. A full featured font set gives
the user an idea of how much goes into font creation and why font copyrights are
taken very seriously by commercial providers.
Creating a new font
Opening a new font
presents you with a blank Font Window. Double clicking a character opens its editing
window and presents the user with the tool set and layer pallets.
Fontographer has four basic menus that are unique: Element, Points, Metrics and Hints.
Fontographer appears to be a direct import from the previous "Classic"
version. The items in the Hints and Metrics menus are advanced items that are not
essential for simple font creation. Hinting a character allows the creator to specify
how font renders as it is made smaller. Certain features can be emphasized that ensure
fonts remain as legible as possible as their size is decreased. Auto-Hinting is usually
on by default, but some characters may need manual hint settings to properly render.
Metrics deal with spacing and special behaviors when two characters are placed together
in a certain order. The Points menu allows the user to align or adjust character
points. The Element menu contains the bulk of the tools used during character creation.
This application does not have a "Help" menu.
Element menu options
The menus will be
familiar to experienced "Classic" Fontographer. One of the items is "Remove
Overlap". Removing the overlaps will often smooth a font, but can lead to some
irregularities if the original work is sloppy.
When you open a font, you see an array of all the characters in that font in a window
called the "Font Window". The size of the view is on the small side, but
not too bad. If you select a character, the name, keystroke, ASCII decimal and hexadecimal
and Unicode values are displayed. A drop down menu allows you to select the way the
window labels the characters. The default view is by character, but you can choose
other views such as octal, decimal, hexadecimal, keystroke, Unicode, width, left
sidebearing, right sidebearing, fill tint, stroke tint, and stroke weight. For most,
the character view is the most practical, with width and sidebearing views as a good
check for spacing. If you want a mono-spaced font, these three views become critical.
In the lower left hand corner, the 2 icons are for character lock and info bar toggle.
Click on the info bar toggle to hide or display the information bar above the character.
The lock ensures that an inadvertent keystroke doesn't change the current working
character. Unlocking the view allows you to select a character by keystroke. If a
path direction is selected in the font, a third icon will appear showing the direction
of the selected path. Clicking that icon will change the direction of the path.
Sloppy work can lead to undesired serifs, artifacts or poorly rendered characters
Double clicking a
character opens that character in the "outline" view, a layer window and
a tools palette. This is the most common workspace for creating or modifying fonts.
The interface takes some getting used to. The Outline View gives you a few guides
that help you to keep your character constrained within size limits and set the spacing.
There's a Baseline, Origin line (left sidebearing) , Base Point, width limit line
(right sidebearing), Descent line (absolute bottom of the font) and Ascent line (Maximum
height of the character). The base point is normally set at the intersection of the
baseline and the Origin line. The coordinates are displayed from this point and relative
to where ever the Base Point is located.
The preference panes
give the user some control over the interface, but not always complete control. The
option to "Automatically fit character to windows" is a nice feature that
allows the user to zoom in by expanding the window and keeps the character centered
in the workspace.
The Layer Palette can be misleading for Photoshop users. In Photoshop terms, characters
are displayed and edited in a single layer. The Fontographer "layers" in
the palette represent different views. The layers are Outline, Template, Guides and
Hints. The Outline layer is the editing view for the character. Template displays
imported graphics. The "Guides" layer displays the origin, Baseline and
other reference marks. The "Hints" layer displays manual character hinting
for rendering smaller sizes. Selecting any other layer other than the Outline will
hide all the points on the character and presents the user with a very handy preview
of the character.
One oddity of the application is that your actions are accompanied with sounds. This
is fine for people who enjoy sound effects, but the problem with Fontographer is
that there is no option turn them off, and the volume appears to be set at maximum.
With the exception of just turning off sound on your Mac (not ideal), the only other
way to disable these sounds is by locating the sounds file in the Fontographer folder
and renaming the file or by deleting it.
The Tools Palette includes 20 functional tools. Again, Photoshop users will find
the tool behaviors different from what they are used to. For example, the pointer
allows you to select a guide point or items in an area, but if you want to move your
selection, you have to click and hold one of the reference points on the items you
selected. Clicking anywhere else will cancel the selection. Depending on how you
miss, you can deselect, or initiate a curve modification between points. The Hand
tool scrolls the window, and because the scroll bars are set to a very large workspace,
one can easily scroll the character out of the editing window.
Fontographer editing window
There are four shape tools: circle, line, polygon, and rectangle. Double clicking
the line, polygon, and rectangle will bring up a menu for refining the shaping behavior.
In the "Multigon" tool window, the default selection for the polygon is
a star, but you can select other standard shapes by specifying a polygon and the
number of sides.
Fontographer Multigon Tool
The other tools are
for "Freehand", pen, knife, and transformations. The Arch tool is at the
bottom instead of grouped with the other shape tools. The Freehand tool draws a line
and if there's any curvature to the line you draw, it fills in the curve.
is not a function of the application. Instead, you can import ".pict" files.
Graphic content is imported to the template layer and Fontographer provides the user
with the Autotrace function. You can scan or otherwise create your new character,
and save it as a .pict file. Then you can import it or copy and paste it. If you
have Photoshop, the easiest option is to just draw your character (300 x 300 pixel
drawing box works well), select it, copy and then paste it into the Template Window.
Use the Autotrace function to create your character. After you import and trace the
character, you can scale, adjust its position and set the spacing. I experienced
some minor quirky behaviors in manipulating the font, but overall the paste and Autotrace
function is my favorite method to create a character.
As you create your font set, you should save your work as you create each character.
Fontographer stores them in a database that it will use to create the actual font.
It's a good idea to name your font with the style that you created (i.e. font1 Normal,
font1 Bold, etc.).
My Custom "Scribbled" Font
Creating your own
fonts is fun, but it can be tedious as each character is drawn separately. The above
is just a single style of a font project. Each standard full-featured font can have
almost 250 printing characters for each of the four standard styles.
There are four basic type styles: plain or normal, bold, italic and bold italic.
Each font style is a separate set of characters. If you want to create a full-featured
font, that's 976 characters, 244 printing characters per style, not including the
spaces. When you generate a font, a dialog box will ask you for things like where
you want to store your newly created font and what type of font you want to create.
Keeping all the generated font styles in the same folder makes it easier to manage
them. As you create your styles, you can activate them using Font Book or another
font management application.
Sample of my "Scribbled" font in use
It can take weeks
to create a custom font. Tweaking the spacing and alignment will result in a font
that renders well. In the above example, many of the characters could use some spacing
adjustments while others can benefit from a little work to remove artifacts or imperfections.
Fontographer provides graphic content designers a means for creating and editing
customized fonts. Love it or hate it, Fontographer has been the standard for font
creation for ages. Functionally, Fontographer is virtually unchanged from the Classic
version, so don't expect exciting new features or interface overhauls. On the other
hand, those who have had experience with the Classic version will find everything
where it should be. The fact that is runs native on Mac OS X may be exciting enough,
and the application is solid and works as advertised. The new user will be confronted
with a steep learning curve, and experienced graphic designers will have to re-learn
some functional concepts that differ from modern day applications such as Photoshop
and other graphic design suites. Fontographer is not cheap, so it is likely out of
reach for hobbyists, geared more for professionals in graphics design or game design.
Bottom line: Fontographer provides a solid interface that includes everything that
is needed to build professional custom fonts.
- Creates or edits
- Autotrace function
for picture imports
- Allows the user to
view the entire contents of font
- Runs solid and produces
Fontographer users will find the application familiar
- Steep learning curve
- No help menus or
- Tool behaviors are
inconsistent with modern day OS X applications
- Lacks graphic tool
functions that are standard in modern graphics applications
- Price prohibitive
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