fontforge in Constant 2015
discrepancy can happen, to make us understand better?
One reason is, that there are more developers working on the project,
and even if there was only one developer, he or she would have her own
interests. Remember what George Williams said about FontForge ... 3 he is
not that interested in nice Graphical User Interfaces, he just makes his own
functionality ... that is what interests him. So unless someone else comes
up who compensates for this, he will stick to what he likes. I think that
is the case
FontForge. Because that’s the project you’re working on.
And how that connects to other ideas of tools or tools’ shape that you
make. These kind of things. So maybe first it’s good to talk about what
it is that you make.
OK. Well ... FontForge is a font editor.
I started playing with fonts when I bought my first Macintosh, back in the
early eighties (actually it was the mid-eighties) and my father studied textual bibliography and looked at the ways the printing technology of the
and I ... it just grew. And then — I don’t know — three, four, five years ago
someone pointed out that PfaEdit wasn’t really appropriate any more, so I
asked various users what would be a good name and a french guy said How
’bout FontForge? So. It became FontForge then. — That’s a much better
name than PfaEdit.
Used it ever since.
But your background ... you talked about your father studying ...
Type 0 is a ‘composite’ font format . A composite font is composed of a high-level font tha
ence on your interest in fonts. But on the
other hand you talk about working in a company where you did HTML
editors at the time you actually started, I think. So do you think that
is somehow present ... the web is somehow present in your — in how
FontForge works? Or how fonts work or how you think about fonts?
I don’t think the web had much to do with my — well, that’s not true.
OK, when I was working on the HTML editor, at the time, mid-90s, there
weren’t any Unicode fonts, and so part of the
ccHost is a web-based media hosting engine upon which Creative Commons’ ccMixter remix
web community is built. Wikipedia. CcHost — Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 2012. [Online; accessed 18.12.2014]
Yeah. And a connection to FontForge could change the way, not only
how you distribute fonts, but also how you design fonts.
It — it might. I don’t know ... I don’t have a view of the future.
I guess to some extent, obviously font design has been affected by requiring
it (the fon
example of something you would find fascinating?
Well. Dave Crossland who was sitting behind me at the end was talking
to me today — he sat down — we started talking after lunch but on the
way up the stairs — at first he was complaining that FontForge isn’t written
with a standard widget set. So it looks different from everything else. And
yes, it does. And I don’t care. Because this isn’t something which interests
On the other hand he was saying that what he also wanted was a paragraph
on the other hand, is very hopeful that he’ll find some poor fool
who’ll take that on as a wonderful opportunity. And if he does, that would
be great, because not having a standard widget set is one of the biggest
complaints people have. Because FontForge doesn’t look like anything else.
And people say Well the grey background is very scary. 15
I thought it was normal to have a grey background, but uh ... that’s why we
now have a white background. A white background may be equally scary,
but no on
Make it configurable.
Oh, it is configurable, but no one configures it.
(someone from inkscape): Yeah, I know.
So, you talked about spending a lot of time on this project, how does that
work, you get up in the morning and start working on FontForge? Or ...
Well, I do many things. Some mornings, yes, I get up in the morning and I
start working on FontForge and I cook breakfast in the background and eat
breakfast and work on FontForge. Some mornings I get up at four in the
morning and go out running for a couple of hours and come back home and
sort of collapse and eat a little bit and go off to yoga class and do a pilates
class and do another yoga class and then go to my pottery class, and go to
the farmers’ market and come home and I haven’t worked on FontForge at
all. So it varies according to the day. But yes I ...
It used to have a grey background, now it has a white background
There was a period where I was spending 40, 50 hours a week working
on FontForge, I don’t spend that much time on it now, it’s more like 20
hours, though the last month I got all excited about the release that I put
out last Tuesday — today is Sunday. And so I was working really hard —
probably got up to — oh — 30 hou
he material you somehow — well — it’s a
pleasure to do that. So, since you’ve said that, and we then went on
talking about pottery — how clay might be of the same — give the same
kind of pleasure. I’ve been trying to think — how does FontForge have
that? Does it have that and where would you find it or how is the ...
I like to make things. I like to make things that — in some strange
definition are beautiful. I’m not sure how that applies to making bread,
but my pots — I think I make
lic because there are
problems to get a Cyrillic type experts from Russia to Britain ... or Greek,
or any script with which you have a particular background in. And so,
they didn’t mandate which software students can use, and I was already
used to FontForge, while pretty much all the other students were using
FontLab. This font development is the main thing. The second thing is
the dissertation, that goes up to 8,000 words, an academic master in typography dissertation. Then there is a smaller essay, th
most of the people because of being so expensive, you
have to be quite commited to follow them. The proprietary font editing
software, even with a student discount, is also a bit expensive. So yes, Free
and Open Source software could be an enabler. FontForge allows anybody
to grab it on the Internet and start making fonts. But having the tools
is just the beginning. You have to know what you’re doing to a design a
typeface, and this is separate from font software techinques. And books
on the subject, t
nvolved in typeface design
from the Free Culture community, we will see more and more education
material. There will be a snowball effect.
Dave, we are running out of time ...
So just to finish about the FontForge Python scripting ... There is
Python embeded in FontForge so you can run scripts to control FontForge,
you can add new features that maybe would be specific to your font and then
in FontForge there is also a Python module which means that you can type
into a Python interpretor. You type import fontforge and if it doesn’t
give you an error then you can start to do FontForge functions, just like in
the RoboFab environment. And in the process of adding that George kind
of re-architectured the FontForge source code so instead of being one large
program, there is now a large C library, libfontforge, and then a small C
program for rendering and also the Python module, a binding or interface
to that C library. This means if you are an application progr
tforward to make a new font editor in whatever language you want,
using whatever graphic toolkit you want. So if you’re a JDK guy or a GTK
guy or even if you’re on Windows or Mac OS X, you can make a font editor
that has all the functionality of FontForge. FontForge is a kind of engine to
make font editors. This is quite exciting because it means it’s pretty straight
forward for somebody to write a font editing program which is designed for,
So, to come back to what we were just talking about i
sional level yet, but they will be
pleased with their own work and happy to work in a user interface where
you feel like in 2006, you know, with nice icons nice windows; anti aliasing
and these kind of things.
I mean there’s nothing wrong with the FontForge interface. It is what it
is. But it scares a lot of people away, people say that they don’t like this. I
think it is too scary, too different. I think we are going to see some exciting
stuff in the next few years in the Free Software font editor sp
that to start contributing. How does this training, teaching, learning
process takes place?
Usually most people are interested in what they know. They have a specific
need and they realize they can add it to DéjàVu, so they learn how to play
with FontForge. After a while, what they’ve done is good and we can use
it. Some people end up adding glyphs they’re not familiar with. For example we had Ben doing Arabic: it was mostly just drawing and then asking
for feedback on the mailing list; then we got
professionally. In the beginning of 2006 I presented a study to the
coordinator of the Design Department at FBAUP, in which I proposed to
start implementing Open Source tools as an alternative to the tools we were
missing. Blender for 3D animation, FontForge for type design, Processing
for interactive/graphic programming and others as a complement to proprietary packages: GIMP, Scribus and Inkscape to name the most important
ones. I ran into some technical problems that I hope will be sorted out
gies in Art and Technoculture.
The MIT Press, 2007
Matthew Fuller. Behind the Blip: Essays on the culture of software. Autonomedia, 2003
OSP usually works between GIMP, 4 Scribus 5 and Inkscape 6 on Linux distributions and OSX. We are fans of FontForge, 7 and enjoy using all kinds
of commandline tools, psnup, ps2pdf and uniq to name a few.
How does the use of this software change the way you work, do you see some
possibilities for new ways of doing graphic design opening up?
For many reasons, soft
ary tools for editing fonts, which has made the work of typographers
painfully difficult at times. This is why George Williams decided to develop
FontForge, and release it under a BSD license: even if he stops being interested, others can take over. FontForge has gathered a small group of fans
who through this tool, stay into contact with a more generous approach to
software, characters and typefaces.
The actual material of a typeface has since long migrated from poisonous
lead into sets of ultra light ve
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