A FontLab 6 intervention

I have been a avid FL user since 3.5 on Windows. I love working the the app but I realize its is showing its age. What I cannot stand is the Alpha version of  FL 6. Overly complicated, abandoning the interface we have all come to be comfortable with.
What the hell is a "Project" anyway. 

To me it has acquired too many "Glyphs" traits. Not to bad mouth Glyphs, but if FL keeps going in this direction it will make me a Glyphs user. The reason we use FL is because we are comfortable using FL.

Case in point, at the recent Typographics conference in NYC, Georg from Glyphs was busy evangelizing the program. He spent hours with me helping me to understand and become more comfortable with it. Tom Phinney, president of FL was there and all I remember him talking about was where to find good Indian food.

Is there any desire out there to pressure the FL boys into listening to us. I've posted on the forum and sent emails to the individuals but the long painful process of this new incarnation keeps marching along and all it does is alienate me.

Respectfully.
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Comments

  • I would also love to see all the new FL VI drawing and production features packed in a "classic" FL interface. 
  • Michael JarboeMichael Jarboe Posts: 210
    edited July 2016
    For all of its shortcomings I love classic FL. With all of the other programs available to supplement it, I can still use FL as a base and I've adapted to it (this is similar to how I came to love Quark back in the day). There's so many things I'm conditioned to that newer font editors do differently which actually slows my process down. I hope the classic FL is always maintained at least as I don't really have an interest in FL6.
  • Ramiro EspinozaRamiro Espinoza Posts: 558
    edited July 2016
    I think the problem is the Fontlab guys have spent a considerable amount of money and time in devising a new interface they thought would be innovative (though IMO it looks a bit like Glyphs). 
    Finishing FL VI is a never ending story and slashing the current new interface probably would delay even more the launch of FL VI. But I hope anyway that after launching VI they will put some effort in making a classic version so that they don't lose their stubborn FL classic users.
  • I'm glad someone brought this up since I've had many of the same concerns.

    It very well might be that I could end up loving FL6 after getting used to it. The trouble is that the lack of continuity between FL5.x and FL6 is so great that it will be almost like starting over with a brand new font creation application.

    This being the case, I might as well seriously explore other options, like Glyphs or RoboFont, since the easier, faster option of building upon what's already familiar doesn't seem to actually be an option when moving to FL6.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 960
    Robofont is looking more tempting every day--not as refined or complete as Glyphs but not as constricting by any means.  I can't figure out what audience niche FL6 is hoping for since it is ignoring many of its most stalwart supporters?
  • Robofont is looking more tempting every day--not as refined or complete as Glyphs but not as constricting by any means.  I can't figure out what audience niche FL6 is hoping for since it is ignoring many of its most stalwart supporters?
    What are the "constricting" aspects of Glyphs not present in Robofont? 
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 960
    Craig, I feel I am forced into a workflow that does not allow for my own design process.  I want the tool to do less thinking for me and allow me to customize as I wish.
  • Dave CrosslandDave Crossland Posts: 767
    edited July 2016
    Craig, I feel I am forced into a workflow that does not allow for my own design process.  I want the tool to do less thinking for me and allow me to customize as I wish.
    Please could you be more specific? I am genuinely curious what kinds of customizations you want to do to the Glyphs UI :) 
    [Glyphs] is not as powerful as Fontlab and it would force me to change my whole workflow.
    What are the powerful features of Fontlab that are missing from Glyphs?
    John Hudson said:
    my very significant investment in scripts and modules for FL will continue to work in the new version.
    I am curious what you think the cost of porting those scripts might be, compared to the cost of developing them, as a percentage. I guess a complete port from scratch would be 50-80% of the cost (since there is no design time) but since the code is in Python much core logic will not need to be totally rewritten, and since Glyphs supports RoboFab I wonder that many scripts will only need a little tweaking to run....
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,133
    edited July 2016
    Glyphs supports RoboFab I wonder that many scripts will only need a little tweaking to run....
    Very few of our scripts use RoboFab. We have our own libraries.
  • Russell_McGormanRussell_McGorman Posts: 150
    edited July 2016
    ... [FL's] most stalwart supporters?
    Meaning ladies and gentlemen of a certain age? Am I wrong in thinking there might be a generational divide in UI preferences here? Back in the day I had a negative reaction to user-friendly interfaces. I was like, "What the Hell - I just got used to DOS and now I have to run this damned machine with pictures?" 
  • PabloImpallariPabloImpallari Posts: 502
    edited July 2016
    As with all new thing, it takes some time to get used to it.

    Bought Glyphs in 2013 and only played around to get familiar with it, but continued to use FontLab since I was much faster working there.

    During 2013/2014 used FontLab for 2 complex projects: A multiaxis family, and a Devanagari font.
    It wasn't a pleasant experience...

    The Devanagari project gave me the perfect excuse to start using Glyphs more seriously, so I started working in Glyphs for a real project: I was lost.. I didn't knew the shortcuts, I didn't had any of my macros... I didn't knew how to do many of the thing that I did easily in FonLab. It was hard getting used to it and I kept going back and forth between FontLab and Glyph all the time.

    At Typoday 2015 in India, Georg also spent about an hour sitting with me, answering all my questions and clarifying many doubts. He also helped setting up a 6 masters multiaxis family, configuring all the master and instances and replicating my Superpolator space. After that it was all easy and smooth.

    2016: Now I still use FontLab from time to time when resurrecting old files, but I've found myself not remembering the FontLab shorcuts anymore, or wanting to do in FontLab the things I do in glyphs... tables have turned! Now when I'm in FontLab I really miss Glyphs and want to get back to it as soon as possible.

    It took me from 2013 to 2015 to get used to Glyph and to start loving it. I'm really happy working in glyph now... it's actually quite enjoyable.

    About FL VI: I tried to use it but it crash frequently, so I will wait for a more stable release.

  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 960
    edited July 2016
    Meaning ladies and gentlemen of a certain age?

    No, I just mean that the changes to the interface did not solve as many problems as they created.  Why must I hunt for things now when I didn't before if you didn't do something so much better in the change that the loss is worth the pain.  I always hated DOS.  I jumped on the GUI like a frog on a Lilly pad!  I am assuming you and I are both pre baby boomers, Russell ;-)
    Russell, I assume you follow the FLVI Alpha pre release forum FontLab runs.  I have yet to see anyone on there say the loved anything about the new interface--they may like a new tool but please show me a comment by any of the experienced users that speaks favorably about the new interface changes?
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 960
    Dave, for a start the opening window.  If I open something it closes something else and I have to hunt for it among the endless string of tabs.  I want to be able to open and arrange my desktop as I wish.  I hate tabs in browsers as well.  I want my own glyph order, sort order, naming scheme, metrics and kerning window with as many glyphs as I wish in whatever order I wish without or with grids, guides, blobs of diacritic clouds interfering.  I want to be able to drag things around at will, size them, size their window, keep them detached.  I detest the kerning window or one-size-fits-all window or whatever it is called.
  • ybaggarybaggar Posts: 55
    Fontlab's technical-drawing-90s-gray interface always felt ugly and uninspiring to me. It was old and out of tune with the rest of the design softwares when I was introduced to it in 2005. A bit like going back to windows 3.1.

    RoboFont certainly suffers from lack of speed. But the ability to select/move multiple offcurve points at a time and select them with a click-and-drag makes FL 5 a dinosaur for drawing Beziers. Don't cling on your old habits. You will be amazed at how helpful and nice some new features are.


  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 960
    edited July 2016
    You will be amazed at how helpful and nice some new features are.

    Which features are you taking about?

    Grey is OK. I could care less about "fashionable or trendy" I just want readable accessible  functional.
  • PabloImpallariPabloImpallari Posts: 502
    edited July 2016
    Dave, for a start the opening window.  If I open something it closes something else and I have to hunt for it among the endless string of tabs.  I want to be able to open and arrange my desktop as I wish.  I hate tabs in browsers as well.  I want my own glyph order, sort order, naming scheme, metrics and kerning window with as many glyphs as I wish in whatever order I wish without or with grids, guides, blobs of diacritic clouds interfering.  I want to be able to drag things around at will, size them, size their window, keep them detached.  I detest the kerning window or one-size-fits-all window or whatever it is called.
    Chris, I felt exactly the same before the transition. After suffering from some initial friction, now I'm very comfortable in the new interface, and will never want to go back to the old one.

    It takes some time to learn how to maneuver, but you can do all things you mention in Glyphs, and many in faster and easier ways. (Except detaching windows. But once you get used to working "in context" you will no longer feel the need for detaching windows anyway).

    At first I was afraid of losing the "liberty" or arranging my windows the way I liked... now when I open FontLab it feels prehistoric to have so many open windows, when you can do all the things you need in the same and only one window, faster and without losing focus.
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,412
    When I switched to Glyphs I went cold turkey. I wrapped up two Fontlab projects and never started a new project in Fontlab again. I can barely even remember how Fontlab works now.
  • Pablo, it seems I lost something important here. How is possible to manage glyphs order in Glyphs as freely as FontLab's index mode? The FL flexibility to reorder groups, color them and manage new glyphs to proper loci is one thing that keeps me away from Glyphs. 

    As my projects include dozens of alternates and some non-coded glyphs, I also dislike the way Glyphs conducts you into script groups and glyph name extensions. They are good for standard multi script projects, but I need them to be editable (or at least not active). Maybe what I need actually exist in Glyphs, I just did not find.

    I do admire the effort FL people is putting into version 6, but the large time it is taking and the huge amount of changes needed is creating a scenario more and more unfavorable to FL.
  • Simon CozensSimon Cozens Posts: 213
    Having only ever used Glyphs and not the old Fontlab, I've found FLVI really intriguing. My gut feeling is that if I could only work out how to get stuff done in it, it would help me to make much better fonts than I could in Glyphs; it's a really sharp chisel. There are some really, *really* nice features in it. The curve editing stuff is lovely and very fluent, and I think the servants/genius/power nudge etc. has a lot of promise if only I could understand them well enough.

    But while the functionality is lovely, even without comparisons to the old versions, the interface is a train wreck and I can't quite put my finger on why. The lack of documentation doesn't help but that is being worked on.

    The menu structure is just *wrong*; for instance, nothing in the Contour menu makes sense. in general menu items should be for commands, making something happen, rather making choices about something's state. Most of what's in there replicates the context menu, badly - without a visual representation of the current state - meaning you have two places for the same stuff.

    In my opinion, it somehow manages to simultaneously overwhelm you with stuff you don't need and at the same time make it hard to find the next logical steps in your workflow. I suspect what they really need is a very experienced UX/UI designer to sit down with experienced users of the previous versions and come up with an interface that integrates the new functionality while continuing to work in a natural way for existing font designers.
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 616
    I haven't seen the FLIV preview yet because I use Windows but I can't imagine there's anything I'll miss about the current interface. It's a bug learning curve I'm concerned with rather than an interface learning curve.

    I'm still grinding away every day with the same FL bugs I've been dealing with for years. Over the last 16 years, I've learned to work around them. Like when your retina gets damaged and your brain compensates after while. The green jewel buttons are never to be pressed. I have to rearrange all the components in the ellipsis when I import a master. Expand stroke is for emergencies only. Replace the circle and rectangle tools in the paint panel every time it's used. It's not frustrating because I don't even think about these things anymore. I have no reason to believe the lack of commitment to killing long term bugs will change with FLVI. It's new software, not a new company. Naturally, new software will come with bugs. That's to be expected. Many of these new bugs will stick around from upgrade to upgrade. Long term bugs stay. That's just how it works in FL.

    But I'm a die-hard Windows user and there's not as lot of choice. I probably should give DTL tools a fair attempt. FontForge is pleasant but I haven't experienced much stability in Windows. There are some interpolation plugins that look interesting. I'm not too old to change font design software but I'm too old to change operating systems. I've tried and tried. It's like Passage to India, some people just can't make the transition. Every few years, I buy a new Mac, try to use it until it's obsolete, drop it off at a recycle center and buy another. I'm out.

    Glyphs looks like a dream. I would be all over that in a second, no looking back. But a Windows version is never going to happen. I'll switch to FLIV when it comes out in 2019 and I'll get used to it. And I'll get used to the new long-term bugs.
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 797
    edited July 2016
    Pablo, it seems I lost something important here. How is possible to manage glyphs order in Glyphs as freely as FontLab's index mode? The FL flexibility to reorder groups, color them and manage new glyphs to proper loci is one thing that keeps me away from Glyphs. 
    You can't drag glyphs around like you can in FontLab's index mode (which I miss), but you can control glyph order using a custom parameter ("glyphOrder") at the document level. It takes a list of glyph names as its parameter. The order of the list controls the order you see in the font view and the glyph order in the final fonts. I've moved all my fonts to Glyphs and preserved my preferred glyph order using this.

    You also don't have to use Glyphs' recommended glyph name extensions or its automatic feature generation feature which depends on them. I kept all my extensions the same as before and simply moved my feature code as is into Glyphs. For the most part, I prefer to write my own feature code. The only automatic feature thing I let it do is mark-to-base and mark-to-mark.

    It's possible to override practically all the automatic stuff if you want to. I've kept some things and overridden others. I've been able to make it work exactly how I want it to and have never had such a streamlined workflow.
  • Ray, I think you'll be happy with TruFont in the near future :)
  • Ramiro EspinozaRamiro Espinoza Posts: 558
    edited July 2016
    .
  • ybaggarybaggar Posts: 55
    edited July 2016

    Which features are you taking about?

    I could care less about "fashionable or trendy" I just want readable accessible  functional.

    I mentionned extremely useful features in the same paragraph you quoted, but I was also being general.

    A clean and up to date interface is not about "fashionable" or "trendy".

    A few more RF features that I really appreciate:
    – Anchors that you can copy/paste and move with keyboard arrows like outlines
    – More layers
    – Spacing window showing the glyph/layer you are editing, so you can compare edits/versions live, I don't think FontLab shows the mask
    – Smart groups (create dynamic subsets based on mark color for example)
    – A great measurement tool
    – Working seemlessly between RF, UFOstretch, Superpolator, MetricsMachine
    – Editable character sets directly in the preferences
    – A growing amount of extensions
    – You don't have to edit 15 naming fields to get working fonts
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 960
    The features are fine.  I never had a problem with them.  It is just how they are arranged in the UI.
  • Chris LozosChris Lozos Posts: 960
    I just revisited the Latest revision of FLV! and attempted to "work" in it.  I am even more frustrated than ever.  I can't find anything I am interested in.  Where can I save an encoding?  Where can I import an encoding?  I find an encoding button but there is no place to import my own enc file or save my current font's encoding.  I have looked through every damn menu and can't find anything I need.  There are tons of stuff about the new tools which I may some day look at, but for the moment, I can't find the tools that I need.  As usual, I can't waste any more time with this interface.  It used to be so simple, now it is just insane.
  • It used to be so simple, now it is just insane.
    Rather, it used to be so familiar, now it is just insane. The UI was never simple.
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