Usefulness of plugins & extensions & other tools.

I'm curious to hear your thoughts on which tools/plugins/extensions you find are really helpful to your workflow. I realize this is workflow-specific, so if you would share a little about your workflow and how the particular "extra" enhances what you do and/or makes you more efficient. I'm not asking about the font editor itself (FontCreator, FontForge, Fontlab, Robofont, Glyphs, whatever), although I realize that each offers its own benefits. I'm thinking, for example, more along the lines of the extensions for Robofont & Glyphs, external tools like Superpolator, TTX, etc. Have you used things that appeared to be useful, but really ended up not being that useful?

Why am I asking? I guess because I'd like to learn from some of the best in the industry. I am a programmer and engineer and have found that scripting has saved me sooooooo much time and am wondering about the usefulness you all have found in these kinds of supplementary tools. I'm not fishing for prospective buyers. I'm more or less wondering if I'm wasting my time because, while it's exciting to have a tool that automates some things, I really shouldn't need to do that if I had enough experience under my belt. Hopefully that makes sense.

If you feel that sharing your thoughts would be divulging your competitive advantage and therefore don't share, I completely respect that. I learn so much from all of you every day and am so grateful. I check/follow things on this site far more than any other out there.

Comments

  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 788
    RMX Tools is rock solid. I can't work without it.

    I still use ScanFont 3.1 from the mid 1990s for quickly turning drawings into glyphs. It still works in Windows 10. It's a very simple and effective way to convert 1 bit images into a font. You load up a bitmap, it automatically isolates the glyphs and finds baselines, drag and drop and you have a auto-spaced VFB ready to go. For Gargle which has over 6500 glyphs, I was able to convert all my scans to VFBs in a few hours.

    I've tried to use TransType for 20 years but I've always found some problem that makes it less useful than it could be. I could "kind of" convert Win OTF to Mac PS in the days when that was necessary...but the auto naming was useless. I can kind of make web fonts now but not commercial quality and it doesn't work properly from VFB. I can kind of make color fonts but the output too many bugs to be salable. I can kind of import VFB and export to other formats but it's unreliable. The round edges filter works but not perfectly. TransType would be a useful tool but I feel like they give it too little attention. Imagine being able to batch convert hundreds of VFB fonts to another format. That would be handy for me. But there's always some problem. New versions keep coming out, but they're never polished enough to be of reasonable professional use.
  • Craig EliasonCraig Eliason Posts: 755
    Yes, RMX tools are fantastic and indispensable. Wouldn't want to make small caps, superiors, etc. without RMX Scaler, and RMX Harmonizer cleans up my curves nicely.

    Other Glyphs plugins I especially lean on: Red Arrow, Show Tops and Bottoms. 

    Not really software but websites like Wordlist Maker are helpful for generating test strings. (There was recently a thread listing a bunch of them.) 

    InDesign for working specimens: Glyphs can overwrite font files in the Adobe folder so that seeing the latest revisions in situ is just a matter of exporting in Glyphs and switching to iD. (I'm grateful that font caching issues don't usually crop up with this method.) 
  • AbrahamLeeAbrahamLee Posts: 202
    edited May 24
    @Ray Larabie Which part(s) of the RMX tools do you find most useful? Do you ever use it to create a width axis?
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 788
    @AbrahamLee RMX tools is a good for generating a width axis. If you set it right, it'll do the majority of the heavy lifting. RMX Slanter is useful but not if the rounds are even slightly superelliptical. The features I use the most are RMX Harmonizer and Select by Mark Color.
  • Jasper de WaardJasper de Waard Posts: 320
    When I make a change to a letter in Glyphs, I often place the old letter in the mask, and make the change more extreme then I think is necessary. Then, I use Transformations > Mask, and pick the amount of change that looks best.

    This function was/is part of the Tuner in RMX tools for Typetool/Fontlab.

    Otherwise, like Ray said, RMX tools Scaler for smallcaps and the like saves much time, and the Harmonizer can help as well. 

  • Michael JarboeMichael Jarboe Posts: 238
    Like Ray, I use RMX tools specifically for the Harmonizer, Select by Mark Color, and Slanter. I have a UFO workflow so I don't use the other RMX tools that require a MM workflow. I use InterpolatedNudge extensively as I'm drawing and editing. Prepolator, Superpolator, UFOStretch, TTX, and DTL OTMaster are staples as well.

    I'm having trouble leaving behind Fontlab Studio since it's what I started with, but I also use Robofont. From a distance Glyphs seems to be the most robust and best supported font software. Many of these extensions seem crucial to the design process generally speaking and should be integrated as default app options.

    With Robofont I use Ordered Generate which should be default and and I've also used FeaturePreview, Italic Bowtie, Ramsay St. and ScaleFast. I use Test Install (not an extension) mostly, which is exceptional considering I never have font cache issues. ScalingEditTool is a Robofont version of InterpolatedNudge that seems to be integrated better than the Fontlab version.
  • Once RMX Tools is written for Fontlab 6 my transference will be complete.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,152
    RMX Tools is fabulous!

    (Although “Select by Mark Color” is now a built-in feature in FontLab VI.)
  • AbrahamLeeAbrahamLee Posts: 202
    Indeed, the consensus seems to be in favor of the RMX tools! Any others that have really made a difference for any of you?
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 987
    I use Nina Stossinger’s Word-o-Mat a lot. It basically generates endless quantities of random words in various languages according to your specifications. It was written for RoboFont, but there’s a version for Glyphs, which is what I use these days.

    Thumbs up for RMX Tools, too.
  • AbrahamLeeAbrahamLee Posts: 202
    Yes, I'm finding those random word/letter-pair generators to be super helpful as well.
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,498
    RMX tools are indeed very useful, but I really wish the Scaler included independent x and y interpolation. Despite a somewhat buggy interface and trouble with larger files, I still find UFOstretch to be more useful for some purposes, e.g. roughing in a display cut of a typeface from a text face with a weight axis. The ability to independently scale, space, position, and interpolate, each in x and y direction, all with live preview and built in active measurement tools is great. I wish this functionality were baked into a font editor and made a bit more robust.
  • AbrahamLeeAbrahamLee Posts: 202
    I thought the Scaler can do independent x and y scaling. That’s how it allows you to create condensed/extended widths that are full height. Or is that not what you mean?
  • RMX is absolutely the best! Tim Ahrens did an exceptional tool, that I usually call (in conversations with colleagues) a "corner stone"* in modern type design software.
    *this alongside with the non-matching masters interpolation of FL6's early builds, that is regretfully somehow gone at this moment :(.  

    Besides that, I usually build my own tools - for FL5 I've had developed a pretty advanced set of tools, that I have decided not to release to the public and use for my own greedy needs :). Now working entirely on FL6, i've started slowly adopting some minor parts of my previous tools and released them as open source project called TypeRig. Check the GitHub link if you are interested - development is currently slow as I build/adopt tools on need-to-do basis while working on some font project. Usually what I find useful is the ability to work on several layers/masters simultaneously, a thing that you may notice in all my scripts...
  • AbrahamLeeAbrahamLee Posts: 202
    That’s great, Vassil! Thanks for sharing that. 
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,498
    edited May 25
    I thought the Scaler can do independent x and y scaling.
    Scaling yes, but it doesn't enable independent interpolation alongside the scaling. In UFOstretch, I can adjust stem weights in either direction independent of the height or width scaling, and can measure both black and white distances while I am doing so, with live feedback of the interpolation.


  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 1,498
    *this alongside with the non-matching masters interpolation of FL6's early builds, that is regretfully somehow gone at this moment
    There's a toggle switch in the variations panel and masters font info panel to turn on this, no?

  • AbrahamLeeAbrahamLee Posts: 202
    @John Hudson I see what you mean now. Thanks for clarifying.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,152
    edited May 25

    *this alongside with the non-matching masters interpolation of FL6's early builds, that is regretfully somehow gone at this moment
    There's a toggle switch in the variations panel and masters font info panel to turn on this, no?

    Yes, it has become something you turn on (and off) in FontLab VI. While it is seriously useful, at the same time some users (understandably) do not want it happening by accident—they want to only have automated matching of “incompatible” masters when they ask for it.
  • Simon CozensSimon Cozens Posts: 316
    I don't want to toot my own horn, so I'll say that Rafael Buchner's "Show Stem Thickness" plugin is the most useful tool I didn't write.
  • AbrahamLeeAbrahamLee Posts: 202
    It’s ok to toot your own horn if there’s something you created that you’ve found to be really helpful.
  • Ramiro EspinozaRamiro Espinoza Posts: 679
    edited May 26
    I still use FontQA for testing. It's a great tool. I'd love to see it port it to Glyphs and updated.
    https://www.fontqa.com

    Like @John Hudson I also like and use UFOStretch. It's great for generating small caps and superscript numerals.
Sign In or Register to comment.