Thoughts on Glyphs font editor?

Russell_McGormanRussell_McGorman Posts: 150
edited March 2012 in Type Design Software
Anyone using Glyphs? I've been using a trial version for a little while. I'm curious to hear some comments.

(I like it and am about to buy a license)
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Comments

  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,415
    I’ve switch to Glyphs in October 2011 and I love it. It isn’t perfect, and it lacks some of Fontlab’s niceties. But I find the drawing and glyph management interfaces pretty stellar. The built in tools for managing outlines in multiple masters have saved me a lot of trips into Prepolator. And Tim Ahren’s port of RMX runs seamlessly on top of it all. In general it is less buggy and much more stable than Fontlab, and Georg is very dedicated to fixing bugs and adding features.

    Buy your license from Georg at Glyphsapp.com. This way you get the updates without waiting for approval from Apple.
  • I bought a license, but I can't find the time to check it out. The little time I've spent with it just makes me frustrated. The MM features are intriguing, but I have too much work to do to lose the time figuring it out.
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 806
    edited April 2012
    After using Fontographer for over 15 years, I switched to FontLab in 2005. I found it to be inscrutable when I first tried to use it a few years earlier, when it was released on the Mac. The way I was finally able to do it was to do a complete font (actually, a font family) from start to finish. So far, I haven't done this with Glyphs, but I do plan to do it. I'm also going to evaluate RoboFont in the same way.

    My initial impression of Glyphs is positive. It feels very polished, almost like the kind of thing Apple would do if it added a font editor to iLife. It does many things automatically for you, which means it makes certain assumptions about the way you work. This can be either good or bad, depending on whether you agree with the way it "wants" you to work. For instance, it will automatically build certain OT features, but only if you name your glyphs a certain way. If you're the sort of person who wants more control than this, it may not be for you.

    One thing I noticed that I don't like is that you have no control over the order of the glyphs in the font, something that's easy to do in FontLab. I like having control over this, and I noticed someone asking about glyph order on the Glyphs forum, using one of my fonts as an example of what he was trying to do. Georg's answer was that it wasn't possible (yet). So far, I like Glyphs, but I wonder how many other limitations like this I will discover.
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,415
    One thing I noticed that I don't like is that you have no control over the order of the glyphs in the font, something that's easy to do in FontLab.

    Custom list filters are displayed in order, but it’s a newer feature and still sort of flaky. But the order of the production fonts is important. I will probably keep using FontLab to master production fonts until Georg gets more of these details in place.
  • Any more direct comments comparing what Glyphs does with multiple masters vs. Superpolator? I've toyed with multiple masters in FontLab and quickly realized there's got to be a better way. Now I'm in position to make my first extensive font family, and I'm wondering where my limited dollars would be best spent equipping myself for the task.
  • I've toyed with multiple masters in FontLab and quickly realized there's got to be a better way.
    I guess you never made MMs in Fontographer or Ikarus!

    Fontlab MM aint so bad.
  • Any more direct comments comparing what Glyphs does with multiple masters vs. Superpolator?
    Superpolator doesn't use Multiple Masters at all. It's based on the same idea of interpolation but uses an arbitrary number of master fonts (or partial fonts) to make the in-between versions.

    The most immediate upside of this is you don't have to make a complicated Multiple Master file. The arbitrary number of masters is also really nice, allowing you to easily have Light, Regular, and Bold masters. This also allows you to experiment much more freely (and faster once you get used to the workflow).
  • The thing that people seem to have the most trouble with in the way MM works in FontLab is that, once you set it up, each master is really an instance of the same outline. This has the advantage that it's impossible to create incompatible outlines, so there's really no need for something like Prepolator. This is great, as far as maintaining compatible outlines, but can make working with the outlines awkward. Things you do in one master can have unexpected consequences in other masters. Adding and deleting parts of outlines is not straightforward, and it's easy to wind up with more points than you thought you put down. Once you're used to its quirks, it's not bad. It's nice to be able to use the Preview window to see an interpolated view while you're working on an outline.

    Another big limitation is that masters always come in powers of two (two, four, eight, sixteen) and the relationship is always linear (the masters are always positioned at the extremes). You can extrapolate, or control interpolation in x and y separately, but there's not a lot of flexibility.

    With Superpolater, you build your masters as separate fonts. This requires extra work in making sure your outlines are compatible (hence Prepolator), but it has much more flexibility. You can work with arbitrary numbers of masters and place them anywhere you want in the interpolation space. This makes things possible such as starting with a light, bold, and light condensed, and generating a bold condensed (or at least a starting point for it). I've used this trick and it's a real time saver.

    Glyphs seems to be somewhere between these two approaches, perhaps a little closer to the way Superpolator works. For example, it's possible to draw incompatible outlines in different masters. It has its own built-in function for fixing incompatible masters, working somewhat like Prepolator.
  • James (Dunwich): do you do much spacing/kerning within Glyphs?
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,415
    I space as I draw, and Glyphs is great for that because in Glyphs one spaces words in the drawing window. I have done a little kerning, and glyphs is well suited for kerning using the method of flipping through a series of strings and kerning as you go, but I have not used it for an entire font yet. I will probably continue using Metrics Machine for kerning because it is more suited to my thorough and systematic way of thinking.
  • Thanks for the comments, gents. I'm about to embark on my first typeface and it looks like Glyphs is the right tool.
  • glyphs is well suited for kerning using the method of flipping through a series of strings and kerning as you go
    How do you flip through strings?

    I'm trying out Glyphs now. Lots to like, including the way masters and instances are set up, and the visual feedback of the united spacing/glyph/preview window.

    What I miss so far (or haven't figured out how to do):

    - easily copying metrics settings from one font or weight to another.

    - a "replace" option for a copied segment.

    - looks like I might have to make compatible masters for every glyph just to be able to generate font files.

    - batch suffix addition/replacement.

    - marking selected glyphs with a color.

    - being able to type multiple "variable" characters in the string that you can change with a keypress (e.g. like in FontLab where the preview string can be HH@HHOO@OOnn@nnoo@oo)
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,415
    How do you flip through strings?
    ⌘+⌥+F, the strings are defined in preferences.
    easily copying metrics settings from one font or weight to another.
    Glyphs does not do that :(
    a "replace" option for a copied segment.
    I sometimes miss that, but I don’t recall that it works especially well in Fontlab.
    looks like I might have to make compatible masters for every glyph just to be able to generate font files.
    That is annoying. Post a feature request on the Glyphs board asking to make that switchable in the export window and I’ll second.
    batch suffix addition/replacement.
    Georg definitely needs to add that. But you can also write a pretty simple Robofab script to do it.
    marking selected glyphs with a color.
    Just right click on the glyph and pick a color.
    being able to type multiple "variable" character
    In type mode either insert with Edit >> Insert Placeholder or Opt + CMD+ Shift + P
  • Wow, thanks for the responses. I'll go try them out.

    Forgot on my list:
    - better, more extensive printing options.
  • James ToddJames Todd Posts: 207
    I tried Glyphs out on my laptop and I did like it. Because my laptop isn't my primary machine, and I only had the demo, I wasn't able to explore it as deeply as I would have liked. My first impression of it was that it seemed like a simplified FontLab with a prettier UI, though after using it for a little while, I realized this wasn't the case.

    Since my primary machine is a PC, I'm contemplating buying it and running it via VMware. I'm just not too sure if it's worth the effort yet. I just really wish these new tools would have a windows equivalent as I find that environment much more stable when it comes to font software.
  • TimAhrensTimAhrens Posts: 22
    I am currently working in FontLab and Glyphs in parallel, switching on a daily basis. While I feel that Glyphs is the more convenient editor, my main conclusion is that type design is still type design, the process is not much different no matter what your tools is. In that sense, the commonly heard statement that the tools you use have an impact no your design does not hold true for me. The process, the decisions you make, the problems you solve, seem to be independent of the software. Which does not mean that you wouldn't want a powerful and hassle-free tool.

  • TimAhrensTimAhrens Posts: 22
    edited April 2012
    Quick note regarding the "Multiple Master", interpolation or whatever you want to call it (it's the same thing): Glyphs allows you to have an arbitrary number of masters (which are called layers there). Even per-glyph. These layers can be incompatible temporarily without breaking anything. Oh, and you can use them to create backups or versioning of individual glyphs. Glyphs also understands if you have a Light, Regular and Bold and uses them correspondingly when generating the final weights. You can also have a "triangular" setup like Regular, Condensed and Bold only. And it allows you to create a special version of a glyph that overrides the interpolation for that particular glyph for a specific weight range. Very fine-grained control and very convenient. Not very well documented, though.
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,415
    Not very well documented, though.
    I think the only documentation—at least in English—is Georg talking about it in the Robofont video.
  • Glyphs allows you to have an arbitrary number of masters (which are called layers there)
    Does Glyphs differentiate between layers that are masters and layers that are used for reference or scraps?
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,415
    Does Glyphs differentiate between layers that are masters and layers that are used for reference or scraps?
    Each glyph in each master layer has its own collection of layers that can be used for reference, scraps, or interpolation tricks.
  • Georg SeifertGeorg Seifert Posts: 458
    edited April 2012
    Hi,
    May I add some pieces:

    @Mark_Simonson:
    you can control the order of the glyphs in the font. You add a "glyphOrder" key to the fonts Custom Parameters.

    @Craig:
    - batch suffix addition/replacement.
    Select some glyphs and Edit > Find > Search and Replace. To add a suffix, leave the Find field empty.
    - better, more extensive printing options
    I asked about that and did not get much feedback. There are some options in Glyphs but usually I use Indesign to print my samples. This gives me much more control and if you always export in the indesign fonts folder, it is always up to date. If you have any specific suggestion, feel free to send me a sketch.

    @JamesTodd:
    I only can develop for Mac because the developer tools are much better (at least I could understand them and that was not the case with the windows dev tools). If you know a good win coder... But why not use it on the laptop (with an external screen)?

    About the MM/superpolator/Interpolation topic: Tim did a good job on summarizing it. On thing I could not miss is the ability to see a live preview of the instances as you draw the masters and to be able to export instances in a few seconds. All with overlaps removed and all names set correctly.

    @Dunwich_Type:
    Did you see the manual? (Glyphsapp.com > Resources > Tutorials)
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,415
    edited April 2012
    Did you see the manual?
    The manual does not explain how layers that apply within certain weight ranges work. I assume it would be in section “5.5. Layers Panel” and it is not.

    And since Tim brought up the triangular interpolation space, what is the purpose of it? For example, if I had the Light, Bold, and Condensed masters as shown in section 5.1 of the Glyphs manual, how would the Condensed master relate to Light and Bold and what could I generate from it?
  • - batch suffix addition/replacement.
    Select some glyphs and Edit > Find > Search and Replace. To add a suffix, leave the Find field empty.
    - better, more extensive printing options
    I asked about that and did not get much feedback. There are some options in Glyphs but usually I use Indesign to print my samples. This gives me much more control and if you always export in the indesign fonts folder, it is always up to date. If you have any specific suggestion, feel free to send me a sketch.
    Thanks for the suffix trick.
    For printing, I would say the one additional possibility I miss from FontLab would be a waterfall of a given string, with a specifiable range of point sizes, and sizes printed in front of every line. I agree that most proofing can be done in something like InDesign (though my incompatible masters are keeping me from generating partial font files as I said above).
  • @Dunwich_Type The weight ranges are defined through the design space. Lets say you have a Light and set the weight value to 30, a Regular to 80 and a Bold to 150. So now you define instances. A Semi Light with a weight value of 55 will be an 50/50 interpolation between the Light and the Regular master. An instance with a value of 80 will be exactly the Regular master and with a value of 115, you get a 50/50 interpolation between the Regular and the Bold Master.

    The same applies to the triangular setup. Draw a diagram (like the scheme on page 18 in the manual) if you use the weight and width value from the Masters and Instances you get a good idea on how a master will affect a instance. If there are more then two masters on one line, only the nearest two will be used.

    @Craig I will add an option to allow the export partial fonts. Incompatible glyphs will be exported but without any outlines.
  • There is one option that for most parts will eliminate the necessity of an intermediate master.
    You need those mostly to be able to add optical corrections in the Bold master in letters like "a", "e" and such glyphs with a lot strokes. What you do is to draw the Bold with no correction that the interpolated Regular would be nice. Then you make a copy of the Bold master in Layer Panel. You name the Layer "Bold [100]". On instance interpolation, Glyphs will look for those layers and if the number in square brackets is less then then weight value of the instance it will use this Layer as Master. So put in a number that is less then the weight value of the instance that should use the as a master for interpolation.

    So to use the example from above (without the intermediate Regular master), the Regular will be interpolated the uncorrected Bold master. But a SemiBold instance with a weight value of e.g. 115, the interpolation is between the Light master and the "Bold [100]" master. This is what Tim meant with "And it allows you to create a special version of a glyph that overrides the interpolation for that particular glyph for a specific weight range."

    You can even use this to change the hole glyph. I use is to switch from a dollar sign with a continuous stroke to one that only has a small strokes at the top and the bottom. All what you need to do is to copy the Light master to and call it "Light [100]".
  • Thanks for joining the conversation Georg.

    And, thanks to everyone else for their comments.

    Russell
  • James ToddJames Todd Posts: 207
    Georg,

    If I come across anyone, I'll let you know. I'd do it if could.

    I'm contemplating using the external monitor idea. Once I finish my current project, I think I'm going to try it.
  • @Georg,

    This may already be in the works, but I would suggest you plan a couple of half- or full-day Glyphs workshops at TypeCon this summer.

    I know I would look forward to attending one.
  • James PuckettJames Puckett Posts: 1,415
    Glyphs workshops at Typecon would be good. And it would give me a chance to buy you a beer—I feel like I owe you a few!
  • - easily copying metrics settings from one font or weight to another
    Python to the rescue! For copying metrics between fonts, you can use my Copy sidebearings script from https://github.com/mekkablue/Glyphs-Scripts. It needs Vanilla by Tal Leming.
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