Font production frustrations and solutions

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  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,435
    edited March 20
    I’m in the habit of using the full-width accents for composites. After all, they are the default for accents.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,591
    I’m in the habit of using the full-width accents for composites. After all, they are the default for accents.
    Not sure what you mean by “the default.”

    They are characters that are more commonly in old legacy encodings and codepages, sure. Like you, I have long been in the habit of using them in my pre-built composite characters. The (only?) reason being that if we go back 25 years, those were the characters we had in our fonts, typically, rather than the (zero-width) combining accents. So I started out using those.

    But it is quite clear from Unicode which characters are combining and which are not. If you make a new-fangled font that relies on dynamically combining accents with base characters, it surely makes sense to use... the combining accents, and not the stand-alone spacing accents.
  • Good heaven’s grief, Word, Word and always Word…

    I always dissolve all components prior to generating the font.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 1,435
    Thomas Phinney said:
    Not sure what you mean by “the default.” 

    They are the ones that appear in the standard encodings in FontLab 5.1.4, which is the latest version I'm using.
  • AbrahamLeeAbrahamLee Posts: 243
    Thanks everyone for the comments. It’s been very insightful.

    Any others you’ve learned as operating systems and apps have evolved?
  • It is good to read that OTM is considered quite useful for post-production processing. We made a start with posting testimonials from OTM users here. Any additional testimonials are very welcome, of course.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,591
    Thomas Phinney said:
    Not sure what you mean by “the default.” 

    They are the ones that appear in the standard encodings in FontLab 5.1.4, which is the latest version I'm using.

    Sure, and you should quite possibly include them because they are in those old encodings, and they still have some relevance for that reason. FontLab VI still has those old encodings. But if you are going to make a font to more modern specs, and use dynamically combined accents, using the diacritic slots intended for that purpose makes sense.
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,136
    Does FLS 5.1.4 even support combining accents and mark-to-base/mark-to-mark?
  • John SavardJohn Savard Posts: 432
    edited April 6
    Thanks, John. When you say “make fonts to spec”, are you referring to industry font specs (e.g., the OpenType spec) or customer specs/requirements?
    I thought it was obvious from the context that he meant the former. Of course, while he should make fonts to spec for general sale, the customers do not benefit if the font doesn't work on the tool they need it to work on.

    I've noticed that a few free fonts don't work on Microsoft's WordPad. But the reason isn't because the fonts haven't done something nonstandard, but simply because WordPad only supports a limited part of the standard.

    So Goudy Bookletter 1911 doesn't work because it doesn't include the default Windows encoding (as I learned from Microsoft Write, on which it also didn't work without some workaround effort). STIX apparently doesn't work because its outlines are Adobe outlines.

    If a font that both complies strictly with the OpenType spec, and which is made to the lowest common denominator, using only basic features that are supported by pretty much every application that can use any fonts at all, still doesn't work on a particular application, then, in general, there's not much that can be done about it that is reasonable, but making it work for a specific application is a legitimate extra-cost service. I don't know how many applications out there are unable to make use of fonts that work on WordPad, but that is definitely the application's fault.

    I'm not saying people shouldn't make fonts designed to use advanced features. Obviously such fonts will usually be used on well-known design programs which support those features. And I presume that most of those programs aren't restricted to nonstandard fonts. I wonder what the offenders are. And how the giant font companies like Monotype Imaging, with their larger resources, manage to deal with this.

    I thought I would be really clever and make the /i character as a composite from dotless i and dot accent. But of course, Word doesn’t like that! 

    Since the character "i" is a part of the normal ASCII character set, it will be used frequently. This would cause printing to consume extra machine cycles! (That is, even in the case where it worked perfectly.)

    Kent Lew said:
    Given that the dot accent outline is being referenced as a component, I don’t understand how its advance width would come into play during rendering. But it does seem that this could be the source of the bug. FWIW, I’ve only seen examples with the zero-width dotaccentcmb U+0307 used for this type of construction. (And I’ve never tested it in Word on Windows.)
    What, you mean the rule isn't that the rule for composite characters is not that the advance width of the result is the greatest of those of any of their components? (Plus, in the case of any of those components, any displacement applied to their location in the compound character.)
  • Kent LewKent Lew Posts: 900
    In the discussion of “make the /i character as a composite from dotless i and dot accent” I think perhaps we need to distinguish between
    a) making the /i glyph from components of /dotlessi and /dotaccentcmb, and
    b) generating an /i character on-the-fly via {ccmp} & {mark} or some other mechanism to combine /dotlessi and /dotaccentcmb using GPOS.
    In the latter case, yes, advance widths could conceivably come into play in some rendering environment due to different levels of support or interpretation for {mark} and GPOS.
    But I took Nick to mean the first case, given his use of the term “component”, which I take to be a reference within the glyph outline description, and which is what I have been discussing.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,591
    Ah, I took Nick to mean the second case (GPOS). The first case, of components, is so very commonplace that I would be quite surprised if this problem existed and we were unaware of it. I have certainly built many fonts that way.

    It will be enlightening to learn/confirm which he meant!
  • Erwin DenissenErwin Denissen Posts: 170
    John Savard said:

    So Goudy Bookletter 1911 doesn't work because it doesn't include the default Windows encoding (as I learned from Microsoft Write, on which it also didn't work without some workaround effort). STIX apparently doesn't work because its outlines are Adobe outlines.
    Some problems can be easily avoided by using a more recent version of your font editor. I'm not saying that solves all technical issues, and sometimes a font editor does more harm than good, so always keep testing your fonts.

    I only took a quick look at Goudy Bookletter 1911, and it seems to have valid mappings, so I'm not sure what causes the problem. Still just opening it with FontCreator and then exporting it again fixed the issue.

    STIX has a corrupt table. Again just opening it with FontCreator and the exporting it fixed the problem.

    John Savard said:

    I thought I would be really clever and make the /i character as a composite from dotless i and dot accent. But of course, Word doesn’t like that! 

    Since the character "i" is a part of the normal ASCII character set, it will be used frequently. This would cause printing to consume extra machine cycles! (That is, even in the case where it worked perfectly.)
    Using a simple or a composite glyph shouldn't make a difference, and the extra CPU cycles are negligible. In an earlier post I mentioned I made such font and it worked perfectly in Word. I think it is too easy to blame Word. I would really like to see a font with such composite that fails to work with Word...

  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,591
    I suspect that one issue with WordPad is that it uses the GDI+ API, which IIRC does not support OpenType CFF (.otf) fonts. TrueType (.ttf) only for GDI+, I think.

  • Erwin DenissenErwin Denissen Posts: 170
    I suspect that one issue with WordPad is that it uses the GDI+ API, which IIRC does not support OpenType CFF (.otf) fonts. TrueType (.ttf) only for GDI+, I think.

    WordPad has no issues with the CFF based font I generated out of Goudy Bookletter 1911 with FontCreator.
  • Kent LewKent Lew Posts: 900
    Ah, I took Nick to mean the second case (GPOS).

    I wondered if that might be so in several of the responses here.

    That seems like a very cumbersome approach to me. First of all, it’s very unlikely that any user (or keyboard) is inputting u+0131 plus u+0307 rather than just typing an “i” u+0069.

    So, you still need to have some glyph present in the font to map 0x0069 to in the <cmap> table. (Otherwise, the font won’t respond when an “i” is typed, right?)

    Why not have that be an /i glyph? You could certainly construct that glyph from components, i.e., my first case above.

    But, in order to implement the second case GPOS solution, you’d then need to also have a GSUB Type 2 one-to-many decomposition to go from the /i glyph to /dotlessi plus /dotaccentcmb, presumably registered to {ccmp}. And then you’d need a {mark} GPOS to position the combining dot accent over the base.

    Seems too clever by half.


  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 1,591
    Kent Lew said:
    Ah, I took Nick to mean the second case (GPOS).

    I wondered if that might be so in several of the responses here.

    That seems like a very cumbersome approach to me. First of all, it’s very unlikely that any user (or keyboard) is inputting u+0131 plus u+0307 rather than just typing an “i” u+0069.

    So, you still need to have some glyph present in the font to map 0x0069 to in the <cmap> table. (Otherwise, the font won’t respond when an “i” is typed, right?) 

    Nope. It’s not “the font” responding when you type something. It’s an app, and it is using either its own or system-level services for Unicode support.

    Unicode specifies that for those precomposed characters which correspond to certain sequences of combining characters, they are “canonically equivalent” and should be treated the same way. In the absence of the precomposed characters, apps/systems should look for the combining characters. (In theory, if they are smart enough. Which I say because Unicode compliance in the real world is not just a binary switch you flip.)

    In heavily Unicode-savvy environments, this means that if the font doesn’t have a precomposed, say, eacute, it will then instead be asked “how about e + combining acute?” because that is canonically equivalent. If it has that, it falls back to it. If not, it *might* (or might not) try e + spacing acute as a next fallback.

    (There are some extra complexities here with i vs dotless i as a component, so I am using e so as to simplify the example.)
  • Ray LarabieRay Larabie Posts: 901
    edited April 6
    I've been making my i and j using components for dotlessi and dotlessj with dot accents in my fonts for a while. They appear normally in Wordpad for Windows 10. Here's Bitcrusher at 1001fonts.com if anyone wants to test it.
  • Cory MaylettCory Maylett Posts: 158
    Sure, and you should quite possibly include them because they are in those old encodings, and they still have some relevance for that reason. FontLab VI still has those old encodings. But if you are going to make a font to more modern specs, and use dynamically combined accents, using the diacritic slots intended for that purpose makes sense.
    Just to clarify, are you suggesting it might be a good idea to use both in the same font, as in upper and lowercase diacritics plus combining versions of each? That's four separate slots for every accent character.
  • Frode HellandFrode Helland Posts: 118
    @Cory Maylett The spacing diacritics are used for
    a) talking about diacritical marks, such as the dieresis: ¨  (though space/dotted circle+combining diacritics is a good alternative)
    b) displayed as “dead key” in some circumstances (On my Mac I type ¨+e to get ë, and the computer briefly displays the spacing dieresis before I hit the e)
    c) punctuation symbols/letters, either by default or as a fallback option, in certain languages (Tongan use of the ´, sometimes rendered after the vowel, sometimes with modified fonts shifting the acute to the right comes to mind.)

    There are also reasons for including multiple versions of the combining diacritical marks:
    a) they may require or benefit from different shapes above capitals and lowercase – also above/below small caps, superiors, etc. 
    b) TrueType instructions controlling their position and rendering may require separate glyphs for each. 
    c) broad, and well executed, language support benefits form narrow and wide variations above certain base letterforms.
  • Kent LewKent Lew Posts: 900
    Nope. It’s not “the font” responding when you type something. It’s an app, and it is using either its own or system-level services for Unicode support.

    Okay, fair enough. As the app is processing the Unicode via its own or system-level services, it’s going to be checking the <cmap> table in the font to see if there is a matching key to map the codepoint to a glyph (which I characterized as the font “responding”).

    And yes, there are Unicode-defined canonically equivalent options or fallbacks that can be tried if certain accented characters are not present in the <cmap>. So a font can support “é” even if the <cmap> doesn’t have an entry for 0x00E9, if instead it has /e and a combining acute (u0301).

    That’s a good clarification for the general understanding. Agreed.

    But I was talking specifically about “i” here. Is that really canonically equivalent to u0131+u0307?

    In heavily Unicode-savvy environments, if the font doesn’t have a precomposed “i”, will it then instead be asked “how about dotlessi + combining dotaccent?”

    I’m asking seriously, not just rhetorically (albeit perhaps a bit skeptically).

    I’ve just assumed that since “i” is such a core element of the Latin orthography that it is not treated by Unicode as a precomposed form of dotlessi plus dotaccent. (Except perhaps within the context of Turkish language — but even then, I believe u0069 is canonically equivalent to u0069 + u0307.)

    As you say, “i” is a unique case.

  • Frode HellandFrode Helland Posts: 118
    edited April 7
    According to FileFormat.info (I’d go directly to the source, but I don’t know where exactly Unicode lists this information), /i/ is not canonically equivalent with dotlessi + combining dot above.
  • George ThomasGeorge Thomas Posts: 505
    edited April 7
    They aren't equivalent. The Unicode 11 book on page 291 says this:
    "Diacritics on i and j. A dotted (normal) i or j followed by some common nonspacing marks above loses the dot in rendering. Thus, in the word naïve, the ï could be spelled with i + diaeresis. A dotted-i is not equivalent to a Turkish dotless-i + overdot, nor are other cases of accented dotted-i equivalent to accented dotless-i (for example, i + ¨ is not equivalent to dotless-i + ¨). The same pattern is used for j. Dotless-j is used in the Landsmålsalfabet, where it does not have a case pair.
    To express the forms sometimes used in the Baltic (where the dot is retained under a top accent in dictionaries), use i + overdot + accent (see Figure 7-2).
    All characters that use their dot in this manner have the Soft_Dotted property in Unicode."

  • Kent LewKent Lew Posts: 900
    edited April 7
    Thanks for finding that reference, George. I quickly perused my Unicode 8 document and didn’t find it this morning. But now I see what you quoted, in Chapter 7.1. As I suspected.
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