What were the first OpenType font releases? And when?

Stephen ColesStephen Coles Posts: 992
edited September 2015 in History of Typography
Lots of sources claim 2000 as the year the first OT fonts hit the market, but they don’t cite any reference. Perhaps this assumption is derived from the fact that Windows 2000 was the first OS to support OpenType?

If there were OT fonts available in 2000, what were they? Adobe’s Font Folio had OT fonts, but not until January 2001.


  • My first recollection was Adobe Garamond and Myriad.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,098
    The vast majority of the early OT releases were format conversions which didn’t add languages or features.

    Dear Sarah (2004?) was a landmark, in my opinion, being the first indie release to utilize the Contextual Alternates feature in a script style. And it was quite popular.

    That boded well for OT in all its glory, because Multiple Masters (a previous next-big-thing) had fizzled, partly due to lack of indie product.

  • A group of fonts we delivered to MS for bundling with something or other in 1997, contained OT features we couldn't test on Windows yet. Hope they work.  
  • [How the heck do I get outside of the quoted text area?]
  • [How the heck do I get outside of the quoted text area?]

    When that starts happening just write the post first and then add the quote. 
  • Just adding to the list of early releases. Emily King’s excellent history of digital type in the 1990s mentions Chaparral and Warnock as Adobe’s most prominent full-featured OT releases. They appeared in 2000.
  • Florian HardwigFlorian Hardwig Posts: 253
    edited September 2015
    Nick mentioned Dear Sarah. P22 Cézanne Pro and Nick’s own Handsome were released around 2005, too. Some more (earlier) digital script font pioneers:
    • Caflisch Script by Robert Slimbach (Adobe). The OpenType version was released in 2001, making it the first OpenType font to make significant use of contextual alternates and ligatures. Bundled with InDesign 2.0 (January 2002).
    • Bickham Script by Richard Lipton (Adobe, 1997, OpenType version in c. 2004, bundled with Creative Suite 2 (2005).
    • Zapfino by Hermann Zapf was first released in 1998 for Apple Advanced Typography (AAT), part of Apple’s proprietary GX technology, pre-OpenType. Has 8 different shapes per letter, automatic substitutions for contextual alternates and ligatures. I think the OT version was released in 2003.
  • How the heck do I get outside of the quoted text area?
    I've experienced this too; I use the icon </> on the toolbar to get into the HTML markup and enter text outside the blockquote, and then switch back to the regular editor. 
  • To add to Florian’s list: House Industries’s Ed Interlock was released in 2004, if my memory and the Internet are correct, and it had more glyphs than Linotype’s Zapfino OT did.
  • I'm almost certain it was a Sparkytype font by David Buck - He was the first indie to figure out all those fancy Adobe OT making tools.
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,098
    Just re-read an article, Real Big Thing, I wrote in 2002 about OpenType. 

    Apart from a few statements that now appear rather embarrassing, I’m reminded that a big impetus to the development of OpenType fonts was the first release of FontLab for the Mac. When was that, 2004?

    At the time, many, if not the majority of us first wave of indie designers were using Fontographer on the Mac—switching to FontLab enabled us to make OT fonts (we weren’t going to switch platforms!)
  • David LemonDavid Lemon Posts: 6
    edited September 2015
    Adobe's first batch of OpenType fonts was a mix of heavily reworked fonts, some other families in which we mostly just integrated supplemental fonts, and one new family (Michael Harvey's Moonglow). Most were developed in 2000, but they shipped on Font Folio 9 in January 2001. FF9 was the last version of Font Folio that had the full Type 1 library; the OpenType families were:

    Adobe Caslon Pro

    Adobe Garamond Pro

    Adobe Jenson Pro

    Calcite Pro

    Lithos Pro

    Minion Pro


    Myriad Pro

    Silentium Pro

    Tekton Pro

    Warnock Pro

  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,630
    edited September 2015
    the first release of FontLab for the Mac. When was that, 2004?

    Not quite. I have an email receipt for FontLab 3.0 (Mac) from January 2000. (FWIW, never got the hang of that version. Didn't really use it until version 4.5.)

  • the first release of FontLab for the Mac. When was that, 2004?

    Not quite. I have an email receipt for FontLab 3.0 (Mac) from January 2000. (FWIW, never got the hang of that version. Didn't really use it until version 4.5.)

    Was FontLab 4.0 still the first OT-capable FontLab for the Mac?
  • Not sure about 4.0, which was Windows-only, but Mac version 4.5 (2002) had OpenType support. 3.0 didn’t. Also, it looks like Mac version 3.0 was released in 1998. (Where is Adam when you need him? I’m sure he could quickly clear this up in a few thousand words. :-)
  • Adam TwardochAdam Twardoch Posts: 507
    edited September 2015
    FontLab 4.0 for Windows, released in December 2001, was the first font editor that included OTF reading and writing and OpenType Layout feature editing, thanks to the integrated Adobe FDK library, which had been released by Adobe some time earlier. It also was the first FontLab version to include Python scripting.

    I worked with prerelease versions of FontLab 4 since mid-2001 when I was interning with Tiro Typeworks in Vancouver, and was not working for FontLab yet — I joined them in 2004. 

    AFAIR, in August 2003, FontLab 4.6 for Mac OS 9 & X was released, the first version of FontLab 4.x for the Mac, and the first OpenType-capable font editor for the platform.

    Keep in mind that this was when OS X 10.2 Jaguar had been released, and many Mac users still worked on OS 9 since OS X was still very "experimental". Most software apps were still working in Classic mode or had just been ported to the clunky Carbon environment, and hardly any was written in Cocoa. And the Macs were PowerPC. 

    The Mac had a marginal user base at that time and Windows had its probably best release ever (some would claim, best to this date), Windows XP, in late 2001. Many Windows users started moving to the Mac only after 2004 when Apple released 10.4 Tiger, or after 2005 when they switched to Intel.

    Microsoft had a “dark period” then, Windows Vista didn’t come out until early 2007 and was considered a flop, only to redeem themselves to some extent in late 2009 with Windows 7. 

    XP dominated the Windows mainstream for 8 years — almost the time that took FontLab to journey from Studio 5.0 to the full rewrite, VI, while managing to do a PPC to Intel transition (5.1) in the middle of that period. 

    But 7 was not a full rewrite of XP. In this time Microsoft had revamped their graphic subsystem numerous times, introducing some revolutionary things and then dropping them (from GDI to GDI+ then to WPF and finally to DirectWrite that seems to have finally stuck), but a lot of the old baggage was (and still is) visible in Windows. 

    I do know well what our small FontLab team was doing all these years, but I still kept wondering what the thousands of people at Microsoft were doing for nearly a decade. :) 

    In that time, Apple pursued a consequent strategy, kept releasing often, completed the transition from PPC to Intel, and leapt from the barely functional OS X 10.1 Puma to the mature 10.6 Snow Leopard. 

  • Short answer: December 2001 Windows, December 2002 Mac.

    FontLab 3 came out June 1 1998 (Windows) and 1 April 1999 (Mac). So it did not have OpenType support—neither for the OpenType CFF format, nor for OpenType layout features.

    FontLab 4 was released 3 Dec 2001, for Windows only, and was the first version to support OpenType layout features and OpenType CFF fonts. FontLab 4.5 for Mac on 2 Dec 2002 brought the same functionality to Mac OS.

  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,098
    I’m not so sure about the Mac’s “marginal user base” in 2003.

    In North America, those most likely to use OpenType-featured fonts were designers using QuarkXPress on Macs, which however didn’t support OT features until v.7 in 2006. It always puzzled me that InDesign didn’t advertise its OT superiority in attempting to persuade designers to switch to the upstart InDesign. 

    Print was still dominant, and the graphics industry in North America had been centred on Mac workflow since it went digital 10-15 years earlier.

    Apple was still largely a trade supplier, and had yet to become a consumer force, first when the iPod went cross-platform in 2004, and then with the iPhone.
  • Thanks, Adam!  I was a "new guy" in 2004 getting FontLab 4.6 for the first time.
  • Ah, yes. 4.5 from 2002 was indeed the first OT-capable version of FontLab for Mac. 4.6 came 2003 as a free update for both platforms.
  • Adam TwardochAdam Twardoch Posts: 507
    edited September 2015
    @Nick Shinn : I agree that the Macintosh platform exploded with the print publishing industry, especially in North America, since the mid-1980s. But between the mid-1990s and the mid-2000s, Windows has gained a lot of ground, and Apple didn’t really repeat their North American success in other regions in the world. Microsoft was far better than Apple with internationalization (Unicode, OpenType), so they conquered the post-communist Eastern European countries, China, Asia and the Middle East like forest fire.

    Microsoft were among the earliest comprehensive adopters of Unicode, they got solid multitasking with Windows NT. NT 4.0 (1996) was very good, 2000 was great and XP (2001) was spectacular. Microsoft kickstarted the OpenType font technology because it has built it into the operating system, and started commissioning fonts in this technology that solved linguistic problems for most complex-script languages. 

    At that time, Apple’s hardware and software platforms were hopelessly obsolete, and their GX/AAT system, while really good in principle, never really got appropriate traction. 

    Adobe sided with Microsoft on OpenType, because Adobe knew that the wind was blowing in Microsoft’s direction at the time. Adobe could have easily sided with Apple. They could have built the GX/AAT features into InDesign, not OpenType. And they could have released the CFF-based fonts with GX Layout tables, not OpenType Layout tables.

    (Apple’s San Francisco UI fonts that ship with iOS 9 and Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan are fonts with CFF outlines, and they use a mix of OpenType Layout and AAT Layout tables. There never was a problem to use fonts with CFF outlines and AAT Layout tables.) 

    Creative industries other than print publishing (video editing, 3D modeling and animation, architectural & industrial design, web design and development, game design and development) were Windows-first or Windows-only in that time. This was true for 3D Studio Max, Lightwave, and many other 3D apps. AutoCAD did not release Mac versions of their products from 1994 to 2010. SolidWorks is Windows-only. Between 2003 and 2006, Adobe only released Premiere for Windows. From 1991 until 1998, Avid Media Composer was Mac-only, then introduced a Windows version but they were considering abandoning the Mac platform.  

    The dominance of the Intel hardware platform over PowerPC was obvious since the late 1990s or early 2000s at least, and Apple only managed to reverse the decline around 2005 when they switched to Intel and started delivering a mature, usable Mac OS X. Then, the trend indeed essentially reversed, and Windows went into hiding. 

    This really was reflected quite accurately in the small market of font editor development:

    Fontographer and Letraset FontStudio were Mac-only, as they emerged in the times of QuarkXPress and the Macintosh DTP revolution. FontLab was Windows-first since it was the first to adopt Unicode and OpenType, which were unheard of on Mac OS at that time. And in the recent 5 years, with Mac OS X getting high traction, we've had two Mac-only font editors. Today, the situation is more diversified than in the last 20 years because we have the two traditional desktop platforms (Windows and Mac OS X), but there's also the mobile operating systems (including Android), and we have the web, with HTML5 as a slowly emerging environment to create GUI apps. 
  • I still have a fondness for Letraset FontStudio, my first foray into type design.
  • That and the fact that, beyond the mere font stuff, Quickdraw GX was clearly designed to be a PostScript killer. :)
  • Nick ShinnNick Shinn Posts: 2,098
    Creative industries other than print publishing (video editing, 3D modeling and animation, architectural & industrial design, web design and development, game design and development) were Windows-first or Windows-only in that time. 

    Agreed Adam, but typographers in those areas had no use for “expert” OpenType features such as small caps, alternate figures, etc., even if their layout applications had supported them.

  • Adam TwardochAdam Twardoch Posts: 507
    edited September 2015
    On a more general level, I'd like to recall a basic classification I once proposed that groups into three "levels" what we mean by "OpenType support":

    1. Ability to display and print at least the basic Western (or full Unicode) character set of OpenType fonts: 
    * for TTF, the Western charset was supported in Windows 3.1, 95, 98, ME
    * for OTF, the Western charset was supported (with ATM 4.1) in Windows 98, ME, and in Mac OS 9
    * for TTF, Unicode was supported in Windows NT, 2000, XP and later, and in all versions of Mac OS X
    * for OTF, Unicode was supported in Windows 2000 and later, in all (?) versions of Mac OS X, and with ATM 4.1 in Windows NT 4
    * a small number of apps did not support OTF despite running on OSes that did, e.g. OpenOffice at all until a few years ago, or Office 2003 on th Unicode level (it only did Western)

    2. Automatic OpenType Layout features (no user selectability), for both linguistic accuracy and typographic effects
    * European scripts were supported since Windows 2000 and Mac OS X 10.5 (2007)
    * complex scripts were supported since Windows 2000 and Mac OS X 10.7 (2010) 
    * despite running on OSes that did/do support this, many apps still do not, support this correctly, or did not until recently
    * notably Adobe apps were very poor and still are subpar in supporting automatic OpenType Layout features for complex scripts

    3. User-controlled OpenType Layout features for additional typographic control
    * this was largely a domain of apps that needed to provide appropriate user interfaces
    * Adobe InDesign was the first such app, with more Adobe apps following
    * Microsoft Office since version 2010, QuarkXPress since 7, Corel Draw since X5, most modern browsers via CSS, many Serif/Affinity apps, and a small number of other apps have such UIs
    * Mac OS X provided system-wide access through the Typography palette
    * Apple iWork apps had this functionality through the Typography palette but lost it in the 2013 versions

    Arguably, the first OS to provide the basic Western OpenType support (TTF only) was Windows 3.1 from 1993. A few years ago, I built a large multilingual OpenType font family (Lato) which works perfectly, unmodified, in Microsoft Word 6.0 on Windows 3.1, as evidenced here: 
  • Adam, Unicode was never, in my experience, "unheard of on the Mac". I think I met Opstad and Mader at Apple in... 1990, or 1991, and that Unicode thing is all they did. I don't think the SFNT concept works without Unicode. So... if you paid for that opinion, get your money back. 

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