Alternates combinations


For a font I'm working on I consider combining two styles in one font as stylistic sets, instead of creating two separated fonts, one is squared, the other rounded, ss01, ss02, each will include the entire characters set.

In addition to that, I have 3 alternate glyphs that I wish to be activated according to the user's decision, for each style, let's say the letters /A /C /E - The font user should be able to activate one ,two or all the alternates, for each style.

I wonder what is the elegant way to do it?


  • I really think two fonts would be better. Keep in mind that most people don’t know what stylistic sets are at all, much less how to use them. 
  • If you do two fonts it is instantly visible upfront for everyone what you offer. When you pack all in one font, you need to explain things first (and hope that people understand). For the user’s handling it doesn’t make any difference, however.
  • Look at Character Variants and Stylistic Sets

    However, as noted by James Puckett most people don't know how to use Stylistic Sets. The Gabriola font in Windows is a good example of a font with several stylistic sets.

    There again, if font designers never include Stylistic Sets in their fonts, users will never learn about them. I include all kinds of OpenType features in my Garava font, but it's primarily for testing purposes. I don't even use most of the features myself very often. 
  • FWIW, in recent apps, like Adobe CC and Affinity Designer, stylistic sets are getting more prominent placement in the UI, and also provide support named sets. I don't know how much it will help, but I suspect more people will use them than in the past. 

    Separate fonts does have the advantage of being easy to understand (just pick a font), but it does have some disadvantages. For instance, you can't have cross-font kerning. If the sets can be mixed, being able to include kerning among glyphs from different sets is an advantage having it all in one font. If the sets are mutually exclusive (like some kind of global change), then maybe separate fonts probably makes more sense anyway.
  • Thanks all for your replies! 

    I understand the "Marketing" and operational aspects of packing features. On the other hand, there are 5 weights for each style, so splitting will result with 10 fonts, which is another type of hassle imo. (plus, I market my font families as a whole, not selling weights and styles individually, so there's no advantage for having many styles to pick from)

    Anyway, If I'll eventually decide to merge the styles after all, I wonder what is the best practice for these needs? like, 2 stylistic sets and 6 salt or maybe 12 stylistic sets?

  • Not too long ago, I took a brief poll of the dozen or so graphic designers I work with about OpenType features. About a quarter of them didn't know such a thing existed. Only two claimed to use them regularly. The others said they didn't bother with them since it was such a hit-and-miss thing between fonts that they mostly forgot about them or didn't fully understand it. I suspect this is fairly typical.
  • You can see better the style difference with the numbers. It is a significant style change yet I can't justify a separation easily.

  • Khaled HosnyKhaled Hosny Posts: 283
    edited December 2018
    If I were to use stylistic sets for the main style differences, I’d then use character variants for the other alternate glyphs.
  • André G. IsaakAndré G. Isaak Posts: 470
    edited December 2018
    I’m not sure why you want to assign both of these styles to stylistic sets.

    After all, one of these two styles will serve as the default set and the other can be accessed as ss01. ss02 can be then used for your alternate aleph, zain, and mem.

    The only problem you might face with this (apart from the issues already raised that some people might not know how to use them) is that some software designers (yes, Apple, I’m talking about you) treat stylistic sets as being mutually exclusive.

    Also, you'd earlier suggested putting your alternate ’, z and m in 'salt'. If you do that I’d recommend duplicating this in a stylistic set as well since InDesign doesn't provide easy access to 'salt' (apart from using the glyph palette).
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,202
    edited December 2018
    some software designers (yes, Apple, I’m talking about you) treat stylistic sets as being mutually exclusive.

    This used to be true, but it's been fixed for a while (Apple Pages shown):

    Unfortunately, they still make it difficult to find or discover.

    The only app I know of that still does this wrong is MS Word.
  • Thanks for pointing this out Mark — I rarely use pages and had just checked in TextEdit (which still shows radio buttons, but which isn’t the sort of program where this really matters).
  • TextEdit shows checkboxes, same as Pages, on my Mac (running 10.14).
  • My bad — I was looking at “Alternates” rather than “Alternative Stylistic Sets”
  • Ofir ShavitOfir Shavit Posts: 371
    edited December 2018
    I've ended up splitting the styles to separated fonts (10 in total) with few stylistic sets for the alternates.
    Couldn't make any of the OT features work for Adobe PS CC though :s 

    Thanks a lot for all your help!
  • This is the first I've learned that stylistic sets can be assigned interface names. Is it possible for me to see a plain example of how to write this into the feature?
  • Kent LewKent Lew Posts: 904
    Here is Adobe .fea file syntax documentation for Stylistic Set Names:
    Make sure your compiler-of-choice can implement the proper writing of the necessary tables.

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