Robofont or Glyphs for Type design

Hello Everyone, 
I am new to using a fully functional font editor and was wondering which one would be the best bet to start with. Robofont or Glyphs?


  • Marc OxborrowMarc Oxborrow Posts: 219
    edited March 2019
    [Is there really no way to delete comments, even within the 4-hour editing window?]
  • I have built commercial fonts (only Arabic) with both apps and here is my take. I hope I won't receive a lot of heat for saying the cons! Please consider that I'm a designer and have a bias. I prefer to make tools for myslef rather that succomb to a certain method of work that is dictated by the software.

    Pros: It's very snappy and fast. It has many tools that could automate some tasks like adjusting metrics of composites, generating OT features. It's easier to pick up and build fonts. Most of the process of building fonts is handled inside the app.

    Cons: The UI is cluttered with tools you won't probably ever use and can't remove. The automatic mechanism could go wrong and could create a bias in your design. It's not transparent and keeps you away from technical details.

    Pros: It's like an empty canvas you can extend by adding open source exentsions and cater to your needs. It's more explicit and direct when it comes to access all the parameters and technical aspects of the font. If something goes wrong you have better control over fixing it. It's more trasnparent.

    Cons: It's relativly slower. Building extensions and catering them to your needs might take time (although there is already a lot out there that would fit your needs). If you want to build large families you might have to purcahse other softwares for some other tasks like kerning and interpolating.

    At the end I choose Robofont if I have the option. Sometimes the project is inside one of the either apps and it's better to keep it inside one app, things could go wrong if files are converted between these apps. This choice is also partly due to the reason that I like to make the process myslef and I feel more freedom inside RF. I like making tools and it's fun for me. I also started with Robofont so I don't feel the need to pickup another API.
  • Georg SeifertGeorg Seifert Posts: 667
    edited March 2019
    No heat from me ;) 
    So if a UI is cluttered seem to be highly subjective. 
    I have one question. Can you explain how you think that the automatation is ‘creat a bias in your design’?
  • I might be biased, but I believe Glyphs is best if you're new to type design. It's rather simple to handle (at least the basics) and it is more intuitive than Robofont. To me, the modularity and flexibility of Robofont is as much a pro than it is a con. But again, I'm very biased 😊
  • That sounds like Glyphs was not modular. In the built-in Plugin Manager, there are currently 113 plug-ins available for free, and a dozen or so more are available commercially.

  • RohitRohit Posts: 3
    Thank you everyone for your insights. I guess I will try both and see how it fits my personal needs. As Bahman pointed out it might be purely subjective and would depend on personal taste and need. 

    In terms of capabilities I am assuming it's neck to neck?

  • Yeah sorry @Georg Seifert modular might not be the proper word (and I am indeed using at least 15 plugins regularly)

  • Michael JarboeMichael Jarboe Posts: 265
    edited March 2019
    I would say Glyphs has so many forward thinking and time saving features that it feels the most complete as a stand-alone font editor. I say this from having extensive experience with FontLab and Robofont.

    *Editing this to say that FontLab VI is right there with Glyphs as well. I think either of them feel more complete and more friendly to someone looking for their first font editor.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,641
    Michael, have you used FontLab VI at all, and if so, how recently?
  • Mark SimonsonMark Simonson Posts: 1,634
    edited March 2019
    If you're new to font editors, of the two, Glyphs will probably be better for you. Everything you need for making most kinds of modern fonts is built into the app and it has a very integrated, efficient workflow.

    RoboFont doesn't do as much by itself. It's meant to be the extensible core of a set of tools, all based on the UFO format. It's much more flexible in terms of workflow, but this can be daunting if you don't already have a workflow you like.

    I've used both, first RoboFont for about four years, and then switched to Glyphs, which I've been using for about four years now.

    The comment about the UI was surprising as the UI is one of the things I like about Glyphs. RoboFont has fairly minimal UI, it's true, but that's because everything is the Extensions menu, which is about a mile long.  :)

    For me, Glyphs turned out to be a better fit. I've been making fonts since Fontographer 1.0, so it's not just for beginners. 
  • Michael JarboeMichael Jarboe Posts: 265
    edited March 2019
    Thomas, yes I have the demo version from this past week. The one thing that is deterring me is that I've become accustomed to a UFO workflow. In FontLab 5 which I've used for the past ten years or so, I use the RoboFabUFO for import/export of UFOs, which provides numerous import/export options. I think for the short time I was trying FontLab VI I couldn't figure out if I could implement the same Macro.

    The irony of discussing all of these new apps is that if it was guaranteed that FontLab 5 would continue working for the next forty years or so, I would likely stay with it. I have everything I need in FL5 and any shortcomings are handled via Macros or third party apps. I've also become very efficient with this UFO and multi-app workflow.

    Some things that are really impressive with Glyphs is for one being able to easily test install not just masters but Instances as well. That is something I always wished was possible somehow from Superpolator (knowing that would fall outside of Superpolator's purpose I still wished for it anyway, lol). Being able to live preview instances while editing Masters is another one, as well as their Master feature is more inline with what I'm familiar with from using Superpolator all these years. Same thing for the built-in kerning feature which seems like it could stand next to Metrics Machine with kerning transformation abilities. The Glyphs Viewer mobile app another.

    FontLab VI power guides look pretty amazing though I'll have to spend some more time looking closer at all the features.
  • You don't need to use any macro. FontLab VI opens and saves UFO directly. You can set it to automatically save UFO in Preferences:

    Please note that is also possible to export as UFO through File > Export > designspace + UFO.
  • Bahman EslamiBahman Eslami Posts: 73
    edited March 2019
    Can you explain how you think that the automatation is ‘creat a bias in your design’?
    I hope this is not gonna go into a debate on certain features and how they should work or can be improved. I already explained some in ATypI to you in person but I can give another example. Let's say a designer starts to add anchors on certain letters that could create composites later (e.g: accented glyphs in Latin). These anchors also control the distance of marks in the composites which are controlled automatically through "automatic alignment" in Glyphs app. The user might assume since the distance of the mark looks good in the composite, then if there will be another mark typed after the base letter by a user then it should be a good position. But this is not true always.
    It's possible that a distance of a certain mark looks nice in an accented glyph but mark positioning would not be suitable for placing diacritics. Maybe it makes more sense in Arabic since dot positions are not the same as diacritics. So, as a result, I have to go through all the glyphs and disable automatic alignment for all the dots because I want different distance for dots and diacritics. This is a case that automatic feature gets in my way and it's there by default and I have to disable it only for dots, but not for metrics. I think a user needs more experience to understand that not everything is best to be done for them by the software and if they use the software for a long time they would start to think that's the only right way.
    There is more but I prefer not to drag this thread to a debate on how I should work with Glyphs app and why I don't understand the mentality of how things work there. I prefer to adapt the app to my workflow, not the other way around.
  • [Is there really no way to delete comments, even within the 4-hour editing window?]
    Yes there is. Within the edit time window, open the comment, make a small edit and then Save Draft. This will store the comment in your personal profile section where you can go and delete it.
  • AzizMostafa AzizAliAzizMostafa AzizAli Posts: 103
    edited March 2019

    Maybe it makes more sense in Arabic since dot positions are not the same as diacritics.
    Absolutely true! Arabic dots and diacritics are dynamic in nature.
    That's why we developed QalamBartar to be cute with them.

  • The new features in FontLab VI are nice it makes drawing a lot more informative and efficient plus the drawing logic is familiar coming from FontLab 5. Binding Sidebearings is an excellent feature. As of now it looks like I'll get FontLab VI and Glyphs while continuing with a fragmented app UFO workflow until there's a reason to change. I still love Robofont's test install as I never encounter cache problems. I've come to realize every application has its strengths and weaknesses.
  • FontLab.
    Besides being very powerful, you don't want to commit to something that doesn't run on most of the world's computers.
  • Thomas PhinneyThomas Phinney Posts: 2,641
    @Michael Jarboe
    If you want to keep running any software for 40 years... well, assume you are going to run it under virtualization of some sort. Which is a little bit of effort, but not so much once you get used to it. And it will actually get easier in some ways, over time.

    Today that might be macOS Yosemite as a guest OS, which admittedly will be a bit of extra stress on your system. But the older your guest OS is, the less work it will be to run on modern hardware. I mean, you can run Windows 98 on an average smart watch, fer cryin’ out loud!
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