FontLab 7 workflow tips

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Has anyone discovered instructional videos or guides in regards to workflow? I'm still working in 5 because I failed to develop a viable roadmap—hoping to unearth some insights on how to make it go fast.
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  • Thomas Phinney
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    Workflow is a pretty broad question, and the most important elements probably depend a lot on what you are doing.

    I am doing a lot of variable font work, and for my particular needs I have found:
    - TypeRig is indispensable (likely true for almost anybody doing variable fonts in FL7)
    - custom scripts on top of that have helped my productivity immensely
  • Matthijs Herzberg
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    @Igor Freiberger Glad to hear you're doing a new manual. I think for new users, a guide on producing a typeface from start to finish would be very valuable. I personally learned by reading the FontLab 6 guide, the forums, but mostly a lot of trial & error.
    Now that I'm at an intermediate level with the software, I appreciate the snippet videos that show off one tool or function, and would love to see more of those.

    @Thomas Phinney I've produced multiple variable fonts without using TypeRig, but certainly not without frustration. What custom scripts are you using, and are any of them available as opensource?
  • John Hudson
    John Hudson Posts: 3,034
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    TypeRig is indispensable (likely true for almost anybody doing variable fonts in FL7)
    Can you explain how you are using TypeRig, Thomas, and what aspects you consider indispensable.

  • Igor Petrovic
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    +1 very interested in more info on TypeRig. Something like the video "How to make your fonts suck less" would be absolutely awesome, even a lot shorter than that. Like "Top 5 functions I use in TypeRig" or even 3 (it's easier to amend it later) :)

    I spoke with Vassil, he already did a tremendous job coding it. TR deserves docs, it's a great tool but not many people know about it.  
  • Thomas Phinney
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    Answer is going to be long and complicated, and I am behind on work right now—hope to get back with more later.

    Short: The custom scripts Vassil has built for me have been pretty project-specific. Many use floating panels like TypeRig itself.

    Example: the Science Gothic “corner tool” was for making the particular rounded corners, across masters, that Science Gothic needed. All the custom tools he did for Science Gothic are open source, but most are probably not of general interest.  :(
  • Ray Larabie
    Ray Larabie Posts: 1,387
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    I'm sorry if I made it sound like the FontLab 7 manual is all bad; there are some good parts too. The sections on smart corners and glue selection are very easy to follow. The animated gifs are helpful and the explanations are clear.
  • Adam Jagosz
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    My pro tip if you're working on variable fonts: use Alt+< / Alt+> (well, technically, Alt+, Alt+.) to switch between layers / masters. Or am I the only one who discovered this only after a year...? 😂
  • Adam Jagosz
    Adam Jagosz Posts: 689
    edited October 2020
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    Oh, and I use the harmonize option all the time simply to move the nodes to where they're supposed to be. I shorten one handle, then harmonize the node (or more typically, all the nodes). I guess I harmonize about a hundred times per glyph. Gotta change that hotkey, Ctrl+Alt+Shift+H (on Windows) is a mouthful. Handful.
  • Yury Yarmola
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    I'm sorry if I made it sound like the FontLab 7 manual is all bad — don't be sorry. It is bad. Working on a good one, will publish chapters as they are ready.
  • [Deleted User]
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  • Igor Petrovic
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    I don't know has Vassil already shared the news here on TD, but here is the TypeRig demo:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oM_89KA3Fnc&amp;t=5s&amp;ab_channel=TypeRig
  • James Puckett
    James Puckett Posts: 1,978
    edited November 2020
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    I don't know has Vassil already shared the news here on TD, but here is the TypeRig demo:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kuatlkRoBqU
  • Matthijs Herzberg
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    On the subject of Fontlab and variable fonts, how on earth is the matchmaker tool supposed to work? I understand the concept of selecting matching anchor points between masters, but it never actually does anything.

    I've found the best way to fix broken variations is by flattening and removing overlap (even if there is no overlap), which fixes it 90% of the time. After that its usually a matter of equalizing points and reversing contours.
  • Adam Twardoch
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    Matthijs: Matchmaker currently does not work well when start points or contour directions mismatch. The simplest way to proceed is: 

    1. Select all non-matching glyphs in Font window
    2. Tools > Actions > Selected, Masters
    3. Choose Contour > Contour Direction > Set PostScript direction, click Run
    4. Choose Contour > Set start point, click OK

    That gives you basic corrections. 

    Then, activate Matchmaker (tap 7 key). Now you can click the "Match masters" button, but note that it works differently depending on the two auto-matching toggles in the Variations panel (and Font Info > Axes, they’re the same). 

    If this does not help, then you can drag around the set of start nodes of a section (series of segments) across masters, and then around the set of corresponding end nodes of that section across masters, and press Enter. Depending on the state of "Allow to clean up segments", FontLab will only add, or also remove, nodes along those sections. 

    I’ve made a small video: https://www.dropbox.com/s/m8ft59ev57ml9h3/fl7-matchmaker-201102.mp4?dl=0

    Currently, FontLab does not re-sort the start points if you do this, which is counter-intuitive. But when you turn on both auto-matching options and then click Match masters, FontLab should fix the start points.

    If not, you need to go back to the Contour tool, turn on Edit > Edit Across Layers, set on all Masters as visible in the Layers & Masters panel, so you have access to all nodes on all masters. Right+click on the nodes you want to make start points and choose Set Start Point. 

  • Adam Twardoch
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    James: yeah, I agree. I have still to grasp the power of TypeRig myself — but it is incredible. We’re helping Vassil to make it better by improving the FontLab 7 API bit by bit, so that TypeRig needs to do fewer workarounds. The upcoming FontLab 7.2 beta has some improvements that have helped Vassil resolve some TypeRig problems. 

    TypeRig still needs better docs — but it’s an open-source project at https://github.com/kateliev/TypeRig — and people are welcome to contribute. https://github.com/kateliev/TypeRig/wiki is a good place to put little notes and write-ups. 
  • Thomas Phinney
    Thomas Phinney Posts: 2,785
    edited November 2020
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    So, the thing is, Vassil’s demo shows like ... 5-10% of TypeRig’s functionality.

    If type design were fighting a classic Medieval war, TypeRig as an add-on is Iron Man’s armor. I mean, yeah, it’s armor, but it is way more than what anybody else even imagines armor doing.

    And I only understand a tiny fraction of it, honestly.
  • Matthijs Herzberg
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    @Adam Twardoch Thanks for the explanation!
  • Igor Petrovic
    Igor Petrovic Posts: 264
    edited November 2020
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    For those not familiar with the concept, here is a new TR demo, this time freshly updated Delta Panel. It's great for small caps and small numbers, and for pretty good start of making condensed/wide/optical size etc. masters.

    Earlier, this was done using RMX tools in FL5 (RMX doesn't have a version for FL7). The logic should be very similar because Vasill implemented Tim Ahrens's theory work published as open-source). Anyway, I will not spam here anymore, whoever is interested can subscribe to TR YT channel :)

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9JaQsZco9Y&amp;ab_channel=TypeRig


  • Adam Jagosz
    Adam Jagosz Posts: 689
    edited November 2020
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    Btw, I use AutoHotKey (on Windows) to work around various GUI quirks that FL can't or won't fix:
    And to type quotes and dashes as easily as on a Mac (and also type ı and ȷ since I usually create i and j as their composites):
  • Matthijs Herzberg
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    @Adam Jagosz You're the man, man. Selecting the menu while alt+scrolling drives me nuts.
  • Vassil Kateliev
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    Hi everyone, I am the maker of TypeRig (TR) and DeltaMachine(DM). I must say that I feel honored by the many positive comments! Thank you! If you have any questions or suggestions I am here to answer :)

    FontLab (FL) workflow wise - It is an amazing piece of software which offers endless ways to approach type design in general, but as all things nice, that comes with a price - a very steep and slow learning curve. Some years ago when the first FL6 beta was out - i just threw it all away (FL5 and my hard baked ways of doing things) and started using only the new app. Yes it was very hard, but you just need to sit down and start using it - it will slowly start to pay off. Along the way I started porting scripts and ideas that I used in FL5 which essentially became TR. So in short TR is basically my workflow - I have designed it to be and use it as a swiss army knife for all things type related that I daily struggle with...
  • Adam Jagosz
    Adam Jagosz Posts: 689
    edited November 2020
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    @Matthijs Herzberg and anyone else on Windows who tried that AHK code for better Alt-zooming experience... It seems while adding comments to post it, I accidentally deleted the first line, whoops. It should be like this (it's from stackoverflow I think though I can't find the exact reference any more):
    Alt::
    KeyWait, Alt
    return
    
    LAlt Up::
    if (A_PriorKey = "Alt")
    	return
    return
    
    Note to future self: If it ain't broken, do not touch :D
  • Claudio Piccinini
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    Matthijs: Matchmaker currently does not work well when start points or contour directions mismatch. The simplest way to proceed is: 

    1. Select all non-matching glyphs in Font window
    2. Tools > Actions > Selected, Masters
    3. Choose Contour > Contour Direction > Set PostScript direction, click Run
    4. Choose Contour > Set start point, click OK

    That gives you basic corrections.

    I resurrect this thread because I am trying to automatically fix start point consistencies across masters, and after having tried Adam's instructions I see that "Choose Contour > Set start point" works erratically, as it corrects the start points only on certain masters.
    Am I doing something wrong? I am using FontLab 8.2.0.8620.
  • k.l.
    k.l. Posts: 109
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    Hi Claudio, sounds more like a question for Fontlab’s own forum, maybe with a font for testing/reproducing your observation.
  • Typedesigner
    Typedesigner Posts: 35
    edited February 3
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    The first thing you can do is to update to FontLab 8.3. Master creation works very well with FontLab 8.3. https://help.fontlab.com/fontlab/8/whats-new/release-notes/8.3.0.8766/

    You can also use the following: Contour -> Clean Up
    This automatically removes unnecessary nodes, if any were present.
  • Thomas Phinney
    Thomas Phinney Posts: 2,785
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    Last time I worked with match masters, I found that FontLab was much better at matching masters if the outlines are well-constructed, particularly in not having excess points, and not too weird in terms of what maps to what across masters.

    (But it has been quite a while since I used it. Most of the time I am constructing variable fonts from the ground up, or working on existing designs.)
  • Claudio Piccinini
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    You can also use the following: Contour -> Clean Up
    This automatically removes unnecessary nodes, if any were present.
    Thanks everyone. Masters outlines are matching. It seems it works fine now, but I tend to double-check manually.
    @Thomas Phinney: Masters are already matching, I was speaking of start points consistency when you apply the command from "Actions"
    @k.l.: Yes, I am constantly doint that, but I have not upgraded to 8.3 yet.