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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.
edited October 15
We are doing a new manual with tutorials. Which are the most needed how-tos?
There are 41
, mostly short instructions about new tools.
There are tagged answers with
in our forum.
Of course, you can also ask here about a given workflow. I can provide it.
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
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.
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?
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.
+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.
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.
edited October 19
What I'd like to see is a long video going over everything. The quick videos showing individual features are helpful. But I'd like to see how someone actually uses FontLab 7, especially when it comes to variable fonts. Do you remember the
one hour video
made about MM in FLS5? That was incredibly helpful. I was already familiar with the features but that video showed how everything could work together from start to finish. There were things I was doing incorrectly/inefficiently and that video really helped me. Victor's accents and diacritics video was good too. I know Thomas doesn't work at FontLab anymore but I'd really, really love to see an 8 hour video of Thomas cruising through FL7 and rambling on.
The Font Info panel is still a mystery to me, in particular, the naming. I read the manual but I can't get it to accurately reproduce the results of the old Twardoch naming system. I'd like to see someone go through everything to create a family with maximum backwards combability and proper menu sorting in apps. If it's possible to link the PANOSE values when generating instances, I'd like to know the caveats as it was hit & miss in FLS5. I've followed the manual but I'm not confident that I'm doing everything correctly.
I'd like to see a video of some glyph workflow, especially Frankensteining*. I still find the workflow very clunky and I'd like to see how it works when a skilled person uses it.
* copy/cut/pasting pieces of glyphs to make other glyphs.
Also the Font Masters section in the manual seems like a rough draft. I could definitely use a video on that one. I'm familiar with some the variable font terminology from working with MM, but this is just too hard to follow.
A font master in FontLab is a complete “font” that is has a defined location on each axis. You can define some font properties for a font master in Font Info: dimensions, some names, stems, zones, font guides and some other parameters and values. A font master also contains its own set of kerning classes and kerning pairs.
A common problem with the FontLab manuals as well as the videos is how it starts by explaining details without an introduction. It feels like whoever is making these is racing to the finish. Slow down. What is this thing? Why do I need it? Okay,
explain how it works.
To make workflow more confusing, the manual is presented in a seemingly illogical sequence. Soon after the introduction, I'm reading a section about
Normalized coordinates in variable OpenType
. At this point in the manual, I don't even know how to make a rectangle. Similarly, the videos are introducing what seems to me like arbitrary features and none of the basics. How about: drawing glyphs, spacing, accents, classes, kerning, features, font info, tables, hinting, exporting and finally, variable fonts.
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
are very easy to follow. The animated gifs are helpful and the explanations are clear.
My pro tip if you're working on variable fonts: use
(well, technically, Alt+, Alt+.) to switch between layers / masters. Or am I the only one who discovered this only after a year...? 😂
edited October 22
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.
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.
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