Recent blog entries for yosch

17 Dec 2015 (updated 18 Dec 2015 at 00:31 UTC) »
Progress on font format interoperability

Looks like we are seeing some promising movement towards better font formats interoperability and interchange with glyphs2ufo, newer versions of vfb2ufo (OSX and Windows only, closed-source), ufo2ft, extractor and ufoLib.

Maybe the times of opaque and proprietary font formats are slowly coming to an end...
3 May 2015 (updated 5 May 2015 at 08:46 UTC) »
Microsoft releasing an open font!

So, after the pleasant but rather unexpected news of Adobe's Source * font families released openly and developed on a public git repo, now we have Microsoft starting to release fonts under the OFL for one of their many projects!

Who would have thought that this could actually happen, that such big font producers would even consider doing this?

But I guess cross-platform web technologies and the corresponding culture tends to carry with it the values of interoperability, consistency and flexibility... And it just makes sense to have unencumbered licensing for that. There must be some value in pursuing that approach, right?

The Selawik font (only Latin coverage at this point) is part of (bootstrap)-WinJS and is designed to be a open replacement for Segoe UI.

A quick look at the metadata reveals:

Full name: Selawik
Version: 1.01
Copyright: (c) 2015 Microsoft Corporation (, with Reserved Font Name Selawik. Selawik is a trademark of Microsoft Corporation in the United States and/or other countries.
License: This Font Software is licensed under the SIL Open Font License, Version 1.1.
License URL:
Designer: Aaron Bell
Designer URL:
Manufacturer: Microsoft Corporation
Vendor URL:
Trademark: Selawik is a trademark of the Microsoft group of companies.

Quite a contrast from the very exclusive licenses attached to the fonts commissioned for Windows...

(Oh and the apparent toponym with an Inupiat name is a nice touch too).

Libre Graphics Magazine issue on fonts

Go check out the latest edition of the Libre Graphics Magazine.

The issue (2.3) is about type, libre/open fonts and related topics from the perspective of a fairly wide selection of authors.

Go ahead: preview, buy, subscribe :-)
24 Sep 2014 (updated 29 Sep 2014 at 13:17 UTC) »
FontLab VI demo at AtypI2014 Barcelona: new drawing features, smarter workflows and better interop with native UFO support and fontgate cross-platform library

During AtypI2014 in Barcelona, Thomas Phinney invited some participants to a special evening presenting the upcoming FontLab VI based on the Victoria re-write and re-architecturing that has been in the works for a few years. (BTW, if you missed it, there is a public video recording from part of a similar talk/demo at AtypI2013 Amsterdam.)

These are the notes I jotted down during the demo evening:

drawing-related features:
  • on-canvas editing of multiple glyphs at the same time
  • smart multi-selection of BCPs
  • drag'n'drop and rich copy'n'paste directly on the canvas
  • dedicated sketchboard to emulate paper-sketching
  • import bitmaps assets and trace directly on canvas
  • smart zooming, scrolling and infinite canvas
  • lasso selection
  • smart guidelines and snapping
  • sliding beziers points (g2 continuity)
  • special selection to move two BCPs at the same time with automatic harmonizing (Tuni line)
  • eraser for more natural point simplification directly on canvas
  • linked clones, with each change propagating independently
  • smart anchors expressed using fractional coordinates with keywords and autosuggested formulas for transforms and boolean operations
  • glue tool to copy only a portion of an outline and a few BCPs
  • in-place measuring tool
  • preview waterfall panel

workflow-related features:
  • context-sensitive side panels to declutter the interface (TAB key hides them quickly)
  • font comparison tool with multiple layers
  • zip file containing assets and font sources can be imported directly
  • easier navigation of character groups and unicode blocks
  • bookmark and history panel as you navigate into your existing and desired blocks
  • in-place OpenType feature editing with an advanced source code widget
  • support for multiple monitors
  • exporting your workspace to PDF and SVG
  • Harfbuzz integration for high-end realistic rendering of OpenType features
  • ClearType integration for realistic rendering (no need to export to Windows for testing)
  • git integration with commands in a dedicated menu with the goal of enabling better tracking of changes with visual diffing

interoperability-related features:
  • native support of UFO2 and UFO3, both for import and export
  • improved python APIs, compatible with robofab
  • full exposing of the APIs via QT UI designer

Soooo, plenty of great new features both in the UI, around the new workflows and in the internal engine but still no release schedule. The private beta program has yet to start. They kept talking of a codebase in alpha stage. Maybe a public beta program will happen as well...

Being made with QT, cross platform porting is now much easier. FontLab is being developed on OSX and tested there primarily but the codebase for the Windows version is only 3% different. The main developer said that a Linux version is doable but there is no definite plan or decision made in that area yet. Until other more open editors catch up, FontLab is still the (albeit proprietary) industry heavyweight. Many people are looking forward to the new features... if they haven't switched yet that is.

Glyphs is the editor most people start with nowadays - including at the MATD in Reading and it's getting glowing reviews and wider support from various parts of the typeface design community. FontLab should be seeing the glyphs on the wall (!) and hurrying up the release. The announcements will probably appear on the forum and the blog.

I've been promised a Debian/Ubuntu version of fontgate for testing server-side interop between font formats, testing, generation with python bindings. This would be fantastic for bridging FontLab with newer, more collaborative workflows and other tools in the OFDK and would increase value in FontLab's UI features. Wait and see...

AFDKO progress

It's good to see that the recently re-released AFDKO is starting to get some attention and (small) things are starting to get merged back in.

There is packaging work underway by ChangZhuo Chen (陳昌倬) from the Debian pkg-fonts team.

There are still various issues to deal with for this codebase to be brought in line with Debian policies, but I was able to successfully rebuild Adobe Source Serif and Adobe Source Sans on Ubuntu 14.04.

This means we are now closer to the long-term goal of a containerized, autobuildable, open-standards-based crossplatform buildpath for complex fonts. New development and testing workflows will be much easier to integrate, so that's good news for everyone :-)

23 Sep 2014 (updated 23 Sep 2014 at 18:35 UTC) »
Open and collaborative font design in a web fonts world: AtypI2013 Amsterdam presentation and panel on open fonts by Victor Gaultney and font industry representatives

Even if you didn't attend the AtypI2013 conference in Amsterdam, you can now watch the video recording of "Open and collaborative font design in a web fonts world" a presentation Victor Gaultney followed by a discussion panel with various key font industry representatives.

Thanks to the video team for their efforts in making more of these AtypI presentations publicly available!

AFDKO released under Apache2

David Lemon from Adobe has just announced during his AtypI talk that the AFDKO has now been officially re-released under the Apache2 license and pushed to this public git repo.

Thank you, Adobe!

The next step is adjusting the installation steps for Debian/Ubuntu and making it easier to integrate in existing workflows and toolkits...
12 Sep 2014 (updated 14 Sep 2014 at 13:17 UTC) »
Update to the OFL FAQ published: version 1.1-update4

Check out the newly updated FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) for the Open Font License: version 1.1-update4.

It probably has many answers you're looking for on the - rather complicated and subtle - topics of using, distributing, creating and modifying open fonts.

This (small) update takes into account feedback from existing users of the license and clarifies some (small) aspects of the intent and the well-established working model.

The OFL FAQ is getting rather long but then again, it's not the easiest set of related subjects to cover... I hope this continues to be a good and useful resource for the many open font designers out there. If you haven't read it yet, now is probably a good time, otherwise search for your topic in the various sections :-)

IMHO, nobody should have to become a copyright or trademark lawyer - or pay massive legal fees - just to maximise access to some of their creation but still maintain over control the corresponding canonical version. Type designers mostly want to focus on creating and all the rest just seems like a distraction at best or a big headache at worst... but getting a better understanding of the ins and outs of the legal environment of collaborative font design and how the OFL model works practically is always helpful and should spare people some unnecessary surprises.
15 Jun 2014 (updated 15 Jun 2014 at 20:53 UTC) »
Brötli compression and aggressive default subsetting

Working drafts of the Brötli compression spec and the WOFF2 format have been published. For those among you who don't know any Swiss-German, -li is the diminutive form and Brot is bread, so brötli = small bread. Interestingly, it's based on previous optimization work released as zöpfli: Zopf being another kind of bread. Notice a pattern? I wonder if the cantine's menu or local pastry shop had an influence (but it looks like the Umlaut has been lost in translation, oh well).

These small breads come in wide ranges, textures and flavours but it strikes me that the whole point is that, while good bread on its own can sometimes be tasty, it's really the variety of toppings and fillings in these "mini-sandwiches" that create something everyone can choose from and enjoy.

So, while I sincerely applaud all the amazing work done on compression and improving the common webfonts format, I think it's also worth pointing out that many webfont hosting services still strongly push towards a bland taste by default, i.e. without the varied ingredients as filling, i.e. serving a limited subset of the bigger fonts designed for more than one language. They tend to make it harder to use the original wider non-roman Unicode coverage and smart features but instead serve only the basic Latin, especially if you are interested in a lesser-known language and a more complex script. Ugh. Could taste a lot nicer.

For example in Google Fonts, various users keep complaining about how many fonts have been "optimized" to the point where they are broken and useless in various languages. You have to dig deep in the documentation to learn that to restore original functionality, you need to explicitly turn off the subsetting via &subset=all. Some people are less concerned with shaving off a few milliseconds and more with "will this actually work in my target language?".

Hopefully, smaller breads will not mean even less tasty filling IOW the compression gains will also allow fonts and web content in other languages beyond the Latin boundary to become more prominent and accessible. Making the subsetting less aggressive and limiting will result in a much tastier multilingual web.

25 May 2014 (updated 25 May 2014 at 16:27 UTC) »
Recent significant open font releases: Fira Sans, Fira Mono and Source Serif Pro

Don't miss the newest version of Fira [Sans|Mono] (3.1 or 3.106 currently) commissioned by Mozilla from the Spiekermann and Carrois foundries. It should soon appear on and (FirefoxOS-specific).

And check out Adobe's Source Serif Pro now also available on

There are lots of interesting questions ahead in terms of how best practises will be defined and applied to open format workflows with multiple tools, DVCS tree structures and ongoing maintainership and release engineering of open fonts such as these...

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