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« AFDKO 2.5 released

Adobe has just released a new version of the Font Development Kit for OpenType (AFDKO). This is an important milestone for font developers.

Why care?

Even if you don’t use it yourself, the AFDKO code is licensed at no cost to developers of other font tools such as FontLab and DTL FontMaster. It forms the basis of the OpenType generation and OpenType features support in those tools. So very often new functionality in the AFDKO is a preview of new functionality in these other tools, and hence indirectly of capabilities of both Adobe and other vendors’ fonts. It’s reasonable to suspect that features in the AFDKO will preview new features in future versions of FontLab Studio (maybe 6.0?) and DTL FontMaster (look at the DataMaster tool in particular).

So, with the new FDK, and one hopes in future versions of FontLab Studio and DTL FontMaster, users are able to build fonts which support complex scripts (Arabic, Indic, etc.), without using Microsoft’s VOLT as a separate process. All (yes all) OpenType GSUB and GPOS lookup types are supported. There’s support for Unicode Variation Sequences, especially useful for Japanese and ideographic languages. Plus one can give “friendly” names to stylistic sets, although this last will also need to be supported by applications, and I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for that. Plus there are various bug fixes and lesser features.

What is the AFDKO, exactly?

The AFDKO is a set of command-​line (yes, really) font development tools available for Mac, Windows and Unix. They cover compiling, proofing, testing and some editing of OpenType fonts. Compiling a font requires a basic TrueType, Type 1 or OpenType font as input; what the AFDKO does is add OpenType layout features to an existing font (as in, you still need a font editor).

I’m particularly fond of the “CompareFamily” tool, which is unusual in that it not only does tests on individual fonts, but looks at how information and key values are coodinated across a family. This is very useful for checking things such as style linking, or making sure your trademark statement is identical in all members of the family.

Because this stuff is command-​line driven, it may not be for the average user. Besides which, many folks may prefer to use functionality which is integrated with their font editing environment. But for those who need reliability and a controlled, repeatable build process, the FDK is a nice option to have.


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