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Picture of ThomasThomas “my other car is a sans serif” Phinney on fonts, typography & text. Geeky troubleshooting and info for font developers and users. Consulting & expert witness for fonts & typography.Read more...

Thomas Joins FontLab »

As reported yesterday, I have joined the good people at FontLab, as Vice President.

I am very happy for the opportunity to work more directly in the field of type design software. FontLab is a great company with a long history. I still have my original FontLab manual (from before it was FontLab Studio) from 20 years ago!

It has its challenges, what with getting new app versions on a new codebase out the door, and new competition in recent years, but these are all part of a healthy evolution. I am enjoying getting up in the morning to tackle new things each day!

Cristoforo $10K Promo: Free Dark Symbols Font »

With about 48 hours to go (midnight Sunday PDT), my Cristoforo font project on Kickstarter is at about $9,300 in pledges from backers who want to get cool fonts and other swag. As $10,000 is my final “stretch” goal (the point at which I add Cyrillic support to the fonts), I was trying to decide how to both celebrate and encourage the last few pledges I need. I settled on releasing a free font that might be of interest to some H.P. Lovecraft /​ Cthulhu fans: Dark Symbols icons designed by Brennen Reece and Graham Walmsley, fontified by me, released at no charge under the Open Font License 1.1.

Dark Symbols sample

Download Dark Symbols font (Zip archive of .otf).

What are the Dark Symbols? Graham explains them on his blog, but basically these are rough-​edged hand-​drawn symbols, intended for folks to mark up Cthulhu-​related role-​playing adventures.

I may also incorporate the Dark Symbols in my Cristoforo Symbols font; that’s TBD. But in any case, enjoy this free font, and consider supporting Cristoforo in its waning hours on Kickstarter!

Cristoforo lives! Re-​launched Kickstarter project & revised intern position »

Cristoforo promo image

If at first you don’t succeed….

My first go didn’t quite make it, so I reconfigured the reward structure and relaunched my Kickstarter campaign to find backers for my new typeface, Cristoforo, a revival of some classic Victorian typefaces by Hermann Ihlenburg. It’s also known as the typeface of Call of Cthulhu (the H.P. Lovecraft roleplaying game), and as the original logo for Cracker Jack. The campaign will only last until midnight on Saturday June 17. Basically, people pledge money up front for the fonts (and other goodies) so I know the project is viable. Reward options for backers depend on their funding level, and include not only the fonts, but computer desktop wallpaper, T-​shirts and posters.

Kickstarter is all or nothing. Only if the total pledges exceed the minimum funding target are people’s credit cards charged and the project moves forward.

If funding exceeds the minimum by enough of a margin, I can add more language support for central/​eastern Europe (including Cyrillic), and even pay an intern! Otherwise, the intern will be an unpaid position. I hope to make intern decisions in a week, and just revised the job description again.

Check it out the typeface on Kickstarter and/​or my intern wanted posting.

It’s not a “screen font” any more »

Funny, the other day I had just finished a first pass at reviewing and revising the Extensis document on “Best Practices for Font Management in Mac OS X,” when a non-​Extensis colleague asked me something about PostScript Type 1 fonts: whether Windows .pfm and .pfb files were pretty much equivalent to Mac screen and printer font files.

What was funny to me was that only half an hour earlier, I had just been adjusting the language about “screen fonts” and “printer fonts” in the Extensis doc.

Anyway, here’s what I said:

First, on *both* Mac and Windows, the phrases “printer font” and “screen font” make no sense any more when referring to the pieces of a Type 1 font. The last time those phrases made sense was at the beginning of the 1990s, before everyone started using ATM, which scaled the outline font (then called a “printer font”) for display on screen. This function has been long since taken over by the Mac and Windows operating systems around 1999-​2000.

Heck, Mac OS X isn’t even capable of using the bitmaps from the font suitcase for screen display at all, so it really isn’t a screen font any more.

So, the “screen font” isn’t used on screen, and the “printer font” is used both on screen and on printers.

Which is why I prefer to use the terms “font suitcase” and “outline font.”

The font suitcase for a Type 1 font contains kerning information, which is useful, and bitmaps, which are required, but not actually used anywhere any more… it’s just that you need at least one bitmap size per font. BTW, one font suitcase can contain bitmaps for multiple outline fonts.

The outline font is what it sounds like, the actual scalable outlines of all the glyphs in the font, as well as some platform-​independent info such as the PostScript FontName, FullName, yadda yadda.

Oddly, both the suitcase and the outline font contain advance widths—the amount of space allotted for each glyph, including white space on either side of it.

Finally, to answer my colleague’s question? Yes, the Windows .pfm and .pfb files are pretty much equivalent to the Mac font suitcase and the outline font (exactly equivalent in the case of the outline font and the .pfb). The .pfm file doesn’t have bitmaps, but it has other platform-​specific info, like the font suitcase.

Of course, font suitcases can also be containers for Mac TrueType fonts, but that’s another story….

[updated 27 Apr 2009 to clarify OS X not using bitmaps at all]

Thomas Phinney joins Extensis »

I can finally talk about this, now that it’s been announced in this press release. Last week I started my new job at Extensis as Senior Product Manager for Font Solutions.

For those who don’t know Extensis, they are the leading vendor of font management applications, whose product line includes Suitcase Fusion and the Universal Type Server, as well as the broader asset management application Portfolio. Extensis is a division of parent Japanese company, Celartem, which also owns LizardTech.

Folks who know me well professionally may recall that I have a long-​standing interest in, and passion for, font management. For example:

On paper I started part time at Extensis on April 1st, though in fact I’ve been ramping up a little more slowly because of two things:

  1. I’m in Seattle, and they’re in Portland.
  2. I just had jaw surgery last Monday, the 30th, so I am still recovering from that.

The first problem will be resolved by me and my family moving to Portland. We’re renting a lovely house and move in on May 1st.

The second issue will be solved by gradual healing. Although I could already talk passably well later the same day of the surgery, it’s a bit uncomfortable. Plus to talk on the phone, I have to either take off my ice pack or wedge part of the phone under it in some awkward way…. (Actually, since I wrote this a few days ago, I have gone off the ice packs as well as prescription painkillers. Tomorrow marks a week since the surgery. Things are still uncomfortable, but I’m doing okay.)

Anyway, I am very excited about this new opportunity. Portland is a great city in a great area (we already love the Pacific Northwest), the people at Extensis have been quite fabulous so far, and the work itself is fun and offers new areas to grow in.

Open for business »

I still have a few minor things to fix, like doing a graphical version of the blog title. But all the major glitches seem to be ironed out, so I hereby declare this blog open, and I will now go tell people about it. 🙂

Welcome: Not ready for prime time (OK, it is now) »

Wanna read about fonts, typography and text? A mix of geeky troubleshooting, info for font developers and thoughts for regular end users who happen to be curious about typography… this is your place.

* * * * *

Or will be as soon as it’s ready. As of today, January 20th, 2008 (Obama’s inauguration day for Americans), I haven’t much publicized this blog because I’m still getting it into shape. Current ETA is uncertain, but probably just a couple of days before it’s in decent shape, maybe a week before I have a second “real” blog post up. [Update: I launched the blog officially on January 26th – T]

I was experimenting with having a blog hosted by, but I didn’t like a couple of things:

  1. I could make redirect to that site, but I couldn’t have it just show up as if it were at
  2. They would only let me upload files of certain formats, which did not include some things I wanted to post. I could use a file-​sharing service, but that seemed pretty lame.

So, I was thankful I never publicized that location much, and today I started setting up a WordPress blog on my own domain and my own hosted server. My hosting service has already turned off the redirect, though, so I realized I needed to put some sort of explanation up.

You can still read the little bit of content that I have up here, but expect some structural elements of the site to be not correctly linked or organized. Or you can read the interim blog on (not to mention the blog I used to write on Once this blog is properly running, I’ll shut down most of and leave in a few redirects to this blog, just in case.

Yes, I weirdly have an older post than this one: I wanted to have a couple of posts up before letting people know about the blog, and my first post from the other blog I migrated here, and kept the original date.

I am experimenting with accepting ads from Google. So far I am not impressed by their choices made from analyzing my site. But I’ll give it a good chance before I get rid of it.

See you back again soon!