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Font Remix Tools (RMX) and Multiple Master Fonts in type design »

A little while back, Tim Ahrens asked me if I’d write a testimonial for his Font Remix Tools (“RMX Tools”), a set of plug-​​ins for FontLab Studio 5. I was more than happy to share my thoughts:

“The Font Remix Tools are an essential toolkit for anyone who wants to develop sophisticated typefaces with much greater efficiency. I can’t imagine willingly working without them. Type designers owe it to themselves and their sanity to check out RMX Tools.” — Thomas Phinney, Senior Fonts Product Manager at Extensis, designer of Hypatia Sans Pro for Adobe

(FontLab Studio is the primary type design application used by the overwhelming majority of professional type designers. FontForge and DTL FontTools (including FontMaster) are its fellow high-​​end alternatives, while TypeTool and Fontographer are the primary low to mid-​​range options.)

Tim has a interesting/​useful demo version for free download, while the full version starts at €179 for one computer.

I think of the Remix Tools as having two sets of functions. First are several very useful things that work with just about any typeface:

But the real power of RMX comes when you start with a font file that has a Multiple Master weight axis. Yeah, I know MM fonts are pretty nearly dead as a deliverable format for end users. Apple’s support for MMs is flaky enough that Extensis tech support has suggested Suitcase should warn people they won’t work reliably, and Windows has no reasonable native support (an ATM install can be hacked on Vista and probably Windows 7 to make them work well, or you can do manual registry entries for every single font).

Yet Multiple Master fonts are still very useful as a font development tool, even if what gets delivered is a bunch of separate fonts. Although Adobe hasn’t shipped a new MM font since the 90s, virtually all their internally developed type families use MM technology, and many other typeface designers use it as well. If you start with a font that has master outlines for two different weights, RMX can incredibly easily:

Most of these functions still seem like magic when I see them working. Most of it works insanely well almost all the time. Of course it still needs to be checked by humans, and there can be problems on occasion, but dang….

What about Superpolator?

Aside from the Font Remix Tools, another insanely powerful option for working with font development using the power of MM space is Superpolator from Just van Rossum and Erik van Blokland, a.k.a. LettError. It has always looked great, but back when I was doing a lot of type design, my main box for doing so was Windows based, and Superpolator is a Mac-​​only tool, so I never really gave it a fair try. It’s available from €250.

More on MM fonts:

Lifting the veil »

The press releases aren’t out yet, but at work we just came out with a Windows version of the Suitcase Fusion 2 font manager. The web site is live tonight and you can buy it or download it and try it for free for 30 days. All-​​new Windows version jumps two versions to finally get feature parity with its Mac counterpart. This is one of the big projects I’ve focused on in the last few months at work. Sorry I’ve been so quiet lately… more soon.

Microsoft Office 2010 adds OpenType goodness »

The Office 2010 technical preview is due out in July, and one can sign up to test with it. However, copies of Office 2010 have apparently already leaked, and some enterprising souls have posted screen shots of the new support for OpenType typographic features for western fonts.
This is a “technical preview” only, so it is quite possible there will be some changes of features, functionality or user interface prior to release. However, it should be pretty close to the final version overall (except in performance and bugs).
That being said, you may be wondering exactly what is supported. Here’s what the UI posting shows:

None of this stuff is on by default (not even standard ligatures), but then again, neither is kerning. Sigh. So, it’s not perfect, but a huge advance over the status quo. Having this stuff in Word will finally bring some more elements of good typography to the masses….

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.

Ordering the Glyph Panel »

I seem to be getting addicted to surveys! Now that I’ve reported the results of the last one, I have some quick UI questions about apps and OSes here.

In Adobe InDesign, there’s a Glyph Panel that allows you to view all the glyphs in a font, and insert ay glyph into your text. Prior to InDesign CS3, the glyphs were displayed in the same physical order they happen to be stored in the font (GID/​CID order). In InDesign CS3 and later, the default is to display them in Unicode order, though one can optionally change to Unicode order. Either way, one can also filter to display only specific Unicode ranges such as Latin Extended B or Cyrillic.

Operating systems and font management applications sometimes have similar functionality. I’m doing a brief survey about what you’d like to see.

Thanks! I’ll be happy to report the survey results when I’m done, as usual.

Video: OpenType, cross-​​app text, Flash, etc. »

Worst Presentation EVAR

I almost didn’t blog about this, because it was probably the most messed-​​up presentation I’ve done in the last many years. I was trying to do a PDF-​​based presentation interleaved with a demo in InDesign, but my keyboard stopped working completely when I was in full-​​screen mode in Acrobat… meaning I also had no way to get out of Acrobat to do the demo! So I had to reboot, re-​​order my presentation on the fly, and improvise talking through from memory some stuff I had intended to do with accompanying slides, while waiting for my computer to complete the reboot and then for InDesign to launch (which last took 3x as long because I had rebooted while it was running). I also had a cold, so I am clearing my throat every 30 seconds. On top of that, the guy doing the presentation in the next room was REALLY LOUD and somehow his presentation included loud heavy metal music…. Which you can’t hear it on the recording, but I and the audience could hear it very clearly, and it was seriously distracting. Aaargh!

All of which threw me off my pace a bit, even if I seem to be handling it with aplomb on the recording. So even after I’m out of the part where my computer is totally hosed, I’m not at my best.

That being said there’s still some decent stuff in several spots of this AdobeTV recording from Adobe MAX, November 2008. See below for key bits to watch: