OpenType: How far away is it?

Joe Pemberton's picture

What's your take?

How far are we away from widespread
adoption of OpenType, the new cross-platform
font format?

Quark doesn't even support it yet, right?

Could you argue that if Quark doesn't adopt it
that widespread adoption will never really

Or could you argue that it's a good sign Quark
should be abandoned for InDesign? (Yeah,

sevenfingers's picture

I'd like a merge between Quark and InDesign... hehe. Imagine the stability and speed of Quark with the wonderful (hehe) blurry dropshadow of InDesign! :)

Seriously, InDesign is beginning to compete with Quark on a more serious basis now, it's faster than before and I really like the workflow. To bad my printshop hates it.

As for opentype, it's indeed a promising format, but as I find the current slots available in a typeface hard to fill up, opentype will not exactly give me less work :)

kentlew's picture

Joe, you've asked some really key questions. I think that an argument could be made that until Quark supports OpenType features, you won't see widespread adoption -- at least, not in the publishing industry.

Publishers are pretty much wedded to Quark. InDesign has some attractive features, but nothing compelling enough to overcome the inertia. Converting even a small shop over to InDesign is a serious proposition and investment, let alone a large established design department.

That said, Quark may have some serious challenges if it doesn't get carbonized soon. As OS X stabilizes and gets more established, the fact that Indy runs native may become compelling enough for some operations to make the switch, especially if Adobe offers cross-grade pricing comparable to a Quark upgrade.

If Indy makes inroads, then OpenType will make inroads, and Adobe's gamble will have paid off. Until then, it looks like a crap shoot to me.

-- K.

Diner's picture

Kent, When Quark makes an OS X version, won't it automatically be Open Type aware due to the nature of the OS?

Stuart :D

kentlew's picture

Stuart, good question. I'm not all that OpenType aware myself yet. ;-) But I think there are two levels of OT awareness. I think you're right, the first -- just being able to use OT fonts -- is accomplished by the very nature of OS X. In earlier OSes, it can be accomplished with the latest versions of ATM.

But I think the second, more interesting level of OT awareness -- accessing the typographic features: automatic ligatures, optical versions, auto true small caps, etc. -- requires that the application be written to utilize these features. Maybe that's just Carbon apps, though. It may be that the OS X font panel, which I think is used by all Cocoa apps, includes access to all OT features. I'm not sure.

But Quark going straight to Cocoa? -- yeah, right. I'm not holding my breath.

Too bad you won't be able to come to TypeCon this year. I think that Tom Phinney is giving a presentation on OT that should prove quite enlightening.

-- K.

Diner's picture

Will he be demoing OT fonts with Suitcase :D

Joe Pemberton's picture

The other side of this coin (other than user
adoption) is how easy or valuable the
creation of OpenType fonts is. A part of
this equation is that once a face is in OT format,
seperate cross platform development is no longer
an issue.

You can see how these go hand in hand. If type
foundries/resellers are pushing the benefits of
OpenType and making the fonts available, the
adoption will potentially move faster.

You can see how Adobe is pushing the technology
in this way, having already ported their
entire font library to OT. (No small task, I imagine.)

johnbutler's picture

The biggest barrier to widespread adoption of InDesign is not any real advantages Quark might have. It's all the scaffolding put in place over the last decade to make Quark work. I would encourage anyone with a newer machine (e.g. capable of running OS 10.2 and with at least 512MB of RAM) to grab one copy of InDesign (buy it with the Adobe Design Collection for your next new machine) and start doing one-machine projects on it, and see how fast it sells itself.

Quark adopting OpenType? Ha, Quark can't even handle freakin' UNICODE. Not even in their hyper-expensive Passport version. ID does multilingual typesetting out of the box, but Quark can't even make use of the simple CE characters already found in every Microsoft TT and Apple AAT font.

Do ease into ID slowly, but do prepare to abandon the Quark ship eventually. They're continuously dismissive of any questions regarding intelligent fonts.

(nota bene: I have a financial interest in OpenType font sales.)

Thomas Phinney's picture

Plus side: Yes, OpenType fonts can work just as well as Type 1 in existing apps, even QuarkXPress. Plus, the font files are cross-platform.

Down side: Apps that don't go out of their way to do so don't get the cool typographic features. Apps that don't know Unicode will still only be able to access platform-specific encodings and generally be hobbles as much as they have always been.

Sideways side: Although it's nice to make an OpenType font in that you've got one font file for both platforms, that really only simplifies sales (single downloadable instead of two). At Adobe we've found that due to platform-specific issues, we still have to test on both platforms just as extensively as before. Although, we do have better automated testing utilities now (such as CompareFamily, part of the OpenType FDK from Adobe).

I'm doing some pretty in-depth stuff on OpenType library conversion at ATypI this year. The techie stuff (the "how") is in the Font Technology Forum, and a more general presentation (the "what") in the main conference.


Thomas Phinney's picture

And, to answer the actual question, I think next year we'll see significant widespread adoption. I expect many more type foundries will start following Adobe's lead in converting their libraries.


kentlew's picture

Thomas --

Here's the question in my mind wrt OpenType in Quark (or any other non-OT-savvy app): Can I access the style variants? Sure, I won't have access to the cool typographic features like auto ligatures, swashes, and stuff; but my fear is that since the SC, for instance, is bundled in to the OT font and is accessed through OT style swapping, I won't be able to actually access it through the font menu as before. Or what about the optical styles of a face like Minion?

Can you please clarify? What will or won't I be able to access if I license a Pro font and pull it up in Quark?

-- Kent.

nathanstock's picture

I was at a Quark demo of XPress 6 (fully carbonized from the ground up) a few weeks ago and learned that it will support the basic OpenType fonts (due to the OS) but it will not support any of the extended features. When I asked about this all they told me was that it would be considered for a later version (typical).


Thomas Phinney's picture


From an OpenType perspective, small caps are no different to implement than swashes or oldstyle figures or.... They're all one-to-one substitutions, and all require support for OpenType layout features.

Today, in QuarkXPress, you can access the MacRoman or WinANSI character set. With QuarkXPress Passport on Windows, you may be able to get at anything in a regular Win codepage by switching keyboard settings, but I don't know for sure.


Diner's picture


Is there any chance Adobe would create a free Quark Plug-in for people to access OT features in Quark? It think you'd see a spike in developement as well as OT sales. I don't know how long we're all interested in waiting for Quark to get their

Thomas Phinney's picture


I think the main problem is that it would be incredibly difficult for anybody to create such a plug-in. So much so that it's probably not feasible. I suspect Quark's codebase makes some pretty deep-rooted assumptions about text handling, and they don't expose nearly as much of the app to plug-in developers as InDesign does, yet doing this in InDesign proved to be quite a bit of work. In all likelihood, Quark will need to make some underlying architectural changes first.

If it were feasible, then Adobe probably still wouldn't do it. I mean, why would we put immense work into making our competitor's product better? If we were going to make a plug-in, we'd sooner do something that would help an Adobe product. (This is purely for example purposes - don't start any wild speculation!)


hrant's picture

> Is there any chance

Font money is peanuts compared to app money. So no.


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