Fontlab Interface Peeves (3)

billtroop's picture

1. The return key appears to be inactive. Therefore, why can't it be used to toggle direct keyboard input mode as it is in Fog? It would all be so much easier.

2. I add a point. In fog, that point is now active, and I can edit it directly.

3. For some reason Flab seems to like to have a different point be active. Why?

4. The tools toolbar seems to disappear at random. Why?

5. In another thread, Nick Shinn I think indicated that Flab is very difficult to work with unless you are sitting six inches away from the screen. Most of us are working on high-res screens nowadays, but Flab seems to be designed -- still -- for use at 800x600.

We need to sit 18-36 inches away from our screens. The further, the better for us. It's time for everything in Flab to be visible from that distance on a 17" 1920x1200 monitor. Otherwise it's too much of an ergonomic liability.

blank's picture

Flab seems to be designed — still — for use at 800x600.

Very, very true. I find that changing many of the default colors helps, but I feel like I’m going to go blind staring at Fontlab!

On that note, the default colors for masks and components—among other things—are too similar. I often find that the colors in Fontlab are just too light all around, and that the software is easier to use when I crank up the colors and turn off whatever layers I’m not currently working with.

blank's picture

Another one: in most software the “save as” feature defaults to saving into the same directory as the open file. Fontlab saves the new file in the last directory any file was saved to. I do a lot of incremental saves, and I can’t tell you how often I’ve ended up with a file in the wrong place because I’m used to “save as” working differently in almost every other app.

billtroop's picture

Those are both great points. I hadn't realized until you wrote just how difficult I find the points and most especially the handles to see.

I'd also like more than one background layer. Let's say, numbered layers up to ten? (I can't imagine using more than three or four but you never know.)

And now that basic 1990 MM support is almost perfect, let's go through hell for a few years by making it more advanced? Erik van Blokland predicted that Superpolator would be somehow included in Fontlab the minute he released it, and he doubled his chances of this happening by refusing to license it to Fontlab, where it belongs. I'm sure we all hope that Yuri is busily figuring all this out. Let's actualize Erik's paranoia. It'll be fun! And then it won't be paranoia anymore -- we can pronounce the patient cured!

James, regarding the perils of Flab save as, another problem is that if you lose track of the folder you did happen to save a file into, it can be very difficult to learn from Fontlab where that folder is, especially if the path is long.

billtroop's picture

You have some points selected. You need to zoom in or out. You don't want to use the zoom tool because it's an extra step requiring the mouse, but simply magnify or decrease from the keyboard.

Fog knows that you want to zoom in or out on the selected points.

Flab doesn't know this yet. It zooms any old where.

Really annoying because you then have to drag the points you're working on back into the screen area.

.00's picture

FL zooms are keyed to the cursor position. Use the z and x keys by themselves to zoom in and out with the cursor as the target. I find this an incredibly useful feature, you can be editing a point on the outline, and you can zoom in or out while you are moving the point.

Also you can make the "nodes" larger (and in color) in the Glyph WIndow Preferences.

I do agree that ramping up some of default colors, makes it easier to see. I generally change the "global mask" red to a darker purple.


billtroop's picture

James, here's something interesting. Z and X are keyed to the cursor position, but zoom in/zoom out, which I have applied to shift-ctl+ and -, behave differently.

.00's picture

Bill, I never use those commands, so I just tried them and on the Mac, Command minus does zoom out, but there doesn't seem to be a zoom in that works. Anyway, the z and x suits me fine.

billtroop's picture

James, I was doing this test on Vista - - still trying to understand it because it seems to do different things at different times. In the meantime, I have another question you can no doubt answer.

Ages ago I was taught that characters such as space and nbspace should have a single corner point at the 0,0 position. Fontlab complains about this in generate options -- that it's an open contour it cannot be exported as open.

What's the best practice today? Continue with the point and ignore the warning, or just leave out the point, or something else?

.00's picture


I leave the point out, and have no problems with fonts generated this way. Perhaps some engineer-type can comment further.


billtroop's picture

HELP! Fontlab Studio 5. Blend command doesn't work properly. Take two absolutely compatible masters, blend, tell it not to change any points, and every curve point is changed to a corner point and the handles are changed, wrecking the design. How do you get around this?

.00's picture


Do not use the blend feature. Use the Mask-to-Master technique to make a MM vfb.

Place one of your designs on the Mask Layer and use Tools>Multiple Master>Define New Axis to create a weight or width or optical size axis. THen use Tools>Multiple Master> Mask to Master to create the MM instance. Make sure you indicate that you do not wan FL to add points.

This is a much more reliable method than using "Blend"

There was a thread on this a few weeks ago.


billtroop's picture

Hi James, and many thanks for the current best wisdom on this. The last advice -- probably a year or more ago -- I had from Fontlab directly was to use blend. That was when other solutions weren't working.

However, here, I don't want to create an MM. I just want to have two extremes open and create a variation that a designer has requested.

I'm afraid to create a new MM (or use the existing one) because how do I know -- if 'blend' doesn't work -- that Fontlab's export of an instance will work?

In this limited situation, what's the best thing to do? I could of course do it in Fog, and know exactly what was going to happen. But then I would lose my limited OT feature set which I'd rather not subsequently rebuild. However, I can do that if necessary.

billtroop's picture

And James, pursuant to that, if mask to master is the best way to create an MM, what are steps to create, say, a two-axis master from four pre-existing masters of known quality?

billtroop's picture

I've tried using Vista/Aero-style scaling in the hopes of improving visibility of near-invisible elements in Fontlab such as miniscule 'large' points, handles, etc. -- but I don't seem to be doing it right or the program simply isn't Aero-aware. Does anyone have any interesting experiences to report?

Dan Gayle's picture

Here's an interface peeve:
If you ever hook up an external monitor to your Apple laptop, MAKE SURE that all of your windows are in the native monitor before removing the external.

I left open my opentype features panel on the external monitor, unplugged, then went to work. When I got there, Fontlab expected that the external would be there as well, so it put the features panel where it thought the monitor was.

Which was... Nowhere!

There was no way to get access to the panel, except to go home and plug back in the monitor and drag the window over.

Not the end of the world, but it was annoying.

blank's picture

Dan, you can always reset your preferences when that happens.

Anyway, here’s another: I often can’t see numbers in Fontlab because they’re too small and gray. Numbers on guides or outlines are often illegible. The same goes for the tiny number under the mouse cursor when kerning in the metrics interface. The numbers need to be at least twice as big in the glyph window, and in the metrics window they need to pop up farther down and inside a circle or something that shields them from the stuff underneath.

.00's picture


FontLab allows you to save different workspaces. I have about ten of them stored for different functions. Most of the time I use two monitors but occasionally I'm forced to use just one. One of my saved workspaces is "Single Monitor"


billtroop's picture

Re workspaces: James, to me a 'workspace' is also a session. I was disappointed with the Fontlab workspace functionality. What's so hard about session-saver? Also, why does the Tools toolbar keep on disappearing in Vista?

I have another question. In Fontlab 2.5, there was a nifty feature whereby you could get the metrics window to track the character in the glyph window. Is there an equivalent in 5?

Mark Simonson's picture

There is a sort of session save feature, although probably more meager than what you're looking for. If you open the Fonts panel, there is a "save project" button. This will save a list of the currently open fonts and the positions of the Font windows, which you can then open later to open the same fonts together.

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