yet another visual OpenType feature editor?

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Michael Zitzmann's picture
Joined: 10 Sep 2009 - 5:20am
yet another visual OpenType feature editor?


I’m about to start writing my diploma thesis in media computer science.
The idea that occurred to me first was trying to improve an aspect in the process of type design, as I really like the combination of design and technology.

So I had a look at FontForge and FontLab with regard to the ease of use for designers. OpenType feature creation in those tools seems to me not to be made for people with a less technical background. Even OTMaster and VOLT which claim to do or sound like doing so didn’t meet my expectations in this respect.

That’s why I think about developing a more designer-focused tool…

My first humble ideas are:

  • A tool to visually edit OpenType features with emphasis on a user-friendly interface (without unexplained cryptic abbreviations)
  • Integration of the specification in a way that it doesn’t clutter the user interface but is always within reach
  • I’d like to both offer visual tools as well as allowing for directly editing the code
  • That would have to include live-updating and checking feature code on the fly…
  • But on the other hand it could avoid/indicate errors before font is compiled

Probably, I will be focusing on AFDKO-syntax. So far I don’t have a decent knowledge of AFDKO, but I already read quite a bit about OpenType and AFDKO and I’m following the threads in this forum about OpenType development for a while (I especially enjoyed reading this one). Also, I did my own first tests with OpenType feature generation using AFDKO.

Now I’d really like to know what you think of my vague idea. Is it reasonable? Probably I missed some important aspects. Ideas and criticism are very much appreciated. Eventually, I might as well need some test persons in order to evaluate my prototype.

Thanks for reading and for your comments!
But dont’t forget: it’s only a diploma thesis…


Riccardo Sartori's picture
Joined: 13 Jul 2009 - 4:20am

I'm not familiar with these tools, but what you describe reminds me of some of the newer apps aimed at web development, like Coda:
I think you can pick up some ideas from that kind of applications.

Mark Simonson's picture
Joined: 3 Dec 2001 - 11:00am


You might want to take a look at the work Tal Lemming has done. He's open-sourced a lot of his code, and it's all specifically aimed at making tools for font development. Several good tools have already been made using his code, and not just by him.

Check it out:

Blank's picture
Joined: 25 Sep 2006 - 2:15pm

What I would find useful is a standalone program that can automatically set up OT classes and code based on what glyphs exist in the font using Adobe’s suggested glyph naming. A good app for building combining diacriticals would be a big help as we don’t have one on the Mac platform AFAIK. You should also get in touch with people who build fonts with lots of complex replacements—Patrick Griffin at Canada Type, Ale Paul at SudTipos, and House Industries—to see if they have needs that current software is not meeting.

I second Mark’s suggestion that you look up Tal’s code. You should also contact Tal and Erik van Blokand to see if there’s pent-up demand for something that nobody has got around to yet.

Michael Zitzmann's picture
Joined: 10 Sep 2009 - 5:20am

Thanks for all your suggestions!
I already had played with Tal's libraries at and think they look quite promising. Before bothering people directly I wanted to see if there is some interest in an application like this at all. Probably I will add underware to the list.

Adam Twardoch's picture
Joined: 3 Dec 2002 - 7:36pm


feel free to contact me at adam at fontlab dot com, Fontlab Ltd. might be interested in helping in this.