FontLab vs. Glyphs

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Alexander Lins's picture
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Joined: 23 Jan 2003 - 8:19pm
FontLab vs. Glyphs
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Who has any experience editing/designing with "Glyphs' (http://schriftgestaltung.de/) - in other words, how would someone compare Glyphs vs. FontLab in terms of features and usability.

I think the most important question is if it is possible to create a complete font in "Glyphs" e.g. after having all the single shapes prepared in Illustrator...?

Many Thanks - Alex

Jasper Michael de Waard's picture
Joined: 24 Apr 2008 - 10:32am
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Glyphs has a very handy 'smooth corners' function which I use occasionaly, but it's still in development I believe, so for now. I'd go for Fontlab if I were you.

Blank's picture
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Joined: 25 Sep 2006 - 2:15pm
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Glyphs is a decent entry-level font design tool. It’s a terribly inefficient program because it crams too many ideas into one tabbed window, which leads to lots of annoying tab switching and zooming. But from a new user’s perspective that eliminates much of Fontlab’s harsh learning curve, so that’s probably a net gain.

Jan Tonellato's picture
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Joined: 22 Dec 2010 - 10:34am
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Hello everybody :)

I’m intensively testing Glyphs since, more or less, May 2010 and honestly I like it very much. Of course is a 0.X beta; some functionalities aren’t ready yet and there are some little bugs (but Font Lab has bugs too and it’s not free).
I’m designing and developing 2 font faces with Glyphs and I can definitely say that Yes, you can create a complete font, or you’ll be able to do very soon (for instance, I’m waiting to some advanced OT implementations to be ready).

About the UI, I’m sorry to say I’ve never seen an uglier interface than FontLab (!)

I find Glyphs’ UI much easier, friendlier and visually pleasant.

Working with nodes is lovely (quite similar to FL but a bit nicer).

Personally I prefer to have my App in one window only especially as I can edit my glyph into an inline text (great feature!).

Glyphs automatizes many tasks you have to do manually in Font Lab; it does the stupid job leaving me thinking about design.
In particular:
1. it auto generates standard OT features
2. it auto generates all derivative glyphs combining components (accented letters etc.)
3. you can easily set kerning classes and dynamic side-bearings (that means to give your glyph the value of another and make them change together) all inside your editing window.
4. you can keep only one production file with open paths; Glyphs merges them automatically while exporting
5. Glyphs interpolation feature seems good (I’ve tried it on sans-serif only for now)
6. for now glyphs is free, as FontLab isn’t

Glyphs drawbacks
1. You can’t export in TTF nor PS (personally I don’t care, but maybe someone would like it)
2. Kerning management on the entire-font or multi-layered-font scale could be easier
3. for the moment you can import .otf files but without reading OT features (It seems it should be implemented in next releases).

Justin Callaghan's picture
Joined: 10 Oct 2003 - 12:49am
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You've got nothing to lose by trying out the beta of Glyphs while it's free. (It will be a paid app once finished, though the developer hasn't yet hinted at the price.) You can copy and paste outlines from Illustrator, though just as with FontLab they need to be properly scaled first. While Glyphs can't match the extensive functionality of FontLab, it's got the basic tools and offers some unique features and clever ideas, all within a comparatively elegant UI. I can't think of any reason it couldn't be used to develop a complete font, but keep in mind it's beta software, so save frequently.

Alexander Lins's picture
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Joined: 23 Jan 2003 - 8:19pm
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Thank you for all the valuable replies!

Adam Twardoch's picture
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Joined: 3 Dec 2002 - 7:36pm
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What I can add to that is that Georg Seifert, the developer of Glyphs, joined the FontLab team a couple of months ago. We've been working with him on our new applications ever since, and it's a very promising collaboration.

Best regards,
Adam Twardoch
Fontlab Ltd.

Georg Seifert's picture
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Joined: 6 Jul 2005 - 10:23am
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I’m the developer of Glyphs. I posted some notes about my status with FontLab on my page schriftgestaltung.de/news.html.

Georg Seifert

Stephen Coles's picture
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Joined: 14 May 2001 - 11:00am
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Is Georg still at FontLab?

Adam Twardoch's picture
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Joined: 3 Dec 2002 - 7:36pm
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> Is Georg still at FontLab?

Sure he is :) Actually, the interesting stuff he's doing for us is just only starting.

Briän M Zick's picture
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Joined: 8 Nov 2008 - 9:38pm
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I personally liked the functions for accents in Glyphs, which uses anchors.

Chris Risdon's picture
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Joined: 10 Jul 2005 - 7:31pm
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So I haven't been on the forum in a long while. I was curious, is Georg at Fontlab now? And if so what does that mean for future support/development of Glyphs? The link to Georg's blog post no longer works.

colon's picture
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Joined: 16 Sep 2011 - 9:58pm
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Yeah, is Glyphs of today all we will see of it or will there be future releases? Let us know.

Justin Callaghan's picture
Joined: 10 Oct 2003 - 12:49am
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Glyphs appears to be under active development. Version 1.1 was released a couple of days ago.

Georg Seifert's picture
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Joined: 6 Jul 2005 - 10:23am
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To make it clear:
I’m working for FontLab as a consultant on interface and software design. This is part time and does not effect my work on Glyphs. I work on it most of my time and improve and expand functionality.

Georg

Rafael de Azevedo's picture
Joined: 14 Mar 2011 - 8:01pm
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I've read the Appstore and website info, played a little with the beta version and one thing I haven't understood is where exactly is Glyphs aiming as a development effort. In the long run, is it intended to be a basic font editor (sort of like Type Tool), a more full-fledged font production application (sort of like Fontlab) or something else entirely?

Mark Simonson's picture
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Joined: 3 Dec 2001 - 11:00am
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I like it. I work with several other UFO-based tools, so it's easy to add Glyphs to my workflow. I have not been using it long, but here are some of the things I like about it so far:

- Simple, clean interface that lets me focus on what I'm doing.
- Automatic anchor placement and accented glyph generation (this is one of the big things I've been using it for).
- Ability to edit font data pretty much wherever it appears (e.g., the glyph names and unicode values in the font window).
- The extensive list of "smart" groups in the left column of the main window, with the ability to add your own. (Robofont has a similar feature, but comes with almost none pre-made.)
- The ability to type in the glyph window, so I can see the glyph I'm working on in context.
- Virtual slanted sidebearings.
- Simple search filter in the main font window (e.g., type "caron" and instantly see only the glyphs that have "caron" in the name).

Things I don't like so much:

- Transformation tools seem difficult to use (or maybe I haven't figured out how they are supposed to work).
- No way to go to the next or previous glyph in the glyph drawing view.

I have not used all the features yet, and have not started or finished or completely created a font in it, but it has been a useful addition to my tool set and has already saved me a lot of work. I am also starting to work somewhat with Robofont.

I don't see Glyphs by itself replacing FontLab, but it's not hard to imagine spending more of my time in Glyphs + Robofont + the other UFO tools than in FontLab. It will also be interesting to see how FontLab evolves in this changing landscape (and with Georg on board).

Georg Seifert's picture
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Joined: 6 Jul 2005 - 10:23am
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Hi Mark,

Thanks for your nice summary.

- No way to go to the next or previous glyph in the glyph drawing view.

There is a way to do this. on the compact/MacBook keyboards use Fn+left/right on the extended keyboards use the scroll up/down keys (the two in the middle of the six keys block above the cursor keys).

- Transformation tools seem difficult to use (or maybe I haven't figured out how they are supposed to work).

I know that the transformation panel is a bit confusing. I will try to explain.

Transformation Panel:

  1. First item, like in Adobe apps, is to choose the origin of the transforamtion.
  2. Then two buttons to mirror the selection.
  3. This this is the tricky part. If you put in 10% and click the "+" button it actually scales 110%, if you click the "-" button, it does exactly the opposite, scaling to 1/110% = 90,91%. So the both operation reverse themselves exactly.
  4. The rotation and slanting should be clear
  5. The slanting has one hidden functionality. If you hold down the shift key while clicking the slant right button, it actually "cursivies" the letter. It applies corrections that remove the slanted appearance. This only works if you have set the standard stems correctly. The same option is available in the transformation filter.

I hope that helps a bit. If you have more question, please ask (either here or in the Glyphs forum). I’m happy to help.

And can you describe your workflow with UFO - RoboTools - Glyphs?

Mark Simonson's picture
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Joined: 3 Dec 2001 - 11:00am
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Thanks for the tips, Georg. I will try them out.

Regarding my workflow, it's a bit in flux at the moment with all these new tools becoming available (well, two new tools, anyway).

Up to this point, I have used UFO mainly when I want to use Metrics Machine, Superpolator, Rounding UFO or other UFO-based tool, but still doing most of the production in FontLab.

I am interested in moving to a more UFO-centric workflow and Glyphs seems well-suited to be part of that. I like having some flexibility in choosing tools. The .vfb format sort of forces you to stay inside FontLab for most of the process, and only using .ufo in a supplementary way. Having editors like Glyphs and Robofont that can work directly with .ufo format gives me more options, which I'm now exploring.

Ben Mitchell's picture
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Joined: 12 Aug 2007 - 4:05pm
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>The slanting has one hidden functionality. If you hold down the shift key while clicking the slant right button, it actually "cursivies" the letter. It applies corrections that remove the slanted appearance. This only works if you have set the standard stems correctly. The same option is available in the transformation filter.

Wow, this sounds very interesting. Does it correct the round letters as well (which may not have stems)?

Georg Seifert's picture
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Joined: 6 Jul 2005 - 10:23am
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Does it correct the round letters as well (which may not have stems)?

It rounds especially round forms. The stems (Font Info > Masters) are needed to "scale" the effect.

Chris Lozos's picture
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Joined: 25 Feb 2004 - 11:00am
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Georg, Does the "cursivies" tool only work if you have done it as onestep inside "gyphs" or can you import texted slant elsewhere and then correct t in "Glyphs" uses the same function but not applying slant?

ChrisL

Georg Seifert's picture
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Joined: 6 Jul 2005 - 10:23am
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Does the "cursivies" tool only work if you have done it as onestep inside "gyphs" or can you import texted slant elsewhere and then correct t in "Glyphs" uses the same function but not applying slant?

You can’t only apply the correction. But why not slant it back first?

G

robarnow's picture
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Joined: 27 Jan 2009 - 3:39am
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Glyphs is great, and seems much easier to use than Fontlab Studio so far. There's a 30-day free trial, so I'd definitely recommend it.

gilesdickerson's picture
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Joined: 29 Aug 2009 - 10:59am
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So here's the million dollar question...I've bought FontLab and to keep it current, they're recent update. I have NOT used it yet. I'm about to start taking some typefaces (mostly display) that I've created for various projects and turn them into full faces for clients to use and for me to use for my work.

Should I just cut my losses and buy Glyphs?
Or does the future look promising enough for FontLab to start working with it and stick with it for now?

These guys seem so (maybe a little righteously so) confident that we should all ditch FontLab for Glyphs right now, and portrays fontlab as a lost cause. How much of this is opinion and how much is tried and tested understanding of the differences in the two apps? What are the major type foundries using? Like:

http://www.fountaintype.com/catalogue

http://www.vllg.com/fonts

https://ourtype.com/#//

http://www.dstype.com/posts/#dstype

Do they (you) feel the same way?

Bert Vanderveen's picture
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Joined: 13 Jun 2004 - 8:19am
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I have been reading up on this subject and found that some (maybe not from a quite large enough sample) designers use Glyph to do the drawing and FL for the production side.

William Berkson's picture
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Joined: 26 Feb 2003 - 11:00am
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It seems that quite a few are also using Robofont. I think there is going to be a lot of flux over the next few years on drawing programs. Until the next version of FontLab comes out I doubt there were be a clear winner. Then probably there will be some kind of movement one way or another, but who knows...

Blank's picture
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Joined: 25 Sep 2006 - 2:15pm
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I doubt that there will ever be a clear winner, but soon we may not need one. If every app offers native UFO support we will be able to just use the best tool for any task and move between them on the fly.

Chris Lozos's picture
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Joined: 25 Feb 2004 - 11:00am
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The danger of the "clear winner" was proven years ago by Quark and is now proven again by Adobe. Developers who have no competition grow lazy and unresponsive.
Also, an open system encourages more creative development by all parties. If a small group or even single individual were to create a truly viable auto-hinting tool, they would not need to develop an entire font production product, but could simply sell their "one trick pony" to everyone and have it fit right in to any work flow.

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

as I've written here several times, I agree with you. From our own perspective, it's been actually quite a burden to practically be the only font tool company on the market (apart from DTL/URW++). Many users have asked to implement various kinds of functionalities in FontLab Studio, and the tool has grown to become quite complex. We're happy that there are alternatives now, because the tool makers can learn from each other, and the tools can complement each other (provided the exchange of data is easy, and we hope to achieve that with the UFO format).

Best,
Adam

Chris Lozos's picture
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Joined: 25 Feb 2004 - 11:00am
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BRAVO! Brother Adam :-)

Chris Lozos's picture
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Joined: 25 Feb 2004 - 11:00am
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TYPO Magazine Winter issue has an interview with Georg Seifert on page 24.

It is well illustrated and helpful in describing Glyphs.

Jan Tonellato's picture
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Joined: 22 Dec 2010 - 10:34am
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Dear Adam,
are you going to implement a full UFO 2/3 compatibility in next FL release?
Using actual robofab macros, the result doesn't seem to be fully satisfactory.
Thanks

Cristobal Henestrosa's picture
Joined: 24 May 2005 - 7:36am
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Adam answered that one already http://on another thread:

[22.Jan.2012 8.43am]
> as per Tal's recommendation, we definitely want to have UFO2 support in FontLab Studio 6. "FLS7" will likely support both UFO2 and UFO3.

Jan Tonellato's picture
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Joined: 22 Dec 2010 - 10:34am
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Thanks Cristobal.

Pete's picture
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Joined: 7 Aug 2013 - 6:33am
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Hey guys,

Does anyone have anything to add to this debate now that Glyphs has been out for a while now? Very curious to hear from experienced users from both sides, as the investment of each is quite costly. I am about to install the Glyphs demo after using the FLS demo for a while to check out its features.

Best,
Pete

Chris Lozos's picture
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Joined: 25 Feb 2004 - 11:00am
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Try the Glyphs demo first then before you decide. You will be best able to compare how you work with them both. The hardest part is switching from one to another. If you truly are just beginning, then you have no unlearning to do.

Nick Cooke's picture
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Joined: 25 May 2004 - 2:29am
+1

I have been using FontLab for years now and after a long learning curve I am finally comfortable using it. However I have an idea that working in Glyphs will make my life easier. I have been developing a type family in 5 widths and 7 weights in FL which has been an extremely long and laborious process. I feel that it would have been much more straight forward and quicker in Glyphs. So I bought it and am trying to learn it, but it doesn't seem that simple to me after being used to FL. Are there any books like Leslie Cabarga's 'Learn FontLab Fast', but for Glyphs. The tutorials are OK, but there are no real step-by-step guides from beginning to generation like LFLF.

Thanks,
Nick

George Thomas's picture
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Joined: 24 Apr 2000 - 7:46pm
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Consider reading the Glyphs manual, available on their site as a free download. It should provide you what you require. Also, their online Forum is a valuable resource for help; Rainer (Mekkablue) and Georg are usually quite prompt with support. Glyphs is a lot easier to learn than FontLab.

Alexander Katt's picture
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Joined: 6 Oct 2010 - 9:53am
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I won't elaborate too much, but I started using Glyphs a few months ago and to me it seems a lot more modern and simpler to use than Fontlab.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
+1

I'm the loyal type, so: FontLab. (And Typophile. :-)
I wouldn't mind trying out Glyphs... but I'm not buying a Mac just for that.

Igor Freiberger's picture
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Joined: 20 Jun 2008 - 8:44pm
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Glyphs offers several features to make font production easier. Unicode codes, classes, OpenType features, script grouping, sorting, composites with diacritics… all this Glyphs do automatically or demanding minimum effort from the user. It also brings some niceties regarding partial components, letting you work with a more modular approach (regarding parts which repeat between glyphs). You don't need to worry about glyph names as Glyphs controls that. Georg, Glyphs' developer, is regarded as excellent at user support. And there are dozens of scripts to enhance original functions.

Fontlab 5 adopts other approach. It is up to the user define font classes, features, sorting and so on. It is aged and you see that since the very first use as its interface follows the late 90s style. The upcoming FontLab VI represents a huge upgrade from version 5. It is still under development and you can try its public previews. The interface is clean, beautiful, very organized, and there is a bunch of great tools to design Bézier curves. A number of procedures are now more easy to do and some concepts, like Genius/Servant points, Shapes/Clones, Tunni controls, and Tags, put on steroids what we used to see in a font editor. But the new FontLab still let to the user define most of the font characteristics. You will not get auto this or magic that. And, as a completely new application, it starts without any add-on/scripts available.

So which is better? It depends how to you like to work.

I develop large, multi-script fonts with several alternates. For me, it is critical to freely reorder the glyphs and quickly find where things are because the fonts are quite big. And I use a well defined name schema to identify groups of glyphs (.uc, .sc, .pc, .la. .da, .hs, .op, .ot, etc.) which many times are combined (for example, an alternate small caps to match a language preference would be xxxx.la.sc). Glyphs expect to find specific suffixes like .smcp and .case to make all its automatic features to work. Custom suffixes need to be manually handled. For non-Latin scripts, Glyphs adopts 'friendly' names with suffixes like xxxxxx.cyr or xxxxxx.grk, what I don't like.

I also prefer to control small details about UI, to manage the OpenType features and classes, and to mark glyphs with pale colors to indicate different groups or stages of development. In other words, I want to choose exactly how to work. This freedom Glyphs does not offer. It chooses so much about the user workflow to achieve more automation — a perfectly valid approach that matches the needs of many designers. But, for me, FontLab fits better.

Another point is the lack of node/handle coordinates in Glyphs — there is a plug-in that do this, but it is not to my taste. So, although Glyphs is a mature, modern, easier and very good font editor, for me it is still better to use FL5 (and experiment with the new options of FLVI). For you, as I said, it depends how you like to work. Happily, you can try both editors (and also the very good RoboFont) prior to decide.

Mark Simonson's picture
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Joined: 3 Dec 2001 - 11:00am
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It is possible to control glyph order in Glyphs. As with many such things, there is a custom parameter to give you this control. It takes a list of glyph names as its parameter.

I generally don't use the automatic feature generation. I've moved all my font source into Glyphs and I was able to preserve all my existing feature code as well as glyph names.

Glyphs does lots of automatic stuff by default, but there are almost always ways to override the defaults if you don't like them.

I also like the fact that Glyphs' document format is plain text, similar to UFO or ttx. It's possible to do certain kinds of operations on a .glyphs file using a text editor (but be sure to back up first--completely hosing the .glyphs file is also possible with this trick).

Claudio Piccinini's picture
Joined: 11 Jan 2003 - 9:32am
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I would like to try out Glyphs, as I am thinking to work on type once again, but I believe it requires the latest OsX version… Hm.

George Thomas's picture
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Requires minimum of 10.9.5 for the latest version of Glyphs. The previous version of Glyphs, 1.4.5, is also still available.

Claudio Piccinini's picture
Joined: 11 Jan 2003 - 9:32am
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I see. Thanks, unfortunately the alternatives on my MacPro are either 10.6.8 or 10.11, which I have installed on another drive.
I need to stick with 10.6.8 for now, for many reasons, so I’ll keep using Fontlab. But would love to try Glyphs, as I briefly looked at the interface and find it intriguing.

George Thomas's picture
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Glyphs 1.4.5 requires only OS X 10.6.6. But, you have 10.11 on another drive, so Glyphs 2 will run just fine on that.

Claudio Piccinini's picture
Joined: 11 Jan 2003 - 9:32am
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Thanks much – do you know where I can download 1.4.5? I recall I downloaded the demo for the 10.1x this summer, but had no opportunity to use it and it probably expired.
It would be very unpractical for me to work under OsX 10.11 right now, as I would need Freehand and other things that I have set up under 10.6 but no longer work with newer OS versions.

Igor Freiberger's picture
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Joined: 20 Jun 2008 - 8:44pm
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In Glyphs site, Get App section. Here is the Direct link.

Christian Thalmann's picture
Joined: 2 Apr 2012 - 8:35am
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I can't recommend Glyphs highly enough!

If you're even toying with the idea of switching to Glyphs, download the 30-day free trial and give it a try. If you think you're missing a feature from your previous editor, look around in the tutorials or the manual, or ask on the boards: It's probably available, and possibly in an easier-to-use form than you're used to. :)

In the ancient part of this thread, somebody mentions the unified edit windows as a drawback. Nonsense! That's the best part of Glyphs. I switched to Glyphs from FontForge, and that was one of the most notable improvements. Do spacing & kerning in context and with live previewing, and use placeholders to switch from one working glyph to the next. Super convenient.

Hrant H Papazian's picture
Joined: 3 May 2000 - 11:00am
-1

(What kind of person would downvote my post above?)