[Openfontlibrary] Font site wishlist
jon at rejon.org
Mon Oct 30 23:16:00 PST 2006
On Sun, 2006-10-29 at 22:22 -0800, Raph Levien wrote:
> It sounds like we've got a very active discussion going, about issues
> including the direction the openfontlibrary is to take. I'd like to
> take this time to set forth my wishlist of what I'd like to see in
> such a site. Much of this material is reiterated from a typophile
> thread from almost a year ago, but this wishlist is pretty
Cool. Please add these tasks to the wiki or task tracker:
> My central question is whether I can use the openfontlibrary (or some
> other site) as the primary site for the distribution of my free fonts.
> I just have them thrown up onto static pages in my own domain now, but
> that's unsatisfying for a variety of reasons. I'll categorize the
> items into three baskets. Basket A is stuff that's a dealbreaker -
> without it I'll be looking elsewhere. Basket B is stuff that I think
> would be very useful and worthwhile to pursue, and should be done if
> the site is to be truly viable. And basket C is stuff that would be
> nice to see, but is a long-term goal at best.
Yeah, I would like to see all of these done, so I think best to get them
up and start making them discrete and doable.
> Basket A
> Thumbnails have already been discussed.
> The single most important need that is not currently served is a "type
> tester." All viable commercial font websites currently have such a
Yep, and we need it bad.
> In many ways, doing a type tester for free fonts should be easier than
> in the commercial world; a strong need in the latter is to make images
> available without letting the font itself escape. Many type testers
> (such as Hoefler & Frere-Jones) put bars through the image to
> discourage people even from using that. In the free world, there is no
> need for such games. In fact, it makes sense to make the tester
> featureful enough for people to actually use it to make png's.
Yep, this is awesome and we should do it right.
> In the commercial world, the dominant technologies are Flash and Ajax
> (with server-side rendering to bitmaps). Flash is a royal pain and not
> very open, so I think it's not appropriate. Server-side rendering, of
> course, requires nontrivial development on the web server side,
> including of course the rendering. Perhaps the FontImage() procedure
> in fontforge could be used, or it wouldn't be hard to hack something
> up using FreeType.
Maybe it would be worthwhile to have something like a mod_font for
apache that could render fonts to PNG. Someone wrote a mod_rsvg does
this for svg that we decided to pull into Inkscape's sf.net site:
> There are other emerging technologies which may work, in which the
> rendering is client-side. An SVG viewer is one possibility, which is
> very standards-friendly, but will otherwise make for a pretty unhappy
> user experience - it will basically be Firefox-only. Another is to use
> the @font-face css2 rule, but I have no idea how well that's been
> implemented either.
Yeah, I don't think very well...
> Quality isn't so much a checklist feature, but it's important enough
> to me to mention it here. Since I'm not getting (much) money for my
> free font work, it's essential to pay me in ego-gratification. The
> worst way to do that would be to have my fonts mixed indiscriminately
> with a lot of freeware crap. If I'm going to point people to
> openfontlibrary as the main distribution point, they have to see
> _good_ fonts on the front page.
> Quality is also an issue for feedback. As a designer, I'm especially
> interested in specific criticism (one example from Inconsolata was the
> observation that accents were too small, and acute and grave were too
> easily confused). I'm also particularly interested in requests, for
> example for additional glyphs. Not enough feedback is a problem, and
> just as bad would be lots of _uninformed_ feedback, so that it's work
> to pick out the interesting bits.
Yep, and I think key to this is developing a strong community that
prefers quality discussions and fonts...the power is with us :)
> Basket B
> One thing that can only be done in the free font world is distributed,
> collaborative development. In the short term, I expect this to be
> primarily contribution of glyphs to expand the unicode range of a
> In the short term, such collaboration can be done without any special
> tools or support on the site, but I think ultimately having the
> repository for the font _hosted_ on the Web is the way to go. Ideally,
> contributors would be able to upload new glyphs (or improved versions
> of existing glyphs), and then users of the site would provide feedback
> on whether the new glyphs were good.
> For me, drawing a-z is the fun part. Doing all the glyphs to fill the
> code ranges takes a lot of time and isn't as fun. A site that lets
> some of that work be distributed would be considerably more rewarding
> for me. This type of collaboration is also a good way for more
> experienced designers to teach newcomers, especially by providing
> detailed criticism.
> The features needed to support such collaboration (essentially some
> form of version control, where the glyphs in a font may exist in
> numerous versions) could also be useful for users. If there were
> several versions of the same glyph, then users could vote with their
> feet and select the version they like best, "cutting" a custom TTF
> file encapsulating those preferences (see the typophile discussions
> entitled "altern at ive @ signs" and "Freestyle Remix Challenge" for
> hints about how this may go). And of course that metadata is very
> valuable as well.
> Linux accomplished many things that the proprietary vendor Unices
> could never touch. I sense that there may be similar potential in the
> development of free fonts. One of the reasons I'm spending time on
> these email threads is to encourage the tools to come into existence
> to give that potential a chance.
I agree, and ccHost is ready for this already. I think we should think
of the solutions to these in a few ranges from low-tech to high-tech.
The low-tech you are seeking is ready: someone uploads a font, another
person changes it, adds to it, and then submit this as a remix, and they
are linked together. Thus, a genealogy is kept between the old and the
new. Please check out how this works:
The high tech things will come if we keep pushing, getting people to
hack, and to do the simple ideas well. If we can't do the simple
low-tech, I think we can't do the high-tech.
> Basket C
> It would be cool to be able to apply scripted effects to fonts online.
> Simple examples include stroke offset, global changes to side
> bearings, and so on. If we had Multiple Master fonts, then generating
> an instance would fall into this basket.
> Having a font editor in the web browser would be cool. At least two exist:
> [flash] http://type.gizma.com/tool.html
> [safari/firefox canvas] http://erik.letterror.com:8306/glyphServer
What!!! Those are crazy. This is something that should be posted to
ccHost as a feature request. One of the things we want to code on that
is the ability to edit inline. This make sense for text, but there are
more and more tools that support on-line audio editing, etc. Of course
we know how this helps wikipedia ;)
> Even without the ability to edit outlines interactively, a tool to
> position accents for composed characters would be useful and would be
> an easy way for people to contribute.
Yep, a great gateway drug for soon-to-be font developers ;)
> In sum, I'd very much like to see this happen. If the UKFSN grant
> money would catalyze that, I'm very much in favor. I don't have any
> spare time right now to do webserver hacking, but I'm more than happy
> to offer ideas and criticism.
Yes, after we really outline what we need, hopefully this money can
help. Until we have identified these things, I think that funding is not
> P.S. I pretty much take back my ininformed speculation about
> licensing. I did study the licenses pretty carefully and came away
> with the feeling that the GPL with font exception still had serious
> ambiguity, but I could simply be wrong about that.
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