The font cold war?

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/08/13 22:08 -04:00, original URI:

This is one of many posts that was written around the time that TypeCon2007 was going on, and edited later....

A confession for you all. 

I did not get the Mac to allow myself to fit in better at TypeCon.


But at the same time, I am really happy to say that neither Cusack nor Beckinsale has anything on me the serendipity department.

Because having a Mac and bringing it to TypeCon2007 all week, being able to work and play with people on the machine and embrace both the technical and the artistic in one place has been one week long bout of serendipaciousness, let me tell you.

Please note that the rest of this post vastly over-simplifies complex issues by emphasizing general trends. Both sides come off as villains though very little of the effort was villainous and very few of the characters involved were villains either. The villainy is an after-the-fact look at circumstances that these non-villains have for the most part unintentionally allowed to blossom, for a variety of reasons that are both complex and difficult.

Please also note that these are my personal opinions. Anyone who quotes this post with an "According to Microsoft..." (who I cannot speak for) or even worse "According to Adobe..." (who I definitely cannot speak for) is a completely and utter moronic wingnut.

Thinking beyond the points in On the error, and the inspiration, of randomness, to what the "burying the hatchet" that the Font Peace that is OpenType gave us, melding Postscript and TrueType, I can't help wondering how much we have accomplished in terms of what customers see, from end to end.

Everyone bet that Adobe, which was heavy on fine typography but no so much for the Unicode support, would beef up on Unicode. And certainly Adobe's participation in Unicode gave further hope to this idea, to this dream. Though the result of that is designs like the whole ANSI PLUS debacle, where a regression in non-Unicode support on Vista leads to huge problems is various Adobe applications. Clearly there is some inertia here which we can only hope if being resolved.

And everyone bet that Microsoft, which was deep in core Unicode support but not so much for the fine typography, would work to fix that problem. and though everyone became quite hopeful at all the updated functions in the Uniscribe API to support optional OpenType features and core GDI support of postscript "type 1" fonts, the fact that Word still doesn't support those exciting features and that neither does GDI+ makes it clear that there is some inertia going on -- if not in the lowest levels then certainly in the levels somewhere between those lowest levels and the customers who would use them. And again we can only hope that there are people working to resolve this.

And it seems like Adobe and Microsoft get along, until all of the sudden it seems more like the way Apple and Microsoft used to get along when they suing each other as they were also working together. Adobe and Microsoft get along just fine, in spite of demands and threats about PDF support and so on. When we all prove that we can be better 16 year olds than the other one can.

It becomes clear what OpenType, and the Font Peace, really is.

It is what the fictional Dr. Emanuel Tagore, care of John M. Ford, might refer to as "...a peace of the biggest guns: it neither requires nor creates any understanding among the parties. In the absence of that understanding, the most that can be said about the Font Peace is that it works."

Though I am thankful that both sides of this arrangement seem to be moving slowly past whatever factors have been blocking them (and lead to claims of OpenType support that amount to "Well, we support our half of OpenType" on both sides, leaving those customers who need the other half out in the cold.

The coolest thing about the teenage years is that they end, that the posturing and bickering can eventually end and lead both sides to the mature work that they both need to do, for the good of all of the customers.

And I hope we are reaching that point, enough so that ten years from now we can look back on this time as the Font Cold Wars because we are in the middle of the real font peace. :-)


This post brought to you by 𒁁 (U+12041, a.k.a. CUNEIFORM SIGN BAD)

Dean Harding on 14 Aug 2007 1:39 AM:

I'm just waiting for a nice easy-to-use form builder to show up for WPF. I mean, I've tried Expression, but a designer I most certainly am not! (And a professional designer my company most certainly cannot afford to hire :p)

If there was a WinForms-like designer for WPF I'd switch in a second, just so I can get all that juicy typographical goodness..!

Michael S. Kaplan on 14 Aug 2007 7:39 AM:

Even the WinForms-like designer is a bit much for most actual designers (look at the word usage, no wonder MS doesn't have the designers and artists!). What is truly needed is the functionality in Word....

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referenced by

2007/09/09 A dash of this, a dash of that (aka MS v. Adobe? Shaping engines v. fonts? Typographers v. Unicode? Everyone v. everyone else!)

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