The reach should exceed the grasp

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/08/18 10:01 -04:00, original URI:

There were some interesting posts recently on the Microsoft VOLT Users Community, such as Aref3, who at the end of a thread about Kashida support options (after realizing that there was not really a specific solution built in):

I too think that it is so strange of Microsoft to come up with an opentype language, and still not support all of it. Jalt tables is the best way to acheive kashida in arabic scripts. Rather, microsoft uses a very silly technique to achieve tatweel like effect in ms word 2007. Haven't got any idea what Bill Gates has in his mind?
All my arabic fonts works best with old school wordpad...................  but do not support fully office2007!

Or Serdar_80, who posted in another thread:

Dear Sergey,
Microsoft doesn't support any type of justification alternates, Adobe doesn't support any type of cursive positioning, both of them don't support enhanced justification alternates, kasheeda alternates and base lookups.
In this case, so please (as kind of you) can you tell me 'How we can create usable classic calligraphic arabic naskh fonts'?!!
I hope Microsoft will support those soon:
1) All type of justification alternates
2) All type of kasheeda alternates
3) BASE table
4) A new glyph type CONNECTION glyphs which are not BASE nor are MARK, and which are not cared in context.

So we will be able to create calligraphic fonts.

Or Aref3's response to it:

Hi, Bro
I am very sorry to say that the way microsoft and adobe are handling opentype, is getting us in to more and more trouble. Today only handful of programs even support opentype, and those who support, never works 100 % within the open type standard.  
Why cant ''the big bosses'' sit together again and define a standard for opentype rendering engine too????
I was having a nightmare when i created a qurani font that works 100 % correctly on wordpad, 10 % correctly on word 2003 and only 75 % correctly  in word 2007. All these programs were updated and using latest uniscribe engine!
What was suprising that all these softwares were from the same vendor: ''microsoft''. But giving differrent results, making a conclusion that feature of opentype is veryyyyy dark!

 There is something implicit in all this about OpenType itself being limited based on what individual vendors or products support.

Or rather what features they choose to support.

Is that really what people want in their standards?

The way I see it we have three choices when it comes to support of any standard such as OpenType, where the standard itself is generally expected to increase over time just as the support thereof by vendors is generally expected to improve over time:

  1. A vendor can completely implement a standard;
  2. A vendor can support a superset of a standard;
  3. A vendor can support a subset of a standard.

Now given the vagaries of the dates of both standards and products, #1 seems impractical, really.

Generally speaking, many of the features within products would be considered #2 by the product teams even of people not on the teams or working from the point of view of the standards might consider their "innovations" to actually be more like #3.

And certainly the variable support of the standard across multiple products fall somewhere into that whole #2/#3 chasm.

If you are a font foundry or a typographer, really there is no #2; one either follows the standard (which a font can then support) or one does not.

But is the fact that a product does not fall under #1 at a particular moment in time really spell doom for the standard itself, whether or not other products from the same company that come from different teams produced by different divisions or different business units using different technologies are slightly (or greatly) different?

Or isn't this just kind of the way things will always be?

Just as parents are with children, our reach (the standards) will always tend to exceed our grasp (the shipping products).

Isn't it always going to be this way?

And more importantly, how much happier will everyone be if standards don't provide that direction to products, if standards become little more than repackaged product specifications?

Now I won't go so far to say that I am happy with how long it is taking Microsoft technologies like RichEdit or Word or WPF or Silverlight (or for that matter the various issues in Adobe products) to support some of these features, some of these languages.

If it were up to me, RichEdit would be owned by Windows rather than Office, and the language features and direction would be driven out of there in ways that keep the inconsistencies from happening.

But these organizational and resourcing issues do not indicate the future of the standard itself....

This blog brought to you by ـ (U+0640, aka ARABIC TATWEEL)

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