Megasupport of multiple ways to display text is the new "megafont"

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2010/09/27 07:01 -04:00, original URI:

The blog you are about to read is my opinion; it may not be yours!

Blogs like Arial Unicode MS effectively [bites|sucks|blows] may have helped you notice how miuch I dislike megafonts.

Okay, so I won't have to go over that point again. I appreciate that.

OpenType optional features (outside of "default" optional features, I mean) have a lot of potential to give people a fine-tuned degree of control over how they want text to appear.

Potentially, I mean.

But there is one major problem in the way here, which really blocks the overall usefulness of this feature with all the potential.

If you familiar with the area, you probably already know what the problem is.

But if not, I won't make you guess.

The problem is the fact that it is a largely unimplemented feature across all of the products that need to have it, in order for it to truly be useful.

Forget about the Gabriola demo for a moment; I consider that to be a distraction.

Well, don't forget about it. But you can look at it the way many people (including myself) do: as largely a waste of time.

I mean, how many people using Publisher really need a font that looks different depending on the size.

In the end, it is fancy demo of a largely theoretical requirement that no one in the real world ever really needs, unless they are showing off OpenType optional features.

Ok, so let's not forget about the Gabriola demo; let's dismiss it as a demo that simply goes so far to prove a point that it becomes slightly pointless.

Let's take a more theoretically useful feature to consider. Like the one I described in Which form to use if the form keeps changing? for example. Where the conjuncts you want in Sanskrit are nicely contrasted with the half-forms you want in Hindi....

It can be interesting, in theory, to imagine having a single font that on could use for both Hindi and Sanskrit. Especially since there is just the one main Devanagari font that ships in Windows (Mangal).

But tell me, if you actually are writing something that requires you to use Sanskrit and Hindi, can you really wait for Word to implement the ability when they have had versions to do it in? Or would you do it the way that works today, and worked five years ago, and five years from now: two different fonts?

And of course completely avoiding using Mangal for the project since they changed the way it works and thus broke your Hindi/Sanskrit document anyway.

Perhaps I am wrong when I postulate a lack of interest in word just because they haven't ever done it yet, but it isn't like they are talking about new features yet anyway. So you can't wrote documents that depend on a feature you can't even use yet....

Put simply:

Does it look like Word is in a hurry to support optional OpenType features?

Does it look like font makerts are in a hurry to create fonts that have them?

And really, in the end does it matter that much as features go to have all hat functionality in place, even if it were everywhere? Will any user interface ever be simpler than the CHANGE THE FONT interface that has existed in Word since the beginning?

Perhaps this has been overthought a little. Just like megafonts can be a bad idea, megasupport of multiple ways to display text in one font may not be the best idea either....

John Cowan on 27 Sep 2010 10:28 AM:

The Spanish/Polish acute is a good, if somewhat subtle, example: it's better to have different fine-typography fonts for Spanish and Polish than to mess around with OpenType features that people don't have consistent access to across the range of all tools.  Mixed-language Spanish/Polish documents will be rare anyhow.

Pavanaja U B on 27 Sep 2010 9:46 PM:

I was under the impression that Devanagari is the script used when I select the IME as Hindi or Sanskrit. Even though it uses the same Mangal font (tried in Word 2010 with Hindi MUI installed), it tags the word with the language based on the IME used! I entered the word पुस्तक using both Hindi and then Sanskrit IME. Then I entered the word पुस्तग using Hindi and Sanskrit IMEs and tried a spellcheck. The word which was entered with Hindi IME was shown wrong and the correct word पुस्तक was suggested. It means, if I enter the text in some Notepad & import to Word, it can't distinguish between Hindi and Sanskrit since both use th same script.

Miguel Sousa on 6 Dec 2010 2:47 PM:

"Does it look like font makerts are in a hurry to create fonts that have [OpenType features]?"

YES. For the last ten years, at least.

Michael S. Kaplan on 6 Dec 2010 3:42 PM:

Even though the features aren't used by software products?

Miguel Sousa on 7 Dec 2010 5:02 AM:

Of course they are. You just need to look at Adobe software, Apple software, Firefox 4, Webkit, and the list goes on.

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