FontLab Fontographer 5 review

  • Expert Rating: We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10We rate this 8 out of 10 We rate this 8 out of 10

  • Price When Reviewed: $399 (around £253); upgrade from $149 (£95)

  • Pros: Professional results; commonly needed features; intuitive interface.

  • Cons: Limited advanced OpenType.

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Back in the 1980s and 1990s, Fontographer was the tool of choice for both professional and amateur type designers. Besides its full feature set and clean output, the interface was intuitive and easy to use. Fontographer also became popular as the first Mac application to allow you to create and edit the Bézier outlines native to the PostScript language.

The latest version 5 retains its user-friendly interface while replacing its font-generating engine with FontLab’s high-end tool FontLab Studio. It also adds support for the latest font technologies, including OpenType.

Besides providing all the tools necessary to create a font from scratch, including generating glyphs from scanned drawings and copy/paste from Adobe Illustrator – or even FreeHand, Fontographer also provides tremendously helpful tools for graphic design studios.

For example, if you have a thin version of a font and a thick version, but need something in-between, it can generate new fonts with thicknesses between the two. It can also create a condensed version of a font (that isn’t simply horizontally scaled), and generate true composite fractions from existing single numbers. If you don’t like the kerning or letterspacing of a font, it can automatically generate new spacing, or let you manually generate optimal spacing. You can also add new glyphs to an existing font, such as a company logo, icons for signage, or a missing character.

Fontographer can professionally convert fonts from one to another, such as OpenType, TrueType (Mac or Windows), PostScript Type 1 or 3 (Mac, Windows, or Unix/ASCII), or the now-defunct Multiple Master (Mac or Windows). It also reads Mac Type 1 font suitcases (FFIL), Mac datafork suitcases (.dfont), and TrueType Collections (.ttc).

While Fontographer supports all the features of TrueType, PostScript, and Multiple Master fonts, it’s more limited in its support of OpenType fonts. It supports all the basic features (the same features found in PostScript or TrueType fonts, such as kerning and ligatures), but not some of the advanced layout features.

Experienced Fontographer users will appreciate many improvements, including the ability to import/export projects in the FontLab Studio format. Also, it now displays smooth anti-aliased outlines, zooms up to 1,600 percent, provides expanded Unicode and encoding tables, offers a redesigned Font Info dialog with intelligent font family naming, has a powerful new Glyph Search feature, and accepts most bitmap formats for autotracing. Version 5 now uses the more advanced on-screen autohinting algorithms developed by Adobe and FontLab, and can produce fonts with more than 20,000 characters.

Additional tools include helpful sample files, such as various styles of fonts, accents, scanned characters, and .eps (encapsulated PostScript) files, plus a manual with information on font features and technology, as well as tips from successful font designers.

Fontographer 5 offers a wealth of type creation, editing, fixing and conversion abilities. For simpler font tools, FontLab’s TransType Pro and FontGear’s FontXChange suffice. But for font creation and enhancement, Fontographer is a must for all.

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