The following text is a translation of the German review that appeared in PAGE magazine, issue 04.06, April 2006, page 88. Used with permission.
FontLab Studio 5 for Mac tested
The wish for a current 5.0 version of the popular font editor has now
cam true for the Mac users. Beginners will particularly appreciate the
greatly improved structure of the menus and dialog boxes, and the
cleaned-up terminology. While the user interface of earlier versions of
the software often required profound expertise, the new version is
clearly more intuitive; the choice of words became more consistent, and
therefore easier to understand. The structural improvements in the
Preferences and Font Info dialogs are particularly valuable.
The application also shows progress regarding compatibility: the
support for Unicode 4.1 (was 3.2 before) together with new encodings
allows the creation of fonts for global writing systems. The macros use
the current (2.4) version of the Python scripting language and are
completely integrated, so that the annoying separate installation step
is omitted. Windows users will be pleased to be finally able to open
fonts created in the Mac version of FontLab Studio.
Support for so-called pixelfonts is new: one can open BDF font files
and then simply create the corresponding rectangular block outlines
using the “Trace Pixels” feature. The Trace feature, missed badly by
some users of the older Fontographer software, is also integrated, so
that scanned templates can be converted into paths. The quality can be
adjusted in detail in the Preferences but it requires some playing with
the sliders until a half-way useful result comes out.
More things were borrowed from Fontographer, which becomes evident
when working with the new user interface: in the main window, all
modified glyphs of an unsaved font are marked with a black bar, and in
the Glyph window the triangular tangent points remind of the software
classic. Those who prefer FontLab’s own path representation,
distinguishing straight and curve sections can choose this appearance
by enabling Preferences / Glyph Window / Appearance / Node shape shows
point and connection type.
Altogether, there are many more display options available in this
version. The user can not only compose custom toolbars and menus; he or
she can change color settings for backgrounds and many other elements,
create completely new workspaces, save them and re-use them at any
The new functionality of the revised Glyph and Metrics windows
brings great relief: it is now possible to edit other characters in
context. When refining the glyph design, the user can create groups of
character with similar form characteristics, the Shape Groups. The
entire group can be displayed behind or next to the currently edited
glyph, and the user can jump to the other glyphs directly through
double-clicking. The two freely selectable Neighbors work similarly,
and can be attached to the left and to the right of each specific glyph
by drag-and-drop from the Font window.
Quite a few improvements that are visible in the Metrics window are
the result of Fontlab Ltd. collaborating with type designer Luc(as) de
Groot. One can instantly notice the multi-line text preview, while the
surrounding toolbars and tables can be smartly arranged or hidden if
needed. The user can insert “n” to enforce a line break, and many
additional functions are available through Control- and Alt-clicks.
Metric and kerning classes offer the next great improvement in the
work process: the user creates groups of characters with similar left
or right sides. Then, any change to the sidebearings or the kerning
values can be quickly applied to the remaining characters in a class.
FontLab Studio 5 can even build classes automatically, though it is
probably only useful with accented letters.
The result: More stable performance, a more logical menu structure
as well as numerous new useful functions such as the Trace tool, the
Shape Groups as well as the Metrics and Kerning Classes constitute a
noticeable advancement of FontLab Studio. If you get FontLab Studio 5,
you won’t regret it. Altogether, it is a successful upgrade.
Although FontLab Studio 5 is more stable than its predecessor
FontLab 4.6, it is still not free of bugs even in the updated 5.0.1
version. But the problems remain within acceptable boundaries, and in
most cases, simple workarounds are available. We should point out to
the forum that lists well-known problems and appropriate solutions:
(translated from German by Adam Twardoch)