Archive for the ‘Fonts’ Category

Unicode Egyptian Hieroglyphic Fonts

Monday, October 16th, 2017

Unicode Egyptian Hieroglyphic Fonts by Bob Richmond.

From the webpage:

These fonts all contain the Unicode 5.2 (2009) basic set of Egyptian Hieroglyphs.

Please contact me if you know of any others, or information to include.

Also of interest:

UMdC Coding Manual for Egyptian Hieroglyphic in Unicode

UMdC (Unicode MdC) aims to provides guidelines for encoding Egyptian Hieroglyphic and related scripts In Unicode using plain text with optional lightweight mark-up.

This GitHub project is the central point for development of UMdC and associated resources. Features of UMdC are still in a discussion phase so everything here should be regarded as preliminary and subject to change. As such the project is initially oriented towards expert Egyptologists and software developers who wish to help ensure ancient Egyptian writing system is well supported in modern digital media.

The Manuel de Codage (MdC) system for digital encoding of Ancient Egyptian textual data was adopted as an informal standard in the 1980s and has formed the basis for most subsequent digital encodings, sometimes using extensions or revisions to the original scheme. UMdC links to the traditional methodology in various ways to help with the transition to Unicode-based solutions.

As with the original MdC system, UMdC data files (.umdc) can be viewed and edited in standard text editors (such as Windows Notepad) and the HTML <textarea></textarea> control. Specialist software applications can be adapted or developed to provide a simpler workflow or enable additional techniques for working with the material.

Also see UMdC overview [pdf].

A UMdC-compatible hieroglyphic font Aaron UMdC Alpha (relative to the current draft) can be downloaded from the Hieroglyphs Everywhere Fonts project.

For news and information on Ancient Egyptian in Unicode see

I understand the need for “plain text” viewing of hieroglyphics, especially for primers and possibly for search engines, but Egyptian hieroglyphs can be written facing right or left, top to bottom and more rarely bottom to top. Moreover, artistic and other considerations can result in transposition of glyphs out of their “linear” order in a Western reading sense.

Unicode hieroglyphs are a major step forward for the interchange of hieroglyphic texts but we should remain mindful “linear” presentation of inscription texts is a far cry from their originals.

The greater our capacity for graphic representation, the more we simplify complex representations from the past. Are the needs of our computers really that important?

Unicode 10.0 Beta Review

Thursday, March 9th, 2017

Unicode 10.0 Beta Review

In today’s mail:

The Unicode Standard is the foundation for all modern software and communications around the world, including all modern operating systems, browsers, laptops, and smart phones—plus the Internet and Web (URLs, HTML, XML, CSS, JSON, etc.). The Unicode Standard, its associated standards, and data form the foundation for CLDR and ICU releases. Thus it is important to ensure a smooth transition to each new version of the standard.

Unicode 10.0 includes a number of changes. Some of the Unicode Standard Annexes have modifications for Unicode 10.0, often in coordination with changes to character properties. In particular, there are changes to UAX #14, Unicode Line Breaking Algorithm, UAX #29, Unicode Text Segmentation, and UAX #31, Unicode Identifier and Pattern Syntax. In addition, UAX #50, Unicode Vertical Text Layout, has been newly incorporated as a part of the standard. Four new scripts have been added in Unicode 10.0, including Nüshu. There are also 56 additional emoji characters, a major new extension of CJK ideographs, and 285 hentaigana, important historic variants for Hiragana syllables.

Please review the documentation, adjust your code, test the data files, and report errors and other issues to the Unicode Consortium by May 1, 2017. Feedback instructions are on the beta page.

See for more information about testing the 10.0.0 beta.

See for the current draft summary of Unicode 10.0.0.

It’s not too late for you to contribute to the Unicode party! There plenty of reviewing and by no means has all the work been done!

For this particular version, comments are due by May 1, 2017.


ScriptSource [Fonts but so much more]

Thursday, January 19th, 2017


From the about page:

ScriptSource is a dynamic, collaborative reference to the writing systems of the world, with detailed information on scripts, characters, languages – and the remaining needs for supporting them in the computing realm. It is sponsored, developed and maintained by SIL International. It currently contains only a skeleton of information, and so depends on your participation in order to grow and assist others.

The need for information on Writing Systems

In today’s expanding global community, designers, linguists and computer professionals are called upon more frequently to support the myriad writing systems around the world. A key to this development is consistent, trustworthy, complete and organised information on the alphabets and scripts used to write the world’s languages. The development of Writing System Implementations (WSIs) depends on the availability of this information, so a lack of it can hinder the cultural, economic and intellectual development of communities that communicate in minority languages and scripts.


The information needed varies widely, and can include:

  • Design information and guidelines – both for alphabets and for specific letters/glyphs
  • Linguistic information – how the script is used for specific languages
  • Encoding details – particularly Unicode, including new Unicode proposals
  • Script behaviour – how letters change shape and position in context
  • Keyboarding conventions – including information on data entry tools
  • Testing tools and sample texts – so developers can test their software, fonts, keyboards

Some of this information is available, but is scattered around among a variety of web sites that have different purposes and structures, and often lies undocumented in the minds of individual script experts, or hidden in library books.

This information is also often segregated by audience. A font designer may be frustrated to find that available resources on a script address the spoken/written language relationship, but not the background and visual rules of the letterforms. A linguist may find information on encoding the script – such as the information in The Unicode Standard – but not important details of which languages use which symbols. An application developer may find a long writeup on the development and use of the script, but nothing to tell them what script behaviours are required.

There are also relatively few opportunities for experts from these fields to cooperate and work together. What interaction does exist often happens at conferences, on various mailing lists and forums, and through personal email. There are few experts who have the time to participate in these exchanges, and those that do may be frustrated to find that the same questions keep coming up again and again. Until now, there has been no place where this knowledge can be captured, organised and maintained.

The purpose of ScriptSource

ScriptSource exists to provide this information and bridge the gap between the designer, developer, linguist and user. It seeks to document the writing systems of the world and help those wanting to implement them on computers and other devices.

The initial content is relatively sparse, but includes basic information on all scripts in the ISO 15924 standard. It will grow dynamically through public submissions, expert content development and live linkages with other web sites. Rather than being just another web site about writing systems, ScriptSource provides a single hub of information where both old and new content can be found.

A truly remarkable resource on writing systems by SIL International.

You can think of ScriptSource as a way to locate fonts, but you may be drawn into complexities others rarely see!


GNU Unifont Glyphs [Good News/Bad News]

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

GNU Unifont Glyphs 9.0.06.

From the webpage:

GNU Unifont is part of the GNU Project. This page contains the latest release of GNU Unifont, with glyphs for every printable code point in the Unicode 9.0 Basic Multilingual Plane (BMP). The BMP occupies the first 65,536 code points of the Unicode space, denoted as U+0000..U+FFFF. There is also growing coverage of the Supplemental Multilingual Plane (SMP), in the range U+010000..U+01FFFF, and of Michael Everson’s ConScript Unicode Registry (CSUR).
… (red highlight in original)

That’s the good news.

The bad news is shown by the coverage mapping:

0.0%  U+012000..U+0123FF  Cuneiform*
0.0%  U+012400..U+01247F  Cuneiform Numbers and Punctuation*
0.0%  U+012480..U+01254F  Early Dynastic Cuneiform*
0.0%  U+013000..U+01342F  Egyptian Hieroglyphs*
0.0%  U+014400..U+01467F  Anatolian Hieroglyphs*

These scripts will require a 32-by-32 pixel grid:

*Note: Scripts such as Cuneiform, Egyptian Hieroglyphs, and Bamum Supplement will not be drawn on a 16-by-16 pixel grid. There are plans to draw these scripts on a 32-by-32 pixel grid in the future.

One additional resource on creating cuneiform fonts:

Creating cuneiform fonts with MetaType1 and FontForge by Karel Píška:


A cuneiform font collection covering Akkadian, Ugaritic and Old Persian glyph subsets (about 600 signs) has been produced in two steps. With MetaType1 we generate intermediate Type 1 fonts, and then construct OpenType fonts using FontForge. We describe cuneiform design and the process of font development.

On creating fonts more generally with FontForge, see: Design With FontForge.


Introducing OpenType Variable Fonts

Saturday, September 17th, 2016

Introducing OpenType Variable Fonts by John Hudson.

From the post:

Version 1.8 of the OpenType font format specification introduces an extensive new technology, affecting almost every area of the format. An OpenType variable font is one in which the equivalent of multiple individual fonts can be compactly packaged within a single font file. This is done by defining variations within the font, which constitute a single- or multi-axis design space within which many font instances can be interpolated. A variable font is a single font file that behaves like multiple fonts.

There are numerous benefits to this technology. A variable font is a single binary with greatly-reduced comparable file size and, hence, smaller disc footprint and webfont bandwidth. This means more efficient packaging of embedded fonts, and faster delivery and loading of webfonts. The potential for dynamic selection of custom instances within the variations design space — or design-variations space, to use its technical name — opens exciting prospects for fine tuning the typographic palette, and for new kinds of responsive typography that can adapt to best present dynamic content to a reader’s device, screen orientation, or even reading distance.

The technology behind variable fonts is officially called OpenType Font Variations. It has been jointly developed by Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Adobe, in an unprecedented collaborative effort also involving technical experts from font foundries and font tool developers. In addition to specifying the font format additions and revisions, the working group has also committed to the goal of interoperable implementation, defining expected behaviours and test suites for software displaying variable fonts. This should be welcome news to font developers and users, who have often struggled with incompatible implementations of earlier aspects of OpenType that were left to the interpretation of individual software companies.

OpenType Font Variations builds on the model established in Apple’s TrueType GX variations in the mid-1990s, but has fully integrated that model into all aspects of the OpenType format, including OpenType Layout, and is available to both TrueType and Compact Font Format (CFF) flavours of OpenType. This has meant not only the addition of numerous tables to the format, but also revision of many existing tables; these changes are summarised in an appendix to this article, which is intended as an introduction and technological summary, primarily for font makers and font tool developers. The full technical specification for OpenType Font Variations is incorporated into the OpenType specification version 1.8.

John Hudson developed the remarkable SBL BibLit, SBL Greek and SBL Hebrew fonts for biblical studies.

An illustration from John’s post:


Figure 1. Normalised design space of a 3-axis variable font.
[Typeface: Kepler, an Adobe Original designed by Robert Slimbach.]

Looking forward to the SBL transitioning its biblical studies font set to this new font technology.

Learning a Manifold of Fonts

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

Learning a Manifold of Fonts by Neill D.F. Campbell and Jan Kautz.


The design and manipulation of typefaces and fonts is an area requiring substantial expertise; it can take many years of study to become a proficient typographer. At the same time, the use of typefaces is ubiquitous; there are many users who, while not experts, would like to be more involved in tweaking or changing existing fonts without suffering the learning curve of professional typography packages.

Given the wealth of fonts that are available today, we would like to exploit the expertise used to produce these fonts, and to enable everyday users to create, explore, and edit fonts. To this end, we build a generative manifold of standard fonts. Every location on the manifold corresponds to a unique and novel typeface, and is obtained by learning a non-linear mapping that intelligently interpolates and extrapolates existing fonts. Using the manifold, we can smoothly interpolate and move between existing fonts. We can also use the manifold as a constraint that makes a variety of new applications possible. For instance, when editing a single character, we can update all the other glyphs in a font simultaneously to keep them compatible with our changes.

To get a realistic feel for this proposal, try the interactive demo!

One major caveat:

In another lifetime, I contacted John Hudson of Tyro Typeworks about the development of the SBL Font series:


The origins of that project are not reflected on the SBL webpage, but the difference between John’s work and that of non-professional typographers is obvious even to untrained readers.

Nothing against experimentation with fonts but realize that for truly professional results, you need to hire professionals who live and breath the development of high quality fonts.

Metaflop: Hello World

Friday, May 8th, 2015

Metaflop: Hello World

From the webpage:

Metaflop is an easy to use web application for modulating your own fonts. Metaflop uses Metafont, which allows you to easily customize a font within the given parameters and generate a large range of font families with very little effort.

With the Modulator it is possible to use Metafont without dealing with the programming language and coding by yourself, but simply by changing sliders or numeric values of the font parameter set. This enables you to focus on the visual output – adjusting the parameters of the typeface to your own taste. All the repetitive tasks are automated in the background.

The unique results can be downloaded as a webfont package for embedding on your homepage or an OpenType PostScript font (.otf) which can be used on any system in any application supporting otf.

Various Metafonts can be chosen from our type library. They all come along with a small showcase and a preset of type derivations.

Metaflop is open source – you can find us on Github, both for the source code of the platform and for all the fonts.

If metafont rings any bells, congratulations! Metafont was invented by Don Knuth for TeX.

Metaflop provides a web interface to the Metafont program and with parameters that can be adjusted.

Only A-Z, a-z, and 0-9 are available for font creation.

In the FAQ, the improvement over Metafont is said to be:

  • font creators are mostly designers, not engineers. so metafont is rather complicated to use, you need to learn programming.
  • it has no gui (graphical user interface).
  • the native export is to bitmap fonts which is a severe limitation compared to outline fonts.

Our contribution to metafont is to address these issues. we are aware that it is difficult to produce subtle and refined typographical fonts (in the classical meaning). Nevertheless we believe there is a undeniable quality in parametric font design and we try to bring it closer to the world of the designers.

While Metaflop lacks the full generality of Metafont, it is a big step in the right direction to bring Metafont to a broader audience.

With different underlying character sets, certainly of interest to anyone interested in pre-printing press texts. Glyphs can transliterate to the same characters but which glyph was used can be important information to both capture and display.

Introducing Source Han Sans:…

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014

Introducing Source Han Sans: An open source Pan-CJK typeface by Caleb Belohlavek.

From the post:

Adobe, in partnership with Google, is pleased to announce the release of Source Han Sans, a new open source Pan-CJK typeface family that is now available on Typekit for desktop use. If you don’t have a Typekit account, it’s easy to set one up and start using the font immediately with our free subscription. And for those who want to play with the original source files, you can get those from our download page on SourceForge.

It’s rather difficult to describe your semantics when you can’t write in your own language.

Kudos to Adobe and Google for sponsoring this project!

I first saw this in a tweet by James Clark.