Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Interview with the FontMeister

Here's some FOG history I bet you didn't know...

BTW - FontLab is beginning work on Fontographer PC fixes -it's now or never on your suggestions...

Der Interview Mit Der FontMeister


Narrator – a year or so ago we covered your departure from Macromedia and it looked pretty dismal for Fontographer at that time. The recent announcement of FontLab Ltd. taking over the distribution and development of Fontographer is quite a surprise. What’s the inside story on all of this?

Jim – The bottom line seems to be that something which is intrinsically good will never go away. That’s a little too philosophical but it illustrates the point that people never stopped loving Fontographer and savvy investors understood this and found a way to keep the love relationship going. Turns out there were several entities who saw the potential but FontLab Ltd. had the best overall infrastructure and was selected by Macromedia as the smartest way to hand off their customers to someone who had the same commitment to customer service.

Narrator – you’ve mentioned this love for Fontographer in the past, other than the user interface why do you think this product became so beloved?

Jim - The year was 1985 and two engineers (Jim Von Ehr, now at www.zyvex.com, and Kevin Crowder) at Texas Instruments in Dallas formed a company named Altsys and shipped a bitmap font editor called FONTastic. The Apple Macintosh had started the DTP revolution and fonts were a central part of it. FONTastic enabled users to create a Mac bitmap font in any size and even printed well enough to the Apple ImageWriter dot matrix printers.

At the same time in Silicon Valley, two companies were collaborating on an earth-shaking new printer that would catapult DTP and chime the death knell for the old typesetters. The product was released in January, 1986 with the Mac II and was known as the LaserWriter. At its heart was an Adobe PostScript interpreter (that’s true PostScript, not an emulator) with 13 PostScript fonts embedded in the motherboard.

Back in Texas, users began reporting to Altsys that their bitmap fonts were OK on the LaserWriter at 4x the point size (create a 48pt font to print 12 pt text), but they look terrible in comparison to the resident fonts. So, Jim and Kevin began work on Fontographer which shipped in the fall of 1986. It was the very first PostScript drawing program for a personal computer. With it, the type world changed forever. It was followed quickly by Adobe Illustrator and Aldus FreeHand as DTPers saw the potential for using vectors for something besides fonts.

Narrator – much of the typography industry seems to have given up on Fontographer due to lack of development. What will make them want to return to the old way of doing things when FontLab has dominated in areas like OpenType and Delta-hinting to name a few?

Jim – Ted Harrison at FontLab Ltd., has stated on my FOG BLOG (http://fontographer.blogspot.com/) that, “It doesn't make any sense for us to develop another font editor that just does the same things that FontLab Studio already does. So Fontographer will be developed for people who DON'T want to learn all the nuances of OT features, Python scripting, delta hinting, etc.”

If you had taken ten years of calls and emails on Fontographer as I have you would see that there is a vast market of hobbyists and cubicle-dwellers who just have a need to edit a font, add a character or a logo or a digitized signature or to convert a font from one format to another.

These people are happy with Fontographer-level authoring and just want the bugs fixed and would be happy to pay for improvements.

Many professionals (if I named them you would fall off your chair because these are people who make the fonts which appear on everybody’s screen every day) continue to this day the practice of drawing elegant Bezier curves with Fontographer and then post-processing their fonts in FontLab for added functionality.

Narrator – so what can you tell us about the support and development cycle of this resurrected Fontographer?

Jim – FontLab Ltd. offers strictly email support which I will be handling. I have been filling the gap for years with my site at: www.supportandmore.com. I have several forums there and a FOG BLOG. People who talk to me for five minutes realize that I am committed to making them successful versus the typical tech support handed out these days. I give 1000% whether it’s holding someone’s hand as they make their first font or answering a convoluted email. They say the key to success is to find someone to pay you to do what you love to do.

As far as development, people are already chiming in on my BLOG and helping us to prioritize the most-needed areas of repair. Ted has specified the obnoxious RAM error on the PC and the challenges of some OSX systems as his top priority. As far as FOG 5 –it’s time to get your wishlist posted on my BLOG and get in on the birth of this brave new world of Fontographer-on-steroids!

I love breaking in newbies and playing “font chess” with old-timers who try to stump me with esoteric typography questions. It’s a great life. I may even resurrect my “Fontographer for Dummies” book which ceased production after my era of downsizing.

Narrator – we wish the FontMeister good luck with the resuscitation of Fontographer.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Are we becoming font snobs?

In the interest of getting you to talk to me -I'm going to do something I RARELY do online (I like to keep up the illusion that I am a nice guy) -I am going to DELIBERATELY bring up a controversial topic...

I'd like to know your unabashed feelings about my recent post at:

http://typographi.com/000567.php

"My point is not that FOG is better than x, y or z BUT that we must not enhance a certain caste mentality of what it takes to be a typographer and how glad we are to be using only the best tool."

"
In all the talk of which is the better tool -let’s not forget our pedigree! And let’s not belabor new typographers with this extra burden which only serves to stifle their creativity as they listen to us debate the issue."

"I would hate to think that a newbie would worry over which tool before he/she begins a work of art. Let them not be encumbered by our advice until they have their feet wet in forming the glyphs and especially spacing them."

" If FOG is for amateurs then what is so wrong with that? Must they perform Python scripting and digital signatures before they are even out of diapers?"

"Perhaps FOG can continue to serve as the doorway for the timid, introspective creative types who don’t want to be told it has to be done a cetain way with only certain software?"

Soooo... what's it gonna be???

Contrary opinions are invited and totally welcome!

Regards,
Jimmy G.
Der FontMeister
http://www.supportandmore.com
http://fontographer.blogspot.com/

Friday, May 27, 2005

What Should FOG 5 Be?

Dear All,

'twas a "tremenjous" response we got out of the last posting...

Assuming that few, if any, newbies will ever find their way here... I thought we might zero in on what the actual specs of FOG 5 could be.

Please reply this way in order not to wander:

Here are my 5 "must haves" for FOG 5 - keep it short and to the point.
1.
2.
3.
4.
5.

This is called a "bubble sort" -we can take all the comments form the last posting and melt them down and then contrast and compare them until -lo' and behold- the hottest items will float to the top.

With that in mind (and based on 10 years of hearing what the masses want) I will start the process with my best shot.

JG's TOP 5 "Must haves"
1. Modern encoding support (such as CE encoding which is very hot right now)

2. Slam-dunk family creation -including large fams on PC.

3. 2000% zoom was spec'd in FOG 5 alpha at Macromedia. Revealed twisted BCPs which have been the root of many unknown problems. Obviously something wrong with FOG path direction switching.

4. Slam-dunk embedding for Acrobat. Mostly broken due to a bug in code at the moment. Since newbies try to use embedding in FOG every single day then it should be drop-dead easy to do rather requiring knowledge of the TTF spec.

5. Built-in conversion of Mac binary fonts to be opened in FOG. Currently requires a bit stripper.

(Font Preview was heavily requested but seems of minimal value to me since you'll never see the effects of hinting in a preview-what do ya'll think?)

Okey-dokey ---we've kicked the tires now it's time to be concise and diplomatic. The list has 5 items for a reason. If this is going to get done we've all got to be realistic and not gorge ourselves with all the pent-up emotion due to our long history of waiting for this moment.

The time is now! Let's be professional about it. Spec it tightly and realistically and get it done!

Regards,
Jimmy G.
Der FontMeister
www.supportandmore.com
http://fontographer.blogspot.com/

Friday, May 13, 2005

Fontographer Reborn!

The Fog Blog - Check out the latest news on Fontographer in Publish Magazine!!!

Der FontMeister has a new life!

If that name doesn’t ring a bell… I'm the friendly guy who answered Fontographer calls and emails at Macromedia for ten years. I have been given a gift for making hard things easier to grasp and I enjoy doing it.

I’m writing to announce the formation of a new concept in tech support –going the second and third mile!

A new company called Support and More has been founded and our goal is to offer tech support, consulting and training in a way you’ve never seen it before.

So now that we've got the introductions out of the way let me address the first question that Fontographer customers are going to ask:

"What is Fontographer (nicknamed FOG)?"

In 1986, Jim von Ehr founded Altsys and released Fontographer. It was the world's first digital PC font editor. It became an instant success as folks found that they could design their own alphabets, logos, signatures, etc. and turn them into fonts. Jim sold the company to Macromedia in 1995.

Here’s a short list of what you can do with FOG:

· create Type 1, Type 3, Truetype and some Unix formats
· font-conversions from Mac to PC, PC to Mac
· create screen fonts
· add your company logo or signature to a font
· create a dingbat font or scan your handwriting or anything else into a font
· add a Euro other special character
· create Unicode fonts for international keyboards

"What is the future of FOG?"

2. Macromedia was repositioning itself as a web tools organization and it became evident that any product which did not directly impact Macromedia's mission statement was going to be put on hold. Therefore, Fontographer has not been updated since 1996.

Last week, FontLab Ltd. took over the development of Fontographer. They invited me to be a part of this exciting team of creative genuises! I will be working with them closely as we explore the best ways to approach a new release of Fontographer. More details as available...

Suffice it to say that Macromedia couldn't have picked a better group to hand off the legacy of Fontographer to. The engineers at FontLab are legendary for their commitment to their customers. I have heard of all-night sessions wherein something was improved just because a "little old customer" expressed a need. That's somethingI haven't heard of since my early days in the 1980s!!!

“What about other font editors?”

Various followings have developed:

Robofog is a several hundred dollar annual subscription product which is an OEM version of Fontographer 3.5. It is targeted at expert level font developers.

FontLab has emerged as an alternative to Fontographer by providing Delta hinting, expanded Unicode support and Opentype support.

Mircrosoft and Adobe have offered various font utilities and SDKs to bridge the gap between the old font technology and the new.

Loyal Fontographer users have continued to use the product either because it does what they need or to prepare a font for post-processing in another editor.

Wise developers have availed themselves of all the tools available -including the ancient Fontographer because they have to get their work done.

What I'm all about is playing the cards that have been dealt to me. This blog will be about where we go from here.

You can help by telling me what you need in a font editor and what you would be willing to pay for it. I'm eager to hear from you as to what direction we should go. More later.

Jimmy G.
Der FontMeister