I Love Typography

An Introduction to OpenType Substitution Features

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Right now I’m unable to get the JavaScript working within a WordPress post. Once fixed, the page will redirect to a proper WordPress post. In the meantime, if you’d like to comment, then you can do so below, through Twitter, or via email at johno@ilovetypography.com

Read An Introduction to OpenType Substitution Features.


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  1. The software comparison table makes no mention of extensive OpenType support in LaTeX via XeTeX & fontspec, isn’t this a major omission?

  2. Indeed, I came here precisely to make the same point as Dario; as a mathematician, there is no alternative to LaTeX. I personnally would use it for anything in fact, even normal books, but I know most publishers would not.

  3. Absolutely great and incredibely useful, easy to read and to understand article!
    You’ve answered more then a few of my questions today. Thanks!

  4. @Christoph,

    I prepared a list of OpenType features in XeTeX matching your table here: http://nitens.org/taraborelli/TeXOpenType

  5. Excellent! A whole lot of stuff I’d had to learn myself over the years but it’s nice to have a comprehensive guide to look at when I need a quick reference or I’ve been awake for far too long looking at Bezier curves

    Thanks!

  6. Very detailed and useful. Just what I need it!

  7. Bernardo

    Brilliant article! Well done, again…

  8. Matt Hex

    I was scouring the internets just yesterday for this information. I can’t believe you casually dropped it into my lap! Thank You, Thank You, THANK YOU.

  9. The table with which otf feature works in which app and version is worth the price of admission alone!

  10. Really interesting to understand what’s behind a font format and how it is made (even if the focus was put on substitution features).

    It’s rather difficult for a non-specialist to understand everything but the explanations are clear so it was a pleasure to read this very article.

    The interactive scheme of “Which features are activated by which menu item?” was a good idea :)

    This kind of very well explained and complete article make us understand the complexity of typographic work and not just drawing characters.

    I ask myself a question : is it the same person who do this technical work or is there a type-designer specialized in drawing, and a more technical person for “making” the numeric font files work ? What the name of these jobs ?

    Thanks for sharing !

  11. Thanks everybody for the kind words!

    @Dario
    Thanks a lot! Based on your work it will be easy to update the table!

    @Auré
    Most type designers nowadays have to deal with all these technical things.
    At FontFont it’s this technical stuff that I do for the designers, and when I have to name my job it is something like “Font Developer” or “Font Technician” … And yes, it is fun.

  12. Yes, thanks to everyone who came by to read the article (I know it’s not a short piece) and especially to those who left a little note.

    @Dario, thanks indeed!

    @Auré, once you get the hang of it you’ll be amazed to find out what one can do with typefaces today (even if they don’t consist of characters). Endless possibilities…

    Martin

  13. Talking about TeX world, don’t forget about luatex and ConTeXt mkIV which also support of OpenType features (see http://wiki.contextgarden.net/Fonts_in_LuaTeX). I have been using it in production for quite some time already with excellent results.

  14. Phil Campbell

    Thanks for this useful article. Now that Word 2010 includes some of these features, could you run a (shorter?) article for people like myself who will be first timers? (eg some sample fonts which will give swashe and ligature access in Word 2010, and the way to access them in Word)?
    thanks
    Phil

  15. Really nice article, thanks for the great work :)

  16. Tasty stuff, found this article really helpful a little long but a lot interesting. cheerrs

  17. Ditto Matt Hex. Thanks a ton for this article, it’s going to help me so much!

  18. Oh boy I’d wish this had been published a few months back before I researched all this the long (and messy) way for my final year graphic design project revolving around an experimental use of contextual alternates. Blimey!

    P.s. If you’d like to see it, throw me an email wave@lewisbullock.com

  19. Very nice article. I agree with Chris [Lozos] that the app/vers. support chart is very useful, even for those of us for whom the rest of the OT Feature information is quite familiar. Very nice presentation. Well done.

    I would like to point out one thing, however, that I found to be either in error, or at least misleading. In the interactive InDesign menu at the end, it indicates that the non-OT Superscript and Subscript commands (in the first submenu) will invoke {sups} and {subs}. This is not true.

    These two commands will produce faux superscripts and subscripts according to the settings in Preferences > Advanced Type, even if {sups} or {subs} is present. At least, this is the case for InDesign CS3.

    I suppose perhaps this was changed in CS4 or 5 so that an OTL feature takes precedence and the faux settings are a fallback (the way {smcp} does with Small Caps). I don’t know.

    If so, you might update your presentation to reflect these nuances.

  20. Kent, I’ve just checked InDesign CS4 and found that the super-/subscript are indeed faux superscripts and subscripts (not sure what CS5 does), thus indeed an error :-( We’ll fix it and include the change in the update of the article (that will also include support for XeTeX).

    Many thanks for pointing it out!

  21. Martin — Happy to contribute in some small way.

    Another thing I’m curious about: Your table indicates support for {ornm} in Quark 7 & 8, but not in InDesign. As far as I’ve been able to determine, the support for {ornm} is the same in both.

    That is to say, both will subset the glyph palette to {ornm}, and both will present the ornament(s) as fly-out alts for the bullet (gsub type 3) plus any one-to-one mapping (gsub type 1) written into the feature.

    But neither presents an actual Ornaments menu command to implement the gsub type 3 substitution in text, according to the second part of the spec and in the way that Photoshop does.

    So, I’m not sure why the discrepancy in your table. Unless there’s a hidden command in Quark that I’m not aware of.

  22. Sorry, I meant “neither presents an actual Ornaments menu command to implement the gsub type 1 substitution in text … in the way that Photoshop does.”

  23. @ Phil
    I’m planning to make a short Word 2010 feature tutorial on my own website, but I’m afraid it will be in German then. Maybe i should think of crossposting it somewhere in English …

    @ Lewis
    Always interested!

    @ Kent
    Thanks for your helpful hints!
    Actually I just looked into the support PDF of QuarkXpress to check the OpenType feature support, but I’m sure you’re right and ornm is treated like in InDesign. So, Martin will remove the mark to keep the table consistent.

  24. Thank you so much for the article, very clear and very easy to understand, also love the website, great layout

  25. Great article.. Great help.

    Mohsinfancy.

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