In one of the latest commits, Ubuntu Mono, the monospace variant of the Ubuntu font that has recently been included in the distribution, was added to the repositories.
Ubuntu Mono is a relatively nice looking monospace font that borrows quite a lot from Consolas, but adds its own distinctive touches that make it fit better with the Ubuntu font family. I have been a member of the beta testing group and have seen it for a while now, but I never quite found the time to properly look into it.
Sadly, while the roman script looks great already, the Greek script suffers from some poor design decisions. Chief among them is Gamma (the capital gamma) which was clearly designed by someone totally unfamiliar with the Greek language and script. Gamma in Ubuntu Mono features a bottom serif that is totally distorting the perception of the character. It is unlike any other modern font I’ve ever seen and I feel is doing Ubuntu Mono a disservice (it has certainly rendered the font unusable by me as long as it looks this bad).
In an effort to remedy this, I have opened a bug in Launchpad, Ubuntu’s bug reporting system. You can find the bug, #867577, here. If you have a Launchpad account, use Ubuntu (and/or the fonts) and would like to see Ubuntu Mono fixed for Greek please subscribe, add your comment and/or contact those responsible to help them realise how their effort is being ruined by a few badly designed characters.
In the same vain as Helvetica, but seemingly more of an ‘indie’ endeavour, this Kickstarter-funded movie about Linotype, the almost lost art of traditional typesetting and the eponymous machine is almost done. Check out the trailer below, or visit their site. It may be interesting to those loving typography.
Four years ago I stumbled upon Raph Levien’s excellent font, Inconsolata. It was great, not just because I loved its æsthetics, but also because it opened my eyes to the nascent free/open typography movement.
For a while Inconsolata was my main programming font, but soon enough I needed Hellenic characters, so I had to switch to other fonts that offered support for them. In late autumn of 2010 I started tinkering with Inconsolata (Raph was gracious enough to offer his FontForge source under the SIL Open Font License), slowly adding Hellenic glyphs, researching its influences, studying its design.
It soon became clear to me that many of the hellenised fonts available on the market today typically follow a number of very controversial ‘designs’ and more than often end up compromising the æsthetics of the original font. This is probably due to several reasons, not least because there are very few professional font designers of Hellenic fonts that are really good and also because the few ‘successful’ hellenic fonts out there share many of their design elements between them.
Today I’m happy to release to the world the first version of Inconsolata Hellenic, an open/free font that augments the original one with Hellenic glyphs. I am not a professional font designer — and this shows. I welcome criticism and advice and I’m willing to keep working on the font, whenever possible, in the hope that — in time — it may prove to be as great a choice for a hellenic monospaced font as the original Inconsolata is for roman. It should be clear that should you decide to give it a try, keep in mind that this font is by no means final; it is merely an early version of the font. I am releasing it now so that — hopefully — both the community and I will have more reasons to make it better.
You can find a (recently generated from source) OpenType font file, usable on all three major platforms, on the Software page of this site and the FontForge source for the font in GitHub. The font is available under SIL’s Open Font License.
Prelude is the font bundled with WebOS in HP/Palm’s Palm Pre. I first saw it, and wrote about it, last summer, a bit after the device went on sale. Back then I wrote that the font was fantastic, but didn’t include any non-Roman characters. Apparently I was wrong.
Eighteen months passed since then, a time during which Palm Pre was quickly consigned to history as an interesting curiosity, Palm was acquired by HP, WebOS remained a promising, fascinating even, operating system for mobile devices. While I downloaded the WebOS SDK back in the day, I quickly lost interest given that Palm did the lousiest job bringing the Pre to Europe — it was never available in Hellas and very few carriers, electronics chains and retailers carried it throughout Europe. Subsequent variants and revisions of the device were also totally absent from the market.
I did keep an open eye, however, as I find WebOS truly interesting. The other day I read this post on the Palm Development Center Blog. Apparently Prelude now includes support for more alphabets than I previously thought. Among them was Hellenic.
Extracting the Prelude font from the emulator image is very easy, using scp after the emulator has completed booting. I tried the Prelude fonts on my main linux workstation, the machine I spend more than 85% of my time daily. The results were frighteningly bad.
Prelude is a gorgeous font, but the hellenic glyphs look ridiculously bad. They seem like they were designed by someone other than the original designer; or the original designer has no clue as to how hellenic glyphs are designed. I mean look at this lowercase omega, or that totally out of place lowercase alpha. Like a distant, uglier cousin of Futura, that got lost and found shelter in a different font. In addition to being very ugly, with absurd metrics and an æsthetic feel that’s totally different to that of the Roman glyphs in the font, the hellenic glyphs betray complete ignorance of the hellenic alphabet. Needless to say, hellenic in Prelude look like a botched, hurried job, aimed at providing the bare essential support for hellenic, probably added at the last minute, bunched together with cyrillic and eastern european glyphs, for the sole purpose of giving HP/Palm the opportunity to claim international font support in their upcoming products. In reality, hellenic characters in Prelude have very little in common to their roman counterparts. And this is a shame not only because Prelude (for roman characters) is a fantastic font, but also because fonts, contrary to software, are not iteratively designed at the rate that software is and chances are that the botched hellenic glyphs currently found in Prelude will be on HP/Palm devices for a long time to come. What a shame!
Ubuntu 10.10 is just around the corner. In this version some preliminary signs of Ubuntu’s design efforts are slowly showing, although there’s still a vast amount of work to do. One of the ‘new’ things in 10.10 as far as the user experience is concerned is the new Ubuntu font.
I am very happy to see Hellenic supported from this early stage. As others have commented however, there are considerable problems with the typeface. The font has several controversial features, like the ‘short chi’ glyph and the weird gamma among others.
The short chi (χ) is not really a problem as far as I am concerned, although it is a departure from the norm. Most modern well-designed hellenic fonts have a chi with a descender. In ‘classical’ hellenic typography chi almost always has a descender; there are, however, a few good examples of contemporary designs with ‘short’ chi (Gotham Greek by Cannibal Fonts — one of the premier foundries in Greece — comes to mind) and I believe it’s acceptable in a modern, informal typeface.
Gamma (γ), on the other hand, as found in the ‘final’ version of the font included with the Ubuntu 10.10 RC, is poor and betrays the ignorance of the designers with respect to hellenic type; it reminded me of Myriad Pro; a beautiful roman typeface (recently popularised because its adoption by Apple as the company’s corporate font) that has been butchered in its hellenic version.
There are other, less important, issues with the hellenic glyphs in the font, but even those I mention above are enough to demonstrate the intricancies involved in designing hellenic fonts (esp. by people who don’t have a feel for the language).
Turning roman fonts, even excellent ones, to hellenic is a tough job, even for skilled professionals with many years of experience with the language, the alphabet and hellenic typography. Many of the good hellenic fonts have been designed by font designers outside of Greece and have been iteratively improved over the span of many years before they reached a level of comparable quality to their roman counterparts.
I appreciate the effort by Maag and Canonical and I really love the fact that the language is included as a first-class citizen in the new Ubuntu font.
I also think, however, that you need to get a better understanding of Hellenic typography as well as — seemingly — better advice, before the ‘Ubuntu’ font can claim that it is a well-designed hellenic font.
Just a few weeks (?) before the rumoured availability of the Apple tablet (whatever its name is), here’s a recent demonstration of what the display, miniature electronics and battery technology may lead to in the near future in the context of magazines. If everything that we’ve heard about the impending release of the Apple tablet is true, I guess there’s a chance that the paper magazine may soon follow the CD and DVD as items of yesteryear. If anything, I am excited about the ecological, typographical and æsthetic consequences such a device might bring, but also somewhat concerned about the loss of the openness that the web has brought us in the last fifteen years or so. [via Mosh].
Update: Here’s another video featuring a tablet version of Sports Illustrated.
Due to popular demand, here is a slashed zero version of the Droid Sans Mono font. My previous modification to the Droid Sans Mono, the Dotted-Zero variant, remains available at the same URL for those that prefer dots to slashes.
Æsthetics and usability go hand in hand. Because many people are visual beings, they function better when they work in a beautiful environment. And that extends to computing. So those two go together.
In typography this is pretty obvious whenever you’ve got to use (even for a short while) a Windows machine: Cleartype, now the default anti-aliasing technique employed by Microsoft, is a hideous, ugly and largely unusable (to me at least) hinting/anti-aliasing technique used by Redmond that’s supposed to make text more legible. I’m writing ‘supposed’ because it doesn’t (at least for me); it never did, but in the process it does succeed into making text look extremely ugly.
What’s surprising is not that Microsoft is not ‘getting’ it. No, that’s pretty well known; it’s no accident that Apple has gone with a much more reasonable approach in OS X (which is, to my eyes, equally legible, but far more beautiful). Which is why you can actually have far superior hinting and still retain the original glyphs, as is evidenced by Adobe’s Reader. Which is why even freetype provides excellent anti-aliasing [even if it's still bugridden and at the same time many linux distributions insist on turning on full-hinting, probably the worst choice they could make].
What is really surprising here is this:
Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer will default in some cases to using ClearType rendering. Some applications that use fonts tuned for ClearType and not bi-level rendering may choose ClearType rendering to maintain the benefits of the font designs. Some applications need higher precision glyph widths like sub-pixel positioning or “natural width ClearType,” and would reflow if they were changed to bi-level or grayscale rendering. Other applications like Adobe Reader have their own built-in text rendering engine that is independent of the Windows graphics platforms. Likewise, platforms like Java on Windows also use their own rendering techniques.
Ok, so you can have applications that have their own rendering engines and don’t want to do anything with ClearType (understandable). But having everyday applications such as Internet Explorer or Office applications being capable of overriding user preferences, only because Microsoft insists on doing simple things in such a complex, backwards manner is perplexing. It’s one thing being clueless, inept, having an ingrained, institutional one might say, sense of kitsch æsthetics, creating fonts for a totally inferior technology and in the process creating a bunch of problems throughout your platform and it’s a wholly different thing when those things turn into an inability to honour user preferences. Totally mad design decisions and a poor system design on the whole.
Having said that, up until lately Apple had its fair share of problems with typography on OS X (incomplete support for non-roman characters, OpenType issues, etc.) and linux is in a laughable state with pango, fontconfig and friends failing to provide a solid foundation that would support high-end uses in the publishing industry (a nice example would be the total clusterfuck that results when you try to use commercial fonts with many styles). But at least there no one pretends that they know better; they move forward, try and fix what’s wrong and create better software; Microsoft, on the other hand, seems to be doing exactly the opposite, at least as far as typography is concerned.