Create, release and find your own font

Recently I had a look to the fonts, yes those that you use in your office suite or web browser, so moved by curiosity I checked out utilities and other things related to fonts.

First of all for the creation of the font you can use Fontstruct.com, this website uses a Flash application (I know some purist wouldn’t like) to create your font through predefined bricks and it allows you to share it with others. The application is quite user friendly and it allows to share your font in one of these licenses:

  • Creative Common Attribution Share Alike (CC-BY-SA)
  • Creative Common Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike
  • Creative Common Attribution (CC-BY)
  • Creative Common Attribution Non-commercial
  • Creative Common Attribution No Derivatives
  • Creative Common Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives

The font is then saved in TTF format.

Among those above the CC-BY license is the only one considered in the list of good licenses for font in Fedora list, although the preferred one is the SIL Open Font License.

For Debian they accept CC-BY-SA and the Sil licences.

An application that you could use is FontForge (I didn’t personally try) but it seems well advanced. FontForge is released with BSD License and you can find also the binaries for Windows. Although the interface looks not the best one, it allows to manage different font formats.

If you are searching for inspiration you can also go on other websites like:

Sometimes you really want to know which font is used inside an image, there are 2 websites which can help you:

  • WhatTheFont, where you can upload an image directly and by matching the characters you can be lucky to find the right font. They also release mobile applications (so maybe you just found  a shop with a nice sign and you can take a photo and upload it directly on WhatTheFont) which you can download for free. I tried the Android version on a DVD title and it worked very well
  • Identifont, a web site where you can search fonts by Appearance, using a wizard that helps you to identify the font (it really helped me to find out a font used in a jpg), by Name, by Similarity, by Picture and by Author. They also have a section of free fonts

As Firefox extension I found Font Finder, which I still have to try but looks useful for font designers; for what I can see you can also use Firebug and look at the font rendered with the help of FireFontFamily extension.

Concerning the format you have to know that one of the recommendation (just recent – 11 October 2012) of the W3C is to use the WOFF format , which is a wrapper for TTF font (and other types). Since the SIL license allows to compress the font you could use some tool like sntf2woof that can help you in doing that (the author of the tool is one of the author of the WOFF specifications)

Concerning performance there some of considerations you can take in account:

  • you can reduce the size of the font by selecting the subset language alphabet you need only (latin instead of cyrillic if the font contains it) or even simply selecting only those characters that you really need (in a logo you already know), this is possible through the Google Web Font API and through the font squirrel service in expert mode with custom subsetting. If you don’t want use a service you can have  a look to the font-optimizer released by Philip Taylor under MIT license or having your own loader from Artz Studio.
  • Another consideration is the caching with Google Font Loader that apparently can change depending on the version.
  • The other consideration is about IE browser that you have to put the @font-face declaration before the script tag accordingly to Steve Souders blog post.

Enjoy you new font !

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