Words by c.z.robertson

Free fonts

2002-04-27 01:00:00 UTC

I'm pleased to see that Marko Karpinnen has been thinking about free (as in speech) fonts. I've thought about this too, and have been dismayed by the lack of free fonts. The only project that I am aware of is the Free Font Foundation, and reading those pages is depressing in itself.

Marko is correct when he says that the lack of tools has limited free font development, and that the tools available discourage colaboration. There's a reason why Richard Stallman's first program for the GNU project was a compiler.

The idea of extending an existing closed-source font editor is an interesting one, and might be a good way of starting a free font project, but if it's only available on Windows and Mac then that might exclude the GNU/Linux users who'd be most interested in the freedom aspects. Also, I suspect that transforming font information to an SVG format and back again would be non-trivial, particularly if hinting information is also included.

As far as editors are concerned, I note the existence of PfaEdit, gfonted (dormant), GOTE (dormant) and Spif (being rewritten and currently unavailable, license unknown). I wonder whether PfaEdit could be modified to use a text based format that would enable it to be used with CVS.

I also suspect there's something of a culture gap between programmers and typographers. I think that in general programmers don't need much convincing about the benefits of colaborative work, nor about giving up control over their work. Maybe I'm wrong, but I get the impression that typographers are far more concerned about maintaining control over their work.