New from Adobe Type: Open-sourced font development tools

Adobe has established a strong relationship with the open source community over the years, and the shape of it today is as robust as ever. We’ve released a growing set of open source font families on GitHub – Source Sans, Source Code, Source Serif, and most recently Source Han Sans – that we continue to update and expand. And last year, we contributed Adobe’s CFF font rasterization code to the FreeType project, and as a result Android, Chrome OS, and a growing number of Linux distributions now produce better-looking text from CFF fonts. (CFF is the Compact Font Format, used in many OpenType fonts.)

In line with those efforts I’m excited to announce that a version of Adobe’s font development tools — the AFDKO, or Adobe Font Development Kit for OpenType — is now available with an Apache open source license. This is the same set of tools we use on the Adobe Type team to design and update fonts. Recently we’ve been using the ADFKO in conjunction with Superpolator from Erik van Blokland, which provides a convenient user interface and a level of flexibility unavailable with other interpolation tools.

Superpolator is a manually-operated design tool, but since we update fonts frequently – often hundreds at a time – we need to be able to automate the process of rebuilding fonts that were built using Superpolator. So, we’ve set up the AFDKO to work with MutatorMath, the interpolation engine inside Superpolator, and we’ve worked with Erik to release this engine under the BSD-3 open source license at the same time we’re open sourcing the AFDKO.

The AFDKO has been available under a no-cost license since 2000, and its underlying code is incorporated in all the commercial font editors. Open sourcing the AFDKO and MutatorMath will lead to a new set of improvements that benefit everyone.

  • Today’s commercial font tools will get better, which will lead to better fonts for everyone. There are developers who want to help us improve these tools, and open sourcing them makes it possible.
  • Thanks to MutatorMath, we will probably also see improvements in other font tools’ interpolation features.
  • Now that we’ve made the tools available under the Apache open source license, they can also be used in FontForge (the open source font editor), which means modern fonts can be used in the many open source products that require everything they ship to be compiled using open source tools.

Much of Superpolator’s value lies in its intuitive user interface, so we expect people will continue to license the commercial tool. Similarly, we will continue to provide the AFDKO with its traditional license via the AFDKO page on the Adobe Font and Type Technology Center. The open source version requires users to download the appropriate version of the Python language interpreter and configure the tools. There are also a couple of tools in the AFDKO — checkOutlines and IS — that we couldn’t include because of patent restrictions, although we hope to work around that issue in checkOutlines in the near future.

For more details about our font development tools, documentation and release notes are available on the AFDKO page. We’re excited to release these tools in a format that can reach more developers, and look forward to seeing continued improvements to the tools we use to make type.

One Response

  1. yasinguezel says:

    Great news …

Comments are closed.

David Lemon

I fell in love with type in '77 and joined Adobe in '86. These days I manage the type development team. I like being at the intersection of art & technology, and am working to make good type easier for everyone.

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