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Graphics Software

Make Your Own Fonts, In a Web Browser 147

Posted by timothy
from the cool-idea dept.
Dekortage writes "Although it's been up for a few weeks, today is the official launch of FontStruct, a web-based font creation tool. That's right: in your web browser, you can build your own typeface, and download it as a TrueType font. The site's user agreement requires you to release your creations online under one of the Creative Commons licenses. The typefaces tend to be a little blocky, but it's still impressive (and a great way to pass time)."
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Make Your Own Fonts, In a Web Browser

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  • by Ralph Spoilsport (673134) * on Thursday May 08, 2008 @04:54PM (#23342894) Journal
    I went there, signed up and built a very basic font. Very pleased. It's NOT great font work, but it's fun and could be very useful in an intro to type and typography class, or for high school students.

    RS

    • by Dekortage (697532)

      Creating fonts is fun. I remember getting my hands on Fontographer [wikipedia.org] when it first came out... now that was cool. Heck, creating bitmap fonts in ResEdit [wikipedia.org] was fun at times. At times, I've had to customize a typeface for a client, when a specific letter just seemed off (typically in a logotype, or for a very niche purpose like recreating a Renaissance manuscript style in a brochure, but still trying to keep it legible). Or just playing practical jokes on people (like flipping all of the characters in Chicag

      • by Heian-794 (834234)

        Or just playing practical jokes on people (like flipping all of the characters in Chicago upside down, back when the System 6 used it for the UI).

        The much-less-labor-intensive, Unicode-based cousin of your plan is available here:

        http://www.sherv.net/flip.html [sherv.net]

        Now, if only Slashdot supported characters beyond the masic ASCII plane...

  • Great (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 08, 2008 @04:57PM (#23342918)
    Just what we need ... the ability for websites to easily create their own font, ignoring the hundreds of years that have gone into perfecting typography.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by CRCulver (715279)
      Furthermore, creating a typeface that is actually in this day and age when the Internet goes beyond North America and Western European countries requires wide Unicode coverage, but I imagine (I haven't RTFA) that the people toying around with this are producing only ASCII/Basic Latin fonts, exactly what we don't need.
      • Re:Great (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Vectronic (1221470) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @05:22PM (#23343288)
        Who is "we"?...

        You just typed out about 50 words using what you "don't need"...

        Granted, nothing ground breaking as far as font creation goes is going to come of this website... but if anyone is serious about making typography isn't going to be using some web-based font creating tool... as the original/first poster said, this is great for younger people/inexperienced users as an introduction to typography...

        Besides, since the actual site is slashdotted (at this moment) maybe it can handle more advanced typesets... I watched the little video, and I was impressed that it wasn't just 1-0, A-Z, a-z but what seemed to be the full set...

        However, I do find this sort of disturbing, or "cheap" because it desregards the hundreds (thousands?) of years that have gone into designing fonts... and that it is still rather limited until its vector-based...

        As a side note: http://www.helveticafilm.com/ [helveticafilm.com] is an interesting documentary on the history of a single font (at least i found it interesting)
        • Re:Great (Score:5, Informative)

          by CRCulver (715279) <crculver@christopherculver.com> on Thursday May 08, 2008 @05:28PM (#23343364) Homepage

          You just typed out about 50 words using what you "don't need"...

          Because I was responding to a poster in English with just English words. However, most of the writing I do online requires the use of multiple languages, many requiring letters present in Unicode Latin Extended A and B and the upper ranges of the Cyrillic block. I'd rather see more people using e.g. the DejaVu fonts [sourceforge.net], which look just as good as the Bitstream Vera the Free Software community already took to its heart, but which at least has that Unicode coverage there if you should ever need it.

          • You are more than welcome to make fonts which incorporate letters from whatever alphabets you want. I dunno if this tool lets you do this since the site has been given a thorough slashdotting (but it should).

            Besides, it's not like someone is going to make "Comic Sans 2" and it will take the world by storm overnight and MS will start shipping it with Vista.

        • Re:Great (Score:4, Funny)

          by YourMotherCalled (888364) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @06:01PM (#23343756)
          I end each of my sentences with an ellipsis... Even the questions?... Yes...
        • I too thought of mentioning "Helvetica", it is a great movie indeed.

          You might also want to check out the music of the band "El Ten Eleven", many of their songs were used in that movie.
        • As a side note: http://www.helveticafilm.com/ [helveticafilm.com] is an interesting documentary on the history of a single font (at least i found it interesting)
          It's a damn good doc. For a couple days after watching it, you'll notice the typeface everywhere.
      • Re: (Score:2, Flamebait)

        by tepples (727027)

        creating a typeface that is actually in this day and age when the Internet goes beyond North America and Western European countries requires wide Unicode coverage
        Why would I need to create glyphs for Chinese characters if I'm not selling my product in Japan, China, or Taiwan? Or Tamil, if I'm not selling my product in South India?
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by CastrTroy (595695)

          Or Tamil, if I'm not selling my product in South India
          Because you're selling your product in Sri Lanka?
          • Because you're selling your product in Sri Lanka?
            I might design an application to support Sinhala once there is enough support from the Sinhala-speaking community. But first I'd have to find the money for a translator, and a GDP of under 1,300 USD per capita (source: The World Factbook [cia.gov]) does not a market make. Yet.
      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        Who cares if your website font supports unicode when all your content only contains unaccented characters from the English alphabet.
    • Re:Great (Score:4, Funny)

      by Ed Avis (5917) <ed@membled.com> on Thursday May 08, 2008 @07:21PM (#23344474) Homepage
      It's either that or they just go back to using Comic Sans.
    • Re:Great (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Nimey (114278) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @07:59PM (#23344854) Homepage Journal
      Yes, as if MySpace wasn't ugly enough!
    • by sammy baby (14909)

      Just what we need ... the ability for websites to easily create their own font, ignoring the hundreds of years that have gone into perfecting typography.
      Yes, resulting in tons of inter-office e-mails being formatted in Comic Sans [bancomicsans.com].

  • They can't do that (Score:5, Interesting)

    by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Thursday May 08, 2008 @04:59PM (#23342958) Homepage Journal
    There's no part of copyright law that allows a tool creator to dictate how the output of the tool can be licensed.. unless, of course, there's some significant amount of copyrightable material being added to the output above and beyond what the user of the tool is supplying. For example, a compiler compiler will generate code from the input CFG and embed additional code in the output that was written by the author of the tool, so this could be claimed as his copyright, but the generated code, no matter how well it was generated, is a result of the CFG writer, and is therefore his copyright.

    Of course, none of this has been tested in court.

    • by Oligonicella (659917) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @05:07PM (#23343078)
      The site is /.ed at the moment, so I can't tell if you have to use their servers for the processing or even read their user agreement. But, all they have to do is tell you that whatever you create on their site they will keep a copy of and release, and if you agree, you relinquish copyright.

      If you want to retain full ownership, do it at home.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by QuantumG (50515) *
        Click through contracts are rarely enforcible.
      • by tepples (727027)

        But, all they have to do is tell you that whatever you create on their site they will keep a copy of and release, and if you agree, you relinquish copyright.

        Ouch. I'd be willing to license my work under GPL/CC-BY-SA with the standard font exception [fsf.org]. I just see too many problems with the Creative Commons licenses, especially the provision allowing an author to force downstream distributors to remove any copyright notice that credits the author. (I can explain this provision in more detail if you wish.)

    • by Bogtha (906264) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @05:22PM (#23343290)

      There's no part of copyright law that allows a tool creator to dictate how the output of the tool can be licensed

      Who needs copyright? If you don't agree to the terms, they simply won't generate the font file for you. Just because they don't have copyright over the final result, it doesn't mean they are compelled to provide you with service.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I think part of the reason for requiring the CC license is because as part of the site, your font shows up as a font that was recently created. In other words, by creating the font, you're submitting that user-created content to the community. If you're submitting it to the community, they require that it be released under a license where people can actually use the font.

      (So, essentially, "if you don't like it, don't post" except that when you create, it posts automatically.)
      • But why CC? (Score:3, Interesting)

        by tepples (727027)

        If you're submitting it to the community, they require that it be released under a license where people can actually use the font.
        Then why Creative Commons, when the GNU GPL for fonts [gnu.org] is better known and more clearly allows embedding of the font in, say, a Free computer program?
        • Because CC is the standard range of licenses for the artistic rather than coding community?
          • Because CC is the standard range of licenses for the artistic rather than coding community?
            But that's the core problem. The licenses used by the artistic community are incompatible with the licenses used by the coding community, making it difficult for anybody to publish a work that integrates art and code. This could range anywhere from icons and splash screens inside a computer program to a full-blown video game.
            • by feijai (898706)

              The licenses used by the artistic community are incompatible with the licenses used by the coding community

              Nonsense. They're incompatable, if at all, with exactly one license: GPL. Because GPL has onerous, ridiculous licensing compatability rules. Rules so malformed that they shoved out by far the best open-source license out there (AFL) because FSF found its modern, well-considered patent and lawyer's fees terms "incompatable" with GPL's dark-ages approach to the legal system.

        • Define 'Free computer program' - can a GPLed font be embedded in a BSD licensed application? CDDL licensed? LGPLed?
          • by tepples (727027)

            Define 'Free computer program' - can a GPLed font be embedded in a BSD licensed application? CDDL licensed? LGPLed?
            Yes. Like Guile and GNU libstdc++, GPL fonts generally come with a linking exception. This weakens the copyleft such that the GPL applies to the font and not to the rest of the program, allowing compatibility with other weak-copyleft licenses such as the MPL.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Lanoitarus (732808)
      You'd be correct if they were SELLING the tool, which they are not.

      However, if their agreement for use says in exchange for free use of the tool, the result is XYZ license, and you agree to that, then yes, its legal for them to require it.

      This is aside from the other replies addressing the fact that the server side probably does have some amount of creative input.
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by fishbowl (7759)

      >Of course, none of this has been tested in court.

      Hardly anything has been more thoroughly tested in court than the rights reserved under copyright law,
      and the effect of licensing those rights.
    • There's no part of copyright law that allows a tool creator to dictate how the output of the tool can be licensed.

      You make a good point. Suppose it was demanded that everything compiled under gcc had to be open-sourced? That probably wouldn't go over too well with everybody.

      • by CastrTroy (595695)
        What about everything using the QT libraries to be open source, unless you pay them a hefty license fee? Or what about programs linking to MySQL client libraries that are required to be open source?
        • by Kadin2048 (468275)
          There's a pretty fundamental difference between linking to somebody else's code, which makes it an essential part of the new work, and using a tool to produce something that stands alone.

          It's that difference that lets TrollTech and Oracle/MySQL dictate licensing terms when you link to their libraries, but doesn't let the creator of an IDE (or, for that matter, a text editor) automatically have a copyright claim to anything you make with it.

          However, this is all sort of an irrelevant point. The way FontStruc
    • Right, and that is what User Agreements are for, to create your own rules.

      There is also no part in copyright law that says computers can copy anything because they aren't human. Every time a browser renders a document, Google caches a web site, a printer "receives" a document, or a graphics card transfers data, they are violating copyright law. Even this FontStruct app is copied and run on your computer, and it cannot be done any other way. The illusion of non-violation is created by abstraction, but there
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by jbengt (874751)

        Every time a browser renders a document, Google caches a web site, a printer "receives" a document, or a graphics card transfers data, they are violating copyright law
        No, in the USA at least, the law explicitly allows the transient copies made by computers, network transfers, etc. Google cahces are a little les clear, though.
        • Where specifically does it say this? I couldn't find anything specifically about how computers can retain perfect copies within the processes required to manipulate data for the end user, or how anything published online can be retained. title 17 section 112 [copyright.gov] talks about "phonorecords". In fact it says such things like:

          117.F.2(B) the digital version of the work that is available to the institution is subject to technological protection measures that prevent its use for section 110(2).

          Maybe these laws can be "reinterpreted", but again that would happen in court, and the laws themselves are what they are.

    • But who says this is a tool? Isn't it also a copyrighted work? And if so, anything created by it could be considered a derived work.
  • METAFONT (Score:5, Informative)

    by Hatta (162192) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @05:00PM (#23342968) Journal
    Why not use Metafont [utah.edu]? Vastly more powerful, and available for free on any platform TeX is.
    • Re:METAFONT (Score:5, Informative)

      by stubear (130454) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @05:09PM (#23343088)
      Apparently you've never created a font before. It's not a process where you set a few parameters and cross your fingers. A proper type face has specially styled italics characters, not just skewed ones, proper kerning, different weights and sizes for captions and headlines, etc. OpenType has opened up the type world to many new alternative possibilities with swashes, stylistic alternatives, tabular and old-style lined numerals and a whole slew of other options for designers to take advantage of in their work. I just don't see metafont making the process of font creation any easier than say FontLab.
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        All that's really needed to create a font is a piece of paper and a pencil. Oh, and some creativity. Of course, after you have the basics done, then you get to have the joy of digitizing it and setting all of the kerning pairs, creating ligatures, contextual alternatives, lining and/or tabular figures, tweaking the stresses, etc etc etc. Or you could just doodle a bit in the online equivalent of MS Paint and call yourself a "type designer", which I'm sure is what many here at slashdot will do.
      • by StreetStealth (980200) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @06:12PM (#23343848) Journal
        Indeed, indeed.

        There's a reason that professionally designed, usability-centered type families cost hundreds of dollars [fonts.com] -- they take many months of careful planning, experimentation (often through scientific trials [clearviewhwy.com]), and adjustment to bring from concept to completion.

        It is no more possible to quickly design a good typeface online than it is to quickly design a good CRM system and database backend using an easy online construction kit.
        • by Carnildo (712617)

          It is no more possible to quickly design a good typeface online than it is to quickly design a good CRM system and database backend using an easy online construction kit.


          That doesn't stop people from trying. Fortunately, you usually don't need to deal with the results of do-it-yourself fonts.
      • by Darinbob (1142669)
        But Metafont does those things. Maybe you're confusing it with some generic X Windows fonts that didn't have kerning or italics and such?

        One snag with Metafont is that you have to be spend a lot of time with it and it's not designed for the casual user. You define fonts mathematically with it, so even graphic artists used to creating fonts may not like it. The other snag is that it doesn't easily convert to the commonly used vector-outline fonts (Postscript, TrueType, etc) since it uses pen strokes inste
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by zsau (266209)
        That's precisely the point behind METAFONT. It's meant so that you can specify the basic shape of the letters and a shitload of parameters, and you'll get a lot of italic letters ("n" or "i", but not "a" and "z"), weights, sizes etc. essentially for free. Obviously some things still need to be done manually; I doubt you could generate old style or lining figures from the same source.

        The problem with METAFONT is that most people can't design something graphical without seeing it; and that there's a lot of wo
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 08, 2008 @05:26PM (#23343338)
      But this being a web application (like gmail/calendar/docs) it only needs a dom based browser to have fun with (which is "everyone",more or less right?) and supports the most common font format on the planet by default, truetype .ttf

      Metafont isn't like any of those easy requirements, it doesnt "just work" for "everyone", it could, but it doesn't, so it fails.

      thats why not METAFONT
  • Awww! (Score:5, Funny)

    by pete-classic (75983) <hutnick@gmail.com> on Thursday May 08, 2008 @05:01PM (#23342984) Homepage Journal
    My font looks like a database connection error. :-(

    -Peter
  • Would've Been Cool (Score:5, Informative)

    by vertigoCiel (1070374) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @05:03PM (#23343012)
    About 10 years ago, when pixel fonts were all the rage. If you didn't check the site out, it allows you to create fonts in a NxN grid, using predefined primitives (circles, stars, rounded corners, etc). Not a whole lot of variety possible. If they came up with a vector-based online font creation tool, that would be something I could get excited about.
    • by Animaether (411575) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @05:36PM (#23343482) Journal
      especially if you can make them really, really tiny but still 'legible' (often requiring context of nearby letters, granted). I made one - it's used in graphics and licensed by one party for print ('read the fineprint' takes on a whole new meaning when the font is baseline 3 pixels tall.)

      Other than that, pixel fonts are still routinely used in games - simply because rendering a vector font is more expensive than rendering a sprite.
    • by rs79 (71822)
      " If they came up with a vector-based online font creation tool, that would be something I could get excited about."

      Um, yeah. Call me when they do PS Type 1 fonts with hinting.
    • by Laur (673497)

      If they came up with a vector-based online font creation tool, that would be something I could get excited about.

      Why don't you just download FontForge [sourceforge.net]? Really, what is the advantage to doing it online? Creating a good font takes a lot of work, and you really wouldn't want to spend it all in a web browser. Creating a quick crappy font could be done in a web browser, but I'm still unsure why it would be better than a dedicated font creation program. Heck, you can even draw your fonts in a vector drawing pro

      • Font Forge is a complex program with a moderately steep learning curve. This website aims to help someone who simply wants to create a unique font for light personal use. That person probably won't take the time to learn Font Forge.

        What I have in mind is simple vector outline support, with a Postscript/Illustrator/Flash import function, and maybe a few templates (generic serif, generic sans-serif) to start from. That would greatly expand the capabilities of the site, without requiring much more effort on
  • by astrashe (7452) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @05:11PM (#23343134) Journal
    There's no way a site like this could withstand heavy traffic. I don't know why the editors would sink it like this.

    It will probably be dead for days now.

  • ...now you don't.

    Pointing /. at a user-interactive site like this is going to cause tears. Lots of tears. Well, tears, or lots of heat from their servers.

    The home page is now serving up:

    404. Not found The requested address was not found on this server.

    I guess I'll bookmark it and come back tomorrow.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by YukiCuss (960733)

      I guess I'll bookmark it and come back tomorrow.
      You and the rest of the world, unfortunately. The second Slashdotting, as it were.
  • This is great. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by arthurpaliden (939626) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @05:24PM (#23343322)
    This is great. You no longer just have to waste time trying to find the font that is just right. Now, you can waste even more time by building it exactly the way you want.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I don't know how many times font forge has made for many an unproductive day.
  • Is it a great way to pass time in the same way that your urethra is a great way to pass a kidney stone?

    Just wondering. Different strokes for different folks and all that.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    No, rly, it boggles my mind. Why would one ever want to create another font ? About ten of them is roughly enough for all sane intents and purposes.
    • by Hatta (162192) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @06:19PM (#23343920) Journal
      Apparently you don't know any graphic designers. After you use the same font about a thousand times, you get sick to all hell of it. Using the same font over and over again makes your work look repetetive, boring, and not as much fun as it should be. Using unique fonts can put some originality back in your work.

      Of course, that mainly applies to display fonts. Text fonts are pretty limited in their design because they need to be legible.
      • by zsau (266209)
        There is a huge range of legible text fonts. The limits are more by tradition and custom — no-one would set a book in Courier or (nowadays) fraktur, and sans-serif fonts are used only rarely; this is not because they're illegible, but because these styles are not common in extensive text.

        But even limiting ourselves to conventional serif fonts, there's still a massive range of fonts. Anyone who can't see the difference doesn't care. Not a problem for the reader, but it is a problem for the book's desig
        • I like Computer Modern Roman for articles, but for literature I love Weiss. It's well balanced (different letters seem about the same size), very even in colour balance (different letters have about the same amount of black-white), easily legible, and yet the letters are stylized enough to be interesting. The italics are especially good. Linotype [linotype.com] sells the family for $95, I've not found it cheaper.
          • by zsau (266209)
            Maybe it's just the images and the size they're enlarged too, but I really don't like the look of its upright font! Based only on what I can see, the "a" is too stylised with its straight top, and the difference between the thickest and thinest strokes is much too much, with both too (absolutely) extreme. Also, the widest strokes are at horizontal and the thinest at vertical (i.e. the pen is held flat), whereas most Latin fonts put the pen at an angle. This is what gives it the "stylised" appearance you not
    • by cowscows (103644)
      Probably the same reason why there are fourteen thousand different text editors out there that I could download. Because curiosity leads people to create things.
  • by jameskojiro (705701) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @05:34PM (#23343456) Journal
    That will be banned in many middle east countries and the Netherlands and will cause as Fatwa against me.

    Ever letter will be an image of old mo' and if you change your default web browser font to it you will make all 72 virgins in heaven cry.
    • by rossz (67331)
      I'd like a copy of that when you finish making it. Any opportunity to annoy hypersensitive religious assholes is time well spent.

    • by zobier (585066)
      Someone already made a Jesus font [design-milk.com], maybe you cound draw some inspiration from that.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 08, 2008 @05:36PM (#23343480)
    I tried creating a font and the typeset downloaded only included the following characters:

    S L A H O T E D

    What words can I compose with that... dunno.
    • by lysse (516445)
      Dead hosts lose?
      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Kozz (7764)
        A shat lot, Ted! Lead the teal hats to LA. Does he taste hot slots? At least slated, eh...
    • by TobyRush (957946)

      I tried creating a font and the typeset downloaded only included the following characters: S L A H O T E D What words can I compose with that... dunno.
      I'm curious... why did you wait until the end to make the D? I would have designed it after finishing the H, but that's just me.
  • by Nom du Keyboard (633989) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @07:01PM (#23344272)
    Much as I like OSS, I don't like the forced approach here to requiring you to license your creative work for free. Encourage it sure, but to force it? Suppose you just want your own personal font? It won't be yours here, since anyone else can have it too.

    Even if they had just said you can't make it here for free and then sell it for money on your own I'd feel better about that. That way my own font could remain my own.

    So while it's a nice idea, couldn't they have been a little less heavy-handed about it?

    • by stewf (1286436) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @08:43PM (#23345162)

      Hi. I'm part of the FontShop team responsible for FontStruct. We're down right now (for obvious reasons -- ouch!) or I'd link you directly to the FAQ page on licensing, but I'll try to clarify it here.

      There is no requirement to license your work. New FontStructions are private by default and you can download it for yourself to your heart's content. Only when you choose to make it public do you need to select a CC license.

    • Uh, if you are serious about selling a typeface, I doubt you'd be using this tool. I also don't see anything heavy-handed about it -- that is your own perception on how things should be.
  • Who needs to create new fonts? Papyrus and Comic Sans are the only fonts we need!
  • by Animats (122034) on Thursday May 08, 2008 @09:08PM (#23345324) Homepage

    But you still can't download fonts in the browser as part of an HTML document.

    That used to work, back in the early days of Mozilla. Microsoft refused to put it in IE, and came up with their own, incompatible system. Mozilla then took theirs out.

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