OSX and Type Features: Apps?

Discussion in 'Design and Graphics' started by tubular, Oct 3, 2015.

  1. tubular, Oct 3, 2015
    Last edited: Oct 3, 2015

    tubular macrumors 6502


    Oct 19, 2011
    Type geek with a type geek question.

    I've installed El Capitan on my laptop. The new San Francisco fonts are loaded at /System/Library/Fonts with names starting with "SFNS". Over the last couple of days I've used the (very good BTW) Glyphs app to inspect them, and it struck me that maybe it's time to re-ask an old question.

    SFNSText-Medium.otf has almost 1700 glyphs. That's a very big set of accented characters, Greek, Cyrillic, and small caps (for Latin, Greek, and Cyrillic). Several other built-in fonts include small caps ... Avenir Next, Hoefler Text, Apple Chancery, and probably some others as well.

    By "small caps" I mean the real article: little junior-sized capitals, drawn separately by the type designer so that their stroke widths matched their grown-up counterparts, rather than just being shrunken versions of the capitals.

    These and other features (things like, say, swashes or alternate forms) are built into the font, and once upon a time programs like Apple Pages used to let you access these features through a "Typography" menu. When Pages took its leap backwards for web compatibility a few years back, away went the real small caps, and in came the faked small caps - i.e. the capital letters, just taken down 20% or so. The "Typography" menu was first hobbled, then removed.

    Well, I'm a purist. I was one of the three or four people who actually installed the QuickDraw GX extensions in the mid '90s in the days of System 7 just for its extra typographic capabilities, and was happy to see those typographic features gradually work their way into OSX. If you've looked at Hoefler Text in your Font Book and seen the engraved capitals, well, you used to be able to actually *use* them. Same with all those glyph variations on Apple Chancery and Zapfino.

    As it stands right now, the operating system still supports the capabilities (ATSUI/AAT) -- but applications? Not so much. In fact, I know of only two. One is the open-source XeLaTeX system, an OSX-native port of (if I'm getting the genealogy right) pdflatex. It's terrific when you really, really need the brains of the LaTeX typesetting system, but those of you who are TeXnicians know that there's a friendliness penalty involved.

    The other is InDesign, which is Adobe rentware-only, so forget that. (Sell me a program and I'll buy it; tell me I can only rent it, and that my files will turn into a pumpkin at midnight if I don't keep coughing it up, and I tell you to get lost.)

    So here's my question. Are there other alternatives on OSX I don't know about?

    (And I suppose I have to ask: what about the latest Word for Mac? Because if Microsoft typography on a Mac is now better than Apple typography on a Mac, then the world must be coming to an end soon.)
  2. superscape macrumors 6502a


    Feb 12, 2008
    East Riding of Yorkshire, UK

    As a fellow typography geek, I feel your pain! Luckily, I use InDesign and it's paid for on my behalf, so the cost is not an issue. It's still probably your best bet, but I completely understand why Adobe's p***ing you off - you and most of their customers/hostages!

    I've not tried the following options myself, but I know people who speak highly of them:


    ..and believe it or not, Quark Xpress still exists, although it's pretty expensive too.

    I think all of them offer some kind of free trial.

    Hope that's of some help.

    ps. Personally, I'm hoping the folks at Affinity will add an InDesign-killer to their Photos and Illustration suite...
  3. tomnavratil macrumors 6502a


    Oct 2, 2013
    Litovel, Czech Republic
    Hi, don't forget you can still buy InDesign CS6, which has been updated for a while and it's a really decent option to its CC counterpart. I've been using it for a long time and worked great.
  4. tubular thread starter macrumors 6502


    Oct 19, 2011
    Well, maybe Apple has read this thread and rushed a fix into Pages, because according to their "What's New" for the latest OS X version of Pages there is: "Enhanced support for OpenType font features like small caps, contextual fractions, alternate glyphs, and more."

    Updating it now and hoping for good news.
  5. tubular thread starter macrumors 6502


    Oct 19, 2011
    The news is good! The type features are back in the same (obscure) place they used to be in Pages and Keynote.

    For the curious, looking for examples of what I mean: in the new release of Pages, write some text using the font Apple Chancery. Then hit ⌘T for the font dialog box. The drop-down box with the settings icon in that dialog box looks greyed out, but it's active. If you select "Typography..." from its menu, you'll get another little window containing the font features of Apple Chancery. Apple Chancery was designed back in the QuickDrawGX days to show off typographic features; there are (at least) four different variations on each letter, ranked by "design complexity", and you can use this interactive menu to select extra flourishes, swash, true small caps, and so on.

    The features available for each font will differ, because the tables etc. supporting those features are actually part of each font file.

    This obscure corner of Pages and Keynote (and presumably Numbers) went away with the big cross-platform compatibility rewrites of the iWork applications a few years ago, but have now returned -- in a not very visible, not-cross-platform way -- with the current release.

    And I have to say: bravo!

    While I'm waxing typographic, let me mention to type geeks that I very much enjoy and heartily recommend the type program Glyphs Mini, which is available in the app store, as a very good entry-level type design program.

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4 October 3, 2015