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Re: [css3-fonts] opentype font feature support

From: Adam Twardoch (List) <list.adam@twardoch.com>
Date: Sat, 06 Mar 2010 21:28:27 +0100
Message-ID: <4B92BAEB.60600@twardoch.com>
To: www-style list <www-style@w3.org>
Christoph Päper wrote:
> I value your responses highly, but whereas I was arguing for 
> author-friendliness, the three of you who have disregarded most
> of my points, i.e. Thomas Phinney, Jonathan Kew and Adam Twardoch, 
> seem too close to the font and browser developer side on this.
> You all know OT far better than me, but how many CSS authors do?

With web fonts, the HTML+CSS changed significiantly: pretty soon, many
authors will be designing web pages with a particular typeface in mind,
and particular typographic effects.

As it seems, typographic formatting that goes beyond anything that is
very basic and common (i.e. small caps, oldstyle numerals and a handful
other features) is quite specific to the typeface you're using. I mean:
as a designer, the design choices on whether to use swashes, stylistic
sets, historical ligatures, contextual alternates etc. is no independent
of the font but is secondary to the choice of the font.

In order to explore the typographic palette of the features and
character sets, the author will most likely look at the font in some
application that offers an OpenType interface to the font's inner
workings, not a completely abstract interface.

I think the idea to make the typographic formatting aspects of CSS
completely independent of OpenType is tricky for one reason:

During the last ten years, type designers, typographic designers,
linguists and font developers have thought hard about what typographic
formatting effects are "important": which ones are commonly used, which
ones are interesting to a larger audience, which ones are possible to
implement using the font technology we have today. This was done using
real-life examples, real people who have been working in the industry,
real practicing designers.

The result of this process is the OpenType Layout feature registry. Only
very few new things have been added to it recently, most of the work has
been done already some time ago. Some of the oldest additions seem a bit
outdated now so their descriptions will probably be revised, but overall
 is a quite stable and well-researched inventory of "things that
typographic designers want to do to their text".

Now, CSS3 is considering to arrive at a set of extended typographic
controls for text. I believe that even if CSS3 did their research
completely independently, the result would have been a set of controls
quite similar to that found in OpenType -- simply because the OpenType
set is well-researched. On top of that, the set of controls that is part
of OpenType is likely to be available to the authors through fonts,
while controls that "might be nice in theory but are not part of
OpenType", yet rely on font technology to work, are kind of moot -- W3C
may add them to the CSS3 spec, but who and how will ever implement them?

To remind you: SVG has taken lots of its core concepts from existing
technologies: PostScript and PDF. This was partly because Adobe was
involved in developing SVG at that time, but partly also because PDF
"had done the research" as for what things are needed to do imaging of
vector and bitmap graphics, and how these shall be put together. Perhaps
not perfect, but a dominant real-world implementation. If SVG went a
completely different path (e.g. by not using Bezier curves but other
types of geometry), it would be vastly less successful.



Adam Twardoch
| Language Typography Unicode Fonts OpenType
| twardoch.com | silesian.com | fontlab.net

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Received on Saturday, 6 March 2010 20:29:04 UTC

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