FontForge is getting back on track

FontForge is getting back on track

New version of FontForge is finally released by the new team who aim to roll out new snapshots much more frequently.

There are no huge improvements in this release, but it's nearly 1.5 years worth of patches for pretty much all parts of the font editor, from core to user interface to Python API.

The change that is probably most visible is the right-click menu in the Layers dialog, added by the omnipresent Tom Lechner of Laidout project.

Layers dialog with right-click menu

New right-click menu in the Layers dialog

The other changes are mostly various fixes, as well as better support for feature files (and other OpenType related changes).

The new version also provides improved compatibility with UFO workflow for Robofab based apps, by preserving letter cases in *.glif names, and produces RoboFab-like output in .glif files to simplify diffing files.

Another visible change is that FF now remembers the last font(s) you opened and reopens them at startup.

The complete log of changes is available on the website.

By the way, there's a new script for FontForge written by Dave Crossland. It's called FontForge Simplepolator and reimplements an existing Fontlab script by Pablo Impallari. The idea is that you can easily create variations of a glyph to make a design decision. Here is a video from Dave:

Apart from source code there is a build for Windows along with an installer, although it still requires Cygwin (i.e. don't try it at home, kids).

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25 Responses. Comments closed for this entry.

  1. Aleve Sicofante 02 August 2012 at 7:07 pm

    Nice. Are they planning to overhaul the UI too with the use of some standard toolkit?

  2. Nope. At least, not yet. It’s doable, but the way things are going we are likely to see Fontclod mature as a web-based editor than see FontForge in GTK+ or Qt.

  3. FontForge already uses some standard toolkit: gdraw.

  4. @bugware Any other app using the toolkit? ;-)

  5. No Windows version? I tried to download the unofficial mingw version on that Japanese website, but it turns out that it requires cygwin.

    Also, according to translation this version is rather unstable.

  6. @Alexandre Do you need any other font editor??? ;-)

  7. Alexandre Prokoudine 03 August 2012 at 4:06 pm

    @DooMHeaD Yes, it requires Cygwin. Sorry about that :)

    @bugware Yes? No? Maybe? :)

  8. Aleve Sicofante 03 August 2012 at 4:16 pm


    I’ll bite: if gdraw is used ONLY by FontForge or another couple of apps, it’s by no means a _standard_ toolkit. So your first reply is plain wrong.

    FontForge is ugly as hell and its non-standard toolkit (read, unlike GTK+ or Qt) makes it unnecessarily harder to learn and use. That’s the whole point of standard toolkits, you know?

    So, even if the question wasn’t directed at me: yes, we need another font editor. One that takes into consideration the environment in which it is going to be run and respects that as an elementary usability issue. Maybe just a fork that takes FontForge internals and ideas and make them work with a standard toolkit will suffice.

    Why any modern developer would choose such an ugly toolkit in the first place is beyond me, BTW.

  9. Alexandre Prokoudine 03 August 2012 at 4:25 pm

    Aleve, for FontForge it’s all very simple. When GWW started working on it around 2001, none of existing toolkits were good enough for him, so he made his own.

    One of the reasons he decoupled internals into a library several years ago was to help other people to write a different UI. There even was an attempt to create a GTK+-based interface (you can still find a Glade file in the source tree).

    That nobody volunteered to write a new interface is entirely differnt matter. There aren’t many developers in the world who could write a free font editor, no? :)

  10. Aleve Sicofante 03 August 2012 at 4:38 pm

    Well, at least internals and UI are decoupled, so we can hope…

    However, in 2001 both GTK+ and Qt were mature enough IMO. I don’t quite get what he found lacking. Anyway, it was certainly his prerogative to choose whatever he found fit.

  11. UnconventionalT 03 August 2012 at 10:11 pm

    “I’m trying to re-energize the development of FontForge, a libre font
    editor application that is over 10-years old and started before GTK
    had Unicode support, so the developer created his own X toolkit :-)”
    The reason why, apparently.

  12. This is really great news! And a UI overhaul would be amazing, at least if it wouldn’t go as much in the wrong direction as it did with fontmatrix ...

  13. Aleve Sicofante 03 August 2012 at 11:38 pm

    @UnconventionalT: Thanks for the explanation.

  14. > FontForge is ugly as hell
    Look into the closest mirror.

    The world wouldn’t die if you fails to learn FontForge.

    The question wasn’t directed to you, but NO, you don’t need any font editor.

  15. Aleve Sicofante 04 August 2012 at 1:50 am


    What’s with that agressiveness?

    You make very little sense, you know? Maybe it’s the blinding wrath? Chill out man.

    The software is indeed ugly as hell and I’m pretty sure you don’t have a picture of me. I’m handsome. :-)

    Oh, and I do need a font editor and I will learn this very ugly one.

    Have a nice day and relax. Life’s beautiful (unlike FontForge. LOL)

  16. @Aleve Sicofante

    I’m glad that GWW ignored idiots like you.

  17. Aleve Sicofante 04 August 2012 at 2:32 am


    Oh. That was a very classy and clever argument. Congratulations.


  18. Alexandre Prokoudine 04 August 2012 at 3:22 am

    @bugware Easy, tiger :) FF gets the job done, but the UI doesn’t really win the Ms. Universe contest :)

  19. @AP: I think you’ve missed colon.
    It should be
    “FontForge: gets the job done”

  20. What a nice surprise, FontForge finally sees a new release. I should follow its development more closely.

  21. Started using fontforge in 2010. It was small (5.3MB source package), fully documented, and works. Some bugs cause crashes. Kudos to George Williams for giving us a fully featured free font editor.

    Just had a look at the current version. I read it has been fully rewritten to get away from BSD licence. Now it is a 126MB source package. The new web site looks pretty but the instructions are not done yet. Not sure this is “back on track”

  22. Alexandre Prokoudine 22 March 2015 at 6:24 am

    @blueytoo, you do realize you are commenting on a 3 years old article, do you? :)

    Also, the source code tarball now includes all dependencies, and building instructions are right here: Given. that, what exactly are you missing?

  23. Of course I know the article is 3 years old.

    Effort at documentation appears a long way behind the coding. All the “current” links to documentation on the current website don’t provide much useful for users. Why isn’t the old documentation on the new website??

  24. Alexandre Prokoudine 22 March 2015 at 7:08 am

    My buest guess is because noone volunteered to move it. Would you like to?

    By the way, the reference is there.

  25. @AlexandreProkoudine agree with you, this is three year old article @blueytoo