[XeTeX] support for variation & multiple master fonts

Lodewijk M. Solzen XeTeXlist at ligature.org
Wed Dec 21 17:27:56 CET 2005


Adobe has dropped support for MM, as it did for FrameMaker on the Apple OS
too - this is relevant in this sense that FrameMaker was the only
proprietary software application that could compete with the different TeX
distributions in managing large documents. Adobe seems to leave its
long-standing cooperation with Apple and welcomes the new partnership with

The OpenType format is just the most evident outcome of this new alliance.
OpenType is not being developed with Apple, precisely because Apple plans to
further develop its own GX font technology. So, I doubt that Apple has
definitely given up its AAT, though it may be true that for the next couple
of years we will hear nothing about that.

I hope XeTeX will maintain support for MM, precisely because no other system
does so anymore. As a typographer I very much sustain the possibilities of
adjustable glyph shapes. I do not think it useful to invest in backward
compatibility with outdated operating systems. It should be the other way
around: working with an advanced operating system and dito text setting
system should allow for still using typographical features that were
developed in the past but were cancelled by proprietary vendors because of
mercantile considerations. (The MM format was dropped because most users are
not interested in such intricate delicacies. Still, professional
typographers are and should be interested.)

The OpenType versions of Adobe fonts (the Pro's) are usually shipped in four
different optical weights: Caption, Text, Subhead and Display; Minion Pro
(both roman and italic) has for each of this versions also Regular, Medium,
Semibold and Bold, with a total of 64 fonts. All these fonts were derived
from two different MM design axes: optical and weight.



-----Oorspronkelijk bericht-----
Van: xetex-bounces at tug.org [mailto:xetex-bounces at tug.org] Namens Jonathan
Verzonden: woensdag 21 december 2005 0:06
Aan: Unicode-based TeX for Mac OS X
Onderwerp: [XeTeX] support for variation & multiple master fonts

An informal poll of user opinion:

How many of you care about support for AAT variation fonts (like  
Skia), and/or Multiple Master fonts (MinionMM, MyriadMM, etc.), and  
at the same time are *not* running Tiger (10.4.x)?

Bear in mind that (as far as I can tell) Adobe has dropped support  
for MM fonts, and so there are not likely to be many more of them  
appearing (and those that exist won't be maintained and updated). And  
Apple has shown no sign of interest in continuing to develop the AAT  
variation technology. So although XeTeX currently supports these,  
they're looking rather like dead-end paths in the font world.

What I'm likely to do (as a consequence of other internal changes) is  
to drop support for variations on pre-10.4 systems in the next update  
of XeTeX. This is because I am changing the way XeTeX interacts with  
the xdv->pdf driver, to make it more feasible to create a portable  
back end. This may also, incidentally, help performance somewhat  
(though I don't know yet if it will be a substantial improvement).

Unfortunately, the APIs that the new PDF back-end will use for  
variation support are only available on Tiger, not on earlier  
systems. So this means that, assuming I go ahead with this change,  
variations (and MM axes) will no longer work on Jaguar and Panther  

I note, in any case, that these APIs (despite being new on 10.4!) are  
also already flagged by Apple as being "deprecated". While I don't  
know anything about Apple's future plans, this does make me wonder  
whether support for the whole variation/MM idea will eventually be  
dropped from the system.

Sure, it's fun to be able to play with different settings of Skia --  
I've used it myself in a few documents, and it's been neat to use the  
width axis to fit titles neatly to the available space, for example.  
And those of us who have the multimaster Minion and Myriad fonts no  
doubt have our favorite settings. But as far as I understand it,  
newer OpenType versions like Minion Pro are no longer MM; instead,  
you get a range of separate instances. (Right? I don't have a current  
Adobe collection to check this stuff!)

Anyhow, at this time I'd be interested to know whether people care  
much about var/MM support, in particular on older OS versions -- how  
many people will be impacted, and how badly, if it becomes a 10.4- 
only feature in XeTeX? I know that's a fairly vague question, but I'd  
appreciate any comments, either here on the list or privately.



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