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17 minutes ago, wonderings said:

I wonder what the real difference is between want and need here.

I have been wondering what people want to do with the Variable fonts.

I guess they would work for creating raster artwork, or possibly for creating SVG files. They won't work in PDF files unless you convert them to curves during or before Export, as PDF doesn't support Variable fonts yet. Then you don't have editable text any more in the PDF file.

-- Walt

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@wonderings and @walt.farrell
I think the need or want has been established by people requesting it here.

The fax machine gets the letter across, why use email? (I am sure someone is going to make the argument for faxes after this :D:D:D)

If you research a bit you can find information to get to know this (new) technology and what it can be used for and is being used for (not just web by the way, otherwise no one would have requested it here 😉).

https://fonts.google.com/knowledge/introducing_type/introducing_variable_fonts
There have been other sources of information also posted before in this thread, that can be looked at, if the want to know why variable fonts are being used is real.

For example this one: https://v-fonts.com mentioned by @fde101
Just go there please, play with some of the sliders in one of the examples and if that doesn't show you what variable fonts are about and why this kind of control might be good for design work of any kind online or offline...

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15 minutes ago, michacassola said:

Just go there please, play with some of the sliders in one of the examples and if that doesn't show you what variable fonts are about and why this kind of control might be good for design work of any kind online or offline...

But how is that relevant to work in the Affinity applications, or to the output files that the Affinity applications can create?

They are certainly useful on web sites, but Affinity applications do not create web sites or HTML output.

They cannot be used in PDF files, unless you Convert to Curves, which loses the editability of the text. I suppose that would be useful for some users, but some would want editable text, and at that point they can't use the fonts even if the Affinity applications supported them.

So, for those of you who have asked for them, how do you plan to use them? Or how have you used them in your applications that already support them. That is what I'm wondering.

-- Walt

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Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, walt.farrell said:

PDF doesn't support Variable fonts yet

Variable fonts will likely not be supported in PDFs for years, reading between the lines: https://community.adobe.com/t5/adobe-fonts-discussions/adobe-fonts-and-otf-variable-fonts/m-p/11620824

Edit: I know this post on the Adobe site is almost 2 years old. It hasn't changed.

Edited by LondonSquirrel
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Thanks, @LondonSquirrel. That's an interesting article that provides some insight into how applications like the Affinity suite could handle variable fonts.

However, it also makes it clear to me that adding that support would be even more complex than I realized.

-- Walt

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On 5/11/2022 at 11:17 AM, walt.farrell said:

They cannot be used in PDF files, unless you Convert to Curves, which loses the editability of the text.

Depends on the application.
The easiest thing to do just insert shapes. (wam bam "We Support Variable Fonts")
InDesign inserts text which can be searched, screen readers work, edited, etc.

There is an ongoing discussion in GitHub about how to best design a variable font interface.
I hope Affinity asks for some early feedback when they decide to support variable fonts.

Regarding how will variable fonts be used in Affinity apps ...
Most users are going to easily understand the Weight and Width axes.
But the Optical Size is going to be the most immediately useful to the most users.
Adjustable Optical Size can have a noticeable effect on the quality.
Google Fonts has been going thru all of their VF fonts and making the Optical Size (opsz) axis scales match up to the expected point size settings. This way in the interface you can link the opsz to the point size and always have the "optimal" optical size.
This will help the beginner better results immediately, and help the "expert" hacks.

Helvetica Now Variable has Weight, Width, and Optical Size axes.
I am sure experts who design advertising for multiple media know how to use Optical Size properly.
They can create ads for phone, tablet, desktop, TV, kiosk, light panels, billboards, etc.
All properly optical size adjusted for display size and viewing distance.
Experts will notice, and know how to use it well.

Text book publishers can immediately use variable optical size.
All static optical size fonts have a built-in design size which may not match the text.
If a "caption" font design size is 6pt, when it is set at 9pt in the book it will look too dark.
If a "text" font design size is 12pt, when it is set in the book at 10.5pt it is going to look too light.
Same with the subhead, heading, and display static optical fonts.
You would have to have hundreds of optical size static fonts to be optimal.
Or one variable font which you can adjust exactly.

Grade is the other axis which is immediately useful.
Grade is like weight but there is no change in the character width.
Some fonts have tabular figures which stay the same width over all weights, this is similar.
Think of that for the entire font.
Apple added Grade (GRAD) to their interface variable font in 2020.
The upcoming Roboto Flex for Android will also add GRAD, and many other axes.
Grade is very useful for interfaces, and for print forms where space is tight.
Grade can also be an easy way to change the color of text without affecting the layout.
Book text looks a bit light, tweak the grade to darken it a bit, and have no reflow (on 400 pages).

There are other use cases, and advantages to advanced variable fonts.
For example much higher level justification is possible (and has been demonstrated).
The technology is rapidly changing.

Early adopters and knowledgeable experts are using variable fonts now.
The development of the variable fonts is happening very fast now.
The applications are lagging behind.

 

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On 5/11/2022 at 1:17 PM, walt.farrell said:

Libre's response is very helpful!  What appears obvious is a growing number of criteria or axis which an untold number of font foundries are creating.  I think it's time for some sort of 'clearing house' to review and consolidate (where appropriate) the various creative criteria.  Duplication is one problem, but the growing vastness of the number of aspects (axis) is approaching mind-numbing infinity.  Some form of standards board I think is getting to be overdue.  (Being on a tight time schedule, just the thought of having to take precious time to learn about twenty or thirty new font perimeters each day or even each week concerns me.)

Very good questino (how do we plan on using them...).  As I puruse the various foundries who are offering variables I'm finding the pricing structures to be a possible nightmare on their own.  Ex: $60 per, webfont has limit of 10K views.  That could take all of an hour on some sites, if that long.  Anyone have an opinion on that aspect??

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9 minutes ago, Hens said:

Well that's going to be the future folks.
A subscription based license for whatever media you want to use a font on.
No more one time buying a font or a weight when needed but pay up for the complete variable font and also pay up for views and usage.

Deja vu with respect to the lcommercial use side of the image industry.

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10 minutes ago, Hens said:

Well that's going to be the future folks.
A subscription based license for whatever media you want to use a font on.
No more one time buying a font or a weight when needed but pay up for the complete variable font and also pay up for views and usage.

I do think that will create a backlash where if those are the options, the majority of content developers will recoil back to the non-variable libraries.

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While variable fonts do present significant hurdles for PDF export, the opportunities they bring to designers exporting to other formats are increasingly becoming well understood by many designers today. Being able to set font weights between the standard, static sizes (ie: 435 vs 400 or 500). The ability to mix different defined axis (slope, softness, serifs, wonkiness, etc.) exposed by the designers in order to fine tune the type to the context/design without having to convert the text to outlines is a big plus. The ability to tweak icon/emoji/illustrative fonts for the context is also really useful. And being able to define font-palettes to change the colours used in fonts supporting the COLRv0 (eventually v1) standard will enable designers to quickly change the color scheme of a font to match the overall composition.

With more and more apps (Browsers, Embedded WebViews, Figma, Sketch, Illustrator, Cavalry, etc) supporting variable fonts it's only a matter of time before not providing support for them will become a liability for many. I'm not sure if the various eBook platforms are supporting them yet, but as they are all based off of existing web-standards it will likely only be a matter of time.

As for exporting to PDF, variable fonts could be sliced/subsetted on export to static versions, or (not a great idea) convert them to curves on export. I know many folks are writing off variable fonts because of the not insignificant issues with PDF, but I fear in doing so we also limit ourselves from the potentials they already provide in other formats and contexts.

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1 hour ago, RickyO said:

As I puruse the various foundries who are offering variables I'm finding the pricing structures to be a possible nightmare on their own.  Ex: $60 per, webfont has limit of 10K views.  That could take all of an hour on some sites, if that long.  Anyone have an opinion on that aspect??

There is a discussion about variable font pricing on TypeDrawers (where major font developers hang out). And as you can imagine there are differing opinions and pricing strategies. Some just add-up the total of the static fonts replaced (which is dumb in my opinion). Others have priced the VF for less - acknowledging that most users do not buy all the statics now. But they too are trying to adjust to this new market. It is going to take awhile for it to reach a new level.

Regarding web font pricing - I think it is insane (on some fonts). It amazes me that some people pay what look to me as ridiculous rates.

Fun fact: Google Fonts (GF) changed the Open Sans web font to variable in August 2021 (most people did not notice anything as the replacement was seamless). A GF web fonts insider mentioned in a TypeDrawers discussion that in Oct. 2021 they were serving that font 40 billion times a week. With a B. In a week. For free.

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23 minutes ago, Bryan Rieger said:

With more and more apps (Browsers, Embedded WebViews, Figma, Sketch, Illustrator, Cavalry, etc) supporting variable fonts it's only a matter of time before not providing support for them will become a liability for many. I'm not sure if the various eBook platforms are supporting them yet, but as they are all based off of existing web-standards it will likely only be a matter of time.

My point in asking the question above was that the Affinity applications do not, today, support HTML or ebook (which is a form of HTML) output. And the uses you've mentioned (which I've highlighted above) seem to be in HTML/ebook contexts.

Until that is supported by the Affinity applications, whenever that may be, the only use for variable fonts for Affinity users is in exporting to raster formats, or to vector formats (EPS, SVG, PDF) that also do not support variable fonts. And therefore even in the vector formats the user would have to choose to convert the fonts to curves (losing editable/translatable text) or the Affinity applications would need to turn into font generators and produce subsets of the variable fonts in a fixed-font format for embedding in the PDF files. That sounds very complex for an implementation, and I doubt it would happen.

-- Walt

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@walt.farrell don't forget that they are still very useful for folks exporting to bitmap and vector (via curve outlines) formats, providing them with additional flexibility to customize and tweak their text elements using the various axis provided. This is especially useful as doing significant vector manipulation of outlined fonts in Designer is not exactly a pleasant experience currently, and having to redo that work should the text change makes me weep. The importance of being able to retain those text elements as editable text shouldn't be overlooked just because the output is rendered static (without variable fonts).

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41 minutes ago, Bryan Rieger said:

As for exporting to PDF, variable fonts could be sliced/subsetted on export to static versions, or (not a great idea) convert them to curves on export. I know many folks are writing off variable fonts because of the not insignificant issues with PDF, but I fear in doing so we also limit ourselves from the potentials they already provide in other formats and contexts.

So here again is the question which keeps being asked but for which answers are not being provided: what output format would you be using for these variable fonts? Affinity does not support HTML/CSS, so what format would you be using for the output? Let us be clear: variable width fonts are intended for use with CSS. That is their intended home, not PDF. A typical search for variable fonts shows this: 'Variable fonts are an evolution of the OpenType specification. They let you use CSS to access all the styles contained in a single font file without worrying about browser distortions like fake bolds or italics.' (https://variablefonts.io/about-variable-fonts/).

I haven't written off variable fonts. I can see that some people are very in favour of them. But without a useful output format they aren't that useful. 

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49 minutes ago, LondonSquirrel said:

So here again is the question which keeps being asked but for which answers are not being provided: what output format would you be using for these variable fonts? Affinity does not support HTML/CSS, so what format would you be using for the output?

How about SVG, which last time I checked was an output format that the Affinity apps supported?

AFAIK (and from my limited experimentation) text elements in SVG documents can utilize variable fonts via CSS if the browser supports it.

Lastly, having to constantly toggle variable/static fonts on and off when moving between applications that support variable fonts and those that do not gets old really quickly. 

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39 minutes ago, LibreTraining said:

There is a discussion about variable font pricing on TypeDrawers (where major font developers hang out). And as you can imagine there are differing opinions and pricing strategies. Some just add-up the total of the static fonts replaced (which is dumb in my opinion). Others have priced the VF for less - acknowledging that most users do not buy all the statics now. But they too are trying to adjust to this new market. It is going to take awhile for it to reach a new level.

Regarding web font pricing - I think it is insane (on some fonts). It amazes me that some people pay what look to me as ridiculous rates.

Fun fact: Google Fonts (GF) changed the Open Sans web font to variable in August 2021 (most people did not notice anything as the replacement was seamless). A GF web fonts insider mentioned in a TypeDrawers discussion that in Oct. 2021 they were serving that font 40 billion times a week. With a B. In a week. For free.

If past business practices can be of any indicating value, there will be some foundries sticking with the "views" method of ongoing pricing, only to find out that a competitor is not doing so and is capturing vast amounts of the market (assuming they market well or get a following socially).  Nothing like having an internal committee convincing each other that the market will pay anything they believe true.  It appears there will be enough competitors to allow the market forces to prevail.

Ex: $60/10K views.  Site is generating 2MM views monthly, and the site has four font families.  That's $800/month just for fonts.  Dreams sometimes come true, and one like that if 20,000 sites use those four families, it's $16,000,000/month gross.  Plenty of room under that level for lesser pricing and other agreements to sneak in and undermine it all.

Personally, my opinion is the majors offering free fonts will do the same thing with variables that they did 30 years ago when Adobe thought they owned the typeface industry.

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11 minutes ago, Bryan Rieger said:

How about SVG, which last time I checked was an output format that the Affinity apps supposedly supported?

AFAIK text elements in SVG documents can utilize variable fonts via CSS if the browser supports it.

Does that actually work?

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1 minute ago, LondonSquirrel said:

Does that actually work?

I thought SVG formats had a number of security issues???

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On 5/11/2022 at 12:57 PM, michacassola said:

@wonderings and @walt.farrell
I think the need or want has been established by people requesting it here.

The fax machine gets the letter across, why use email? (I am sure someone is going to make the argument for faxes after this :D:D:D)

 

Of course we will!

Only one I can think of for faxes is the security, as in medical or legal or government, et al uses.  Emails are plain text, and if encoded, are still hackable.  Faxes, .... not really.

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3 minutes ago, Bryan Rieger said:

From my basic experimentation so far, yes, when embedded within the HTML DOM. 

The image below is from Finding the axes of a variable font and shows the variable font inspector that will soon ship in Firefox inspecting an embedded SVG document.

image.png.896443c67be6d0928c720c477a390c8f.png

Neither here nor there, but I think the author of the article you referenced as well as the header in the app in the capture is mixing up 'axes' with 'axis'.  Though there may be some subconscious impulse working there.....

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2 hours ago, RickyO said:

I think the author of the article you referenced as well as the header in the app in the capture is mixing up 'axes' with 'axis'

Where’s the mix-up? A variable font can have more than one axis, and the plural of ‘axis’ is ‘axes’.

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1 hour ago, Alfred said:

Where’s the mix-up? A variable font can have more than one axis, and the plural of ‘axis’ is ‘axes’.

Ouch, I never thought about that. Now I have to consider a singular that is more than one singular....  the singular(s) of Axes is both Axis and Axe.

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