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optical kerning?


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  • 2 months later...

I just started using Affinity Publisher today - coming from InDesign. I'm suitably impressed overall, but I find some areas a little unclear. Kerning is one of those areas.

There is no 'metrics' and 'optical' setting, as there is with InDesign - there is merely 'auto', which is what exactly? In a comparison, it looks like auto is closer to 'optical' - it's certainly not 'metrics'. 

With InDesign, in either kerning mode, I can step the cursor between each character pair and see the exact kerning amount - which clearly varies depending on the character pair. With Affinity, set to auto, it looks like you always get a measurement of zero in parenthesis (indicating auto), so it's not clear how each character pair is being adjusted, if at all.

In order for me to replicate the overall effect of 'metrics' - the effect being to fit a particular sentence on one line vs having an orphan word on a second line - I have to apply a slight negative tracking. It's so slight that a casual observer wouldn't notice that every character pair is being uniformly squished, but I know and it feels wrong - maybe I'm just a tad OCD - but if kerning exists at all, should it not be applied in a well-understood way?

That brings me to how kerning is implemented in paragraph styles. With InDesign you can only set it to 'optical', 'metrics', or 'none'. With Affinity Publisher, you get to specify an exact number, which rather does the same thing as adjusting the tracking, does it not?

None of this should draw overly negative comments, in my humble opinion. That said, and in summary, my feature requests would be to:

1. Constrain the kerning option within a paragraph style definition to be 0 or auto

2. Better define what 'auto' kerning actually means or does

3. With 'auto' kerning selected, display the exact kerning adjustment between character pairs, when the cursor is so positioned

4. Provide a second 'auto' - I guess to mirror InDesign's options, but it could be to reflect some other regime

 

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@MikeW, thanks for the clarification. I respectfully challenge you on that assertion: two identically sized text frames, identical text copies, with identical formatting, save for kerning, which is indicated in each case.

To me, Affinity's 'auto' kerning resembles InDesign's 'optical' kerning regime, while I had to globally apply a slight negative tracking in order to approximate the overall result of 'metrics' kerning.

Affinity 'auto' may be targeting InDesign 'metrics', but it hasn't achieved it, I think.

 

image.thumb.png.5b8b28d7b1a81cb238520604c431f9ce.png

image.thumb.png.bfbd5af5b3ea447a1fbc9f418535b07c.png

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13 minutes ago, deft hands said:

@MikeW, thanks for the clarification. I respectfully challenge you on that assertion: two identically sized text frames, identical text copies, with identical formatting, save for kerning, which is indicated in each case. ...

Challenge away. But it is. Even if the results are slightly dissimilar.

APub doesn't have optical kerning and likely will not have anytime soon, if ever. APub uses the kerning within the font. 

If you desire to play, make sure you upload both an APub and idml file that are in a zip file.

 

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@MikeW, thanks for clearing that up. I'm kind of interested to know why there's a difference - I always assumed the kern amounts were absolute values specified by the type designer. But I'm not going to lose any sleep over it! But it'd be nice to see the exact kern amounts, pair-by-pair.

Thanks also for the tip about Single Line Composer - I'd quite forgotten about that! Seems InDesign is the only one implementing a Paragraph Composer.

Quote

If you desire to play, make sure you upload both an APub and idml file that are in a zip file.

Not sure I understand what you are getting at here, is this a tip for future postings? I confess I'm not adept at forum postings and protocol - probably even messed up inserting your quote, above.

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As I have said before, I use InDesign's "optical kerning" quite often, and I would be glad to see it here as well. However, the developers are not keen on the idea. For example:

On 2/9/2019 at 6:46 AM, Dave Harris said:

Mainly we have too much other stuff to do. Also, it's a bit of an open-ended project to find a geometric solution that looks good in enough cases.

For my part, optical kerning was a solution to a problem (namely, that so many fonts, even professional ones, haven’t been able to think through all of the possible kerning pairs in different languages in an optimal way, or at least to my taste). But I am not stuck on that one solution. Another solution (which I think it was MikeW who pointed out) is that QuarkXPress allows to manually tweak specific kerning pairs. That seems like a better and more powerful option, in my opinion, because with InDesign’s optical kerning, I may fix one kerning problem by turning on optical kerning but make some other kerning less than ideal, so I am always stuck with picking the lesser of two evils. With manually tweaking specific pairs, I can go as far as my own time and ability allow. Additionally, I suspect this would be easier for Serif to implement, and it would bypass the “open-ended” nature of the project, because they would not have to find a geometric solution pleasing to everyone.

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6 minutes ago, deft hands said:

If you desire to play, make sure you upload both an APub and idml file that are in a zip file.

Not sure I understand what you are getting at here, is this a tip for future postings? I confess I'm not adept at forum postings and protocol - probably even messed up inserting your quote, above.

I just meant that if you wish to demonstrate an issue, especially between ID/Other layout application/APub, it helps for others to investigate if there are sample files.

In all my tests between ID, QXP & APub regarding this issue, I have never seen an instance where the text differs in composition as long as ID is using the single line composer + metrics in many different fonts.

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Oh okay. Here are the files - maybe you can point out the error of my ways. But no worries, if this doesn't warrant further attention on your part.

Separately, I just noticed by uploading the files, how much smaller the .afpub file is - that's kind of impressive! Unless I'm doing something in InDesign to cause the larger size.

kern example.indd

kern example.afpub

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29 minutes ago, deft hands said:

Oh okay. Here are the files - maybe you can point out the error of my ways. But no worries, if this doesn't warrant further attention on your part.

Separately, I just noticed by uploading the files, how much smaller the .afpub file is - that's kind of impressive! Unless I'm doing something in InDesign to cause the larger size.

kern example.indd

kern example.afpub

I would need an idml file. I don't have a current subscription and am using CS6. And likely my Gill Sans will be a different version (Gill Sans MT Pro here).

I've attached a zip with .indd, .indml, .apub & a .qxp files (.qxp is version 2019 and is thrown in for good measure). Fonts used are Arial Version 7.00, and Times New Roman Version 7.00.

I mention the font versions because kerning is one of those things that are usually changed between versions--which is why when archiving (if/when it is added), Affinity applications need to collect fonts for reprints. And Affinity applications need to use the archived project's Font folder to ensure against reflow.

 

test.zip

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Oops, sorry about that. Your examples represent a far more complete examination than my meagre offering. I can see that with the Times New Roman, you get an exact match between AP and ID metrics.

Interestingly, I switched the typeface to Gill Sans Light and the differences become apparent. Sorry, I don't know the font version - but your observation in that regard just tells me that kerning is way more idiosyncratic than I had supposed.

Thank you for your time, effort and considered responses!

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No worries! This comparative thing is interesting to me.

The biggest changes I see are between ID's optical kerning with/without the paragraph composer. And of course APub vs. ID with the paragraph composer. With metrics or the optical kerning and the line composer being used, I don't see enough difference to care about. 

Between jobs, I bounce around various forums and application FB groups and either help people, stir up things, and generally just play on the computer solving various design problems. Beats TV.

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4 hours ago, deft hands said:

Thank you for your time, effort and considered responses!

 

3 hours ago, MikeW said:

No worries! This comparative thing is interesting to me.

Thanks both of you. This little discussion has shown me that kerning is not just dependant on fonts and language (objective) but also that there is a personal preference (subjective) involved.

MacBook Pro (13-inch, Mid 2012) Mac OS 10.12.6 || Mac Pro (Late 2013) Mac OS 11.6.8

Affinity Designer 1.10.5 | Affinity Photo 1.10.5 | Affinity Publisher 1.10.5 | Beta versions as they appear.

I have never mastered color management, period, so I cannot help with that.

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16 hours ago, deft hands said:

InDesign is the only one implementing a Paragraph Composer.

In my use it would be more important to have paragraph composer in Publisher than optical kerning. Metrics are mostly good enough for me and I can adjust manually if it is not.

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6 hours ago, Fixx said:

In my use it would be more important to have paragraph composer in Publisher than optical kerning. Metrics are mostly good enough for me and I can adjust manually if it is not.

Hmm, I have a hard time deciding which is more important in my usage, but I do admit that a paragraph composer is higher on my personal wishlist. My reasoning is that it affects literally every document I do (some more than others, depending on the size of text and the width of text columns). Whereas the need for optical kerning or some other solution can be bypassed with a different choice of fonts. (However, between this and the lack of the ability to adjust underline vertical position, my collection of acceptable fonts is diminished.)

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+1 to this from my site... 

We definitely need this feature! Please, please, please include an automated optical kerning algorithm to make text look good in less time. Manual kernig is great, but the time it takes will never be payed by a client.

@Patrick Connor

Thank you and keep up the great work!
-Alex

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18 hours ago, Hoost said:

I just came here to say that the lack of optical kerning is the sole reason for me to not to use the entire affinity suite.

I'm surprised that it's a showstopper for you but I don't disagree it would be a valuable addition. But I hope that if and when Serif adds it they do it in a more thoughtful way than Adobe.

Adobe gives examples in their help system for when optical kerning is important and they are spot on - for roman fonts that lack robust kerning pairs and when mixing two fonts, such as when the first character of a word is set in a different font.

But I believe Adobe chose poor names for the kerning option because the average user doesn't understand the difference between them - I'm not implying that the people asking for optical kerning in this thread don't understand the difference. Optical just sounds better than Metrics and an inexperienced user will pick it over Metrics. If they're using a professional font at common text sizes, they are doing themselves a disservice by ignoring what the font designer intended.

An app should help its users make the right choice so I think better options would be:

- Auto: uses kerning pairs (metrics) if available. If not available or applicable, and when two characters from different fonts are used, optical kerning would be used automatically.

- Optical override: ignore kerning pairs (metrics) even if available. Equivalent to Adobe's Optical option.

I think a truly automatic setting combined with terms like these might help inexperienced users make better choices and still give experienced people the flexibility they want.

Affinity Publisher/Designer/Photo for macOS Monterey, MacBook Pro (M1 Pro)

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