Today’s Obsession: Learning Glyphs

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Left: editing in context. Right: the ruler tool in action.

So I don’t know about you nerds, but I spent a lot of my weekend in front of my computer. More specifically, I was getting acquainted with Georg Seifert’s Glyphs, which is available through his own site (where you pay him directly, without Apple’s 30% cut, but the price is a little higher) or on Apple’s App Store for $299.00 (where you can make app updating easier to control, but slower due to Apple’s review process).

The application itself is weirdly stable for 1.0 release, which—maybe I’m generous—seems odd. I expected it to be crashier.

I have a few problems with undo’s not working at times (which has yet to cause a major problem) and screen redraw details (guides don’t always immediately show up without nudging the display, and the Wacom driver caused a crazy zoom in and zoom out problem, which Georg addressed almost immediately in the support forums). Nothing has stopped me from my work, however.

The great thing about this app is that it rethinks the process of digital type design from the process itself. In Glyphs, rather than editing characters one at a time without seeing neighbors or contextually pertinent characters, you type your placement text into a window, and then work on the character you need until it matches everything else. Kind of genius.

My other favorite notion is the ruler tool, which works like no other ruler I’ve run across. Other rulers measure from the point you set your mouse down (which may be wildly far from what you actually need to measure) to where you drag (likewise). Georg’s implementation, in contrast, measures from where you first click to the first line segment it encounters, then from that line segment to the next line segment, then from to the remaining distance. So the end game is: you don’t need to waste your concentration trying to hit a specific pixel. It’s a great notion.

If you’re into typeface or lettering design, you should grab this. it’s worth the pricetag (and is actually cheaper than FontLab, which has terrible performance issues). I had one friend tell me that he understood the basics of the app within two hours—with no prior font design app experience, and without reading the manual. In a field riddled with technical stumbling blocks, that’s kind of amazing.