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Fonts, Fonts, Fonts
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Author:dhomas trenn
Published by:NewTekniques magazine (US)
Date:June 1999

There are, literally, thousands of fonts freely available on the internet. Unfortunately, the Amiga is a bit behind in it's support for standard formats such as TrueType (.TTF) and PostScript Type1 (.PFB) - which is what you are most likely to find.

Some applications, such as the Video Toaster and Pagestream, include direct support for Type1 fonts; but other important software, like ImageFX, do not. And nothing on the Amiga, that I'm aware of, can use TrueType fonts.

Don't be discouraged. What if you could use TrueType fonts with ToasterCG? What if you could use these standard font formats in almost any Amiga program? What if all those Toaster fonts you have collected, could be used for something else? Or maybe you're just bored of two-dimensional, one color fonts? Read on...You are about to discover that there is a whole world of font fun ready and waiting for you.

Kinds of Fonts
There are two main kinds of computer fonts, bitmap and outline.

In a bitmap font, each character is represented as a rectangular grid of pixels that are either on or off. Basically, the font is just a series of images that represent the different characters at a single size. To display text, each character's image is directly copied to the output device (monitor, printer). This process is very fast; but, you can not easily change the size or shape of a character, without a significant loss of quality. Bitmap fonts are the main Amiga font format.

Characters in an outline font are represented mathematically, as a series of lines and curves. This means that text has to be rendered (rasterized) before it can be displayed - and is therefore, much slower than when using bitmap fonts. However, one benefit is that character size and shape can be changed easily - without any reduction in quality. Examples of outline fonts include TrueType, PostScript Type1, and Compugraphic. The Amiga does include basic support for Compugraphic outline fonts; but, these are not easy to find.

Where to Get More Fonts
The best way to find TrueType fonts is to go to an internet search engine and do a search for "free fonts". I recommend, because it has the most comprehensive search database - or is also a good choice. Beware, addiction can quickly set in.

If Type1 fonts are what you are after, you'll have to search a little harder - they are not as popular as they once were. Aminet has hundreds of them in the aminet: text/pfont/ directory.

Most websites indicate whether their fonts are in TrueType or Type1 format; but, if you're not sure, download one and unarchive it to see. Most likely, all the other archives at that site will be in the same format. Don't be mislead by websites that only mention MAC or Windows. By now, you should realize that this doesn't mean the Amiga can't play, too.

What You Need
Most fonts, not found on Aminet, will be stored in ZIP archive format. So, you'll need an UnZIP utility (aminet: util/arc/UnZip.lha).

To use Type1 fonts, you need a .PFB file and it's corresponding .AFM file, which should be included in each font's archive. To use TrueType fonts, you only need a .TTF file. Additional files may also be included; but, they are not required and can therefore be deleted.

Adding Outline Font Support
So, now that you have lots of new fonts, what can you do with them? Although you can't directly use Type1 or TrueType fonts with most Amiga applications, there are a couple easy ways around that.

The freeware type1.library (aminet: util/libs/Type1Engine.lha ), authored by Amish Dave, is a very elegant solution to the lack of Type1 support. To install it, you simply copy the library into LIBS:. MUI (aminet: util/libs/mui38usr.lha) must also be installed, if you don't already have it. Then, start T1Manager, set the Font Drawer, and click the Install gadget to select the font(s) you want to use. Only select .PFB files. To select more than one font, shift-click on the additional font names - or use the Match.. gadget with "#?.PFB", to select all the fonts in that directory. You can also use T1Manager to view your installed fonts.

Richard Griffith's ttf.library (aminet: util/libs/ttflib.lha), also freeware, works in a very similar manner, providing support for TrueType fonts with Amiga applications, including ToasterCG. Installation is identical to that of the type1.library, with the exception that MUI is not required. The TTFManager program is also similarly easy to use. Select a Font Source and Destination and then Install. For more control, an options panel is available to set various font settings. The archive also includes a nice stand-alone TrueType font viewer and some other related utilities.

With either, or both, of these font systems installed, most Amiga applications that support the Amiga's native bitmap fonts, will also be able to use these formats. Although it is possible, I don't recommend that you use TrueType or Type1 fonts for workbench or program interfaces. They are slower, and the stability of these systems, in constant use, is not known. But, to get access to these fonts in programs, such as ImageFX and ToasterCG, this is a great way to go - and highly recommended.

Converting Fonts
If an Amiga application, that uses bitmap fonts, does not work with the ttf/type1.library systems, there is a program, included in the ttf.library archive, called Bitline that can help. With the appropriate support library installed, Bitline can create standard Amiga bitmap fonts, in specific sizes, from TrueType or Type1 fonts. It's as simple as telling it the font name and size to be generated.

Applications that do not support bitmap fonts will not be able to take advantage of these systems. ToasterPaint, for example, will only work with Type1 fonts. In this case, you'll need a way to convert other outline formats to Type1.

The only program, that I know of, that converts between various formats of outline fonts, is TypeSmith. The program is mainly intended for designing high quality outline fonts - a job that requires more effort than most readers will have patience for. But, TypeSmith can also import and export various font formats, among which are TrueType and Type1. This is a commercial program, but I have seen it available for as low as $20. Even if you just use it for font conversion, it's well worth the price.

Faster Font Selection
One of the things you'll discover is that the more fonts you have, the longer it will take for the Amiga font requesters to initialize. But, there's a solution to that, too.

FontCache (aminet: text/font/FontCache.lha), from author Thomas Richter, is a freeware patch for the diskfont.library that provides very quick font requester initialization. It works by building a database of available fonts and getting the font requester to read that database, instead of rescanning the FONTS: directory every time; thus opening a font requester is much faster.

With almost 500 fonts installed on my system, the unpatched font requester takes about a 1m:23s to display. With FontCache installed, the same process takes only 4 seconds. If you add or remove fonts, FontCache is smart enough to update it's database automatically.

Note that non-standard font requesters, such as used in ToasterCG, will not benefit from this patch.

Candy Factory
Okay, so you've got hundreds of fonts now, and the excitement has warn off. What you need next, is something to really spice things up.

If you have an AGA Amiga or a graphics card, Candy Factory is a must-have freeware utility. Candy Factory, by Milan Pollé, will take any "mask" as an input and allow you to add shading, specular highlights, ambient light, variable bevels, normal and diffused glows, soft shadows, noise bumping, metallic effects and more. The masks it uses are just black & white IFF format images, that can easily be created using any paint program - with your choice of fonts, clip-art or other graphics.

The effects that Candy Factory produces could probably be created in any image processing program; but, it would take you a lot longer to do it that way. Candy Factory allows you to edit many of it's options with real-time visual feedback, including material settings, light source and reflection position, shadow position and intensity, glow color and intensity. Other effects such as shadow, glow and beveled edge generation, require a short rendering time - dependent on the speed of your computer. PPC users will get up to ten times increase in rendering speed, or even real-time control of all parameters.

Although the program seems to be intended for making fancy text, which it is very good at, there's no reason why you have to use it just for that purpose. You can just as easily turn silhouettes and clip-art into "eye candy".

With careful parameter modification and repeated saving of individual frames, you could also make some very interesting animations. One such example would be to have a still title with a moving light source. Great for video project title screens.

The freeware version of Candy Factory (aminet: gfx/3d/CandyFactory.lha) is fully functional; but, Candy Factory Pro (aminet: biz/titan/CandyProDemo.lha) is also available with more extensive features.

Font Machine
Font Machine, from ClassX Development, works a little different; but, the final results can be similar to what you can create with Candy Factory.

Like Candy Factory, this program is not a font designer; but, more of a font enhancer instead. There are some important differences between the two though. Rather than manipulating a mask image, you begin by selecting any bitmap or Compugraphic font (or TrueType and Type1, as described previously). A preview window will appear, displaying several characters from the selected font. You can then apply various effects, including: embossing, beveling, 3D look, shadow casting, anti-aliasing and texture mapping.

When you are done designing, the program will then process every character in your source font, apply the enhancements you have made, and create a new ColourFont at any requested size. You can then use this new font with any ColourFont compatible applications, such as ImageFX and Deluxe Paint.

The advantage to the way this program works, is that once you have created a font, you then have immediate access to all characters with the new look you have designed. It's a simple matter to compose any textual display quickly. You don't have to create a new mask, reload previous settings and reprocess as you would with Candy Factory. You just select the font in whatever ColourFont application you use and type the needed text.

You are limited, however, in that you can only manipulate font characters. You can not apply the various effects to non-font graphics, nor to the background.

Font Machine will work with any display mode, though I recommend at least a 640x400, 16 color display. AGA and graphics card users will really benefit from working in 256 colors (the maximum supported by this program). For more details see the on-line review.

Font Organization
If you have a large collection of fonts, it can become difficult to find what you need for any given project. To make the search easier, It's a good idea to create a printed catalog. A catalog is also very handy to have when meeting with a client. The client can search through the catalog, and can help make decisions on styles that they like - it can sometimes make them feel more involved with the creative process.

I most often see alphabetized font catalogs with a single line of text for each font, displayed with a point size that allows numerous fonts to be shown per page. There are a couple problems with this method. Different fonts look best at different sizes, some are not readable at small sizes, while others reveal poor design flaws when they are enlarged. Also, if you add new fonts on a regular basis, it's then necessary to reprint the entire catalog every time you add new fonts, in order to maintain the alphabetization.

A better way is as shown in here, with one font per page. The title of the font is at the top. Below and to the right are indicators for the availability of bold and italic versions of that font. Below that, the alphabet is displayed, alternating uppercase and lowercase in the following point sizes: 10, 15, 20, 35, 45 and 75 - this is a good range to cover most uses. At the bottom, is a display of all the characters contained in the font, including foreign language characters if available. This method, gives a good overall view of each font and accommodates different needs when searching for an appropriate font.

It is also a good idea to organize your fonts, both in your catalog, and on your computer, into categories that best suit your working methods. I use fonts for graphic design, desktop publishing and video titling, so I have categories as follows: Body, Body-2, Body-Graphic, Body-Topic, Caps, Caps-3D, Caps-Graphic, Caps-Topic, Dingbats, NoCaps, Old, Script and Standard.

Body fonts are those that are usable for long reads of text, such as in a novel or magazine article - they also often include bold and italic versions. Caps are fonts that only contain capital letters - many public domain and demo fonts are limited in this manner to encourage you to buy the full versions. Dingbats are collections of symbols and other non-alphanumeric graphics. NoCaps are fonts that contain only lowercase letters. Old includes old-style fonts, such as Gothic forms. Script fonts are continuous-stroke styles, where each letter joins to the next or are calligraphic. Topic fonts are those that suggest a particular topic, such as fonts designed for Halloween - or that contain recognizable graphics, such as explosions, pipes, logs, paper clips, snowcaps, etc. Standard fonts are those commonly included in most printers.

If your main use of fonts is for video applications, you might consider categories such as: Credits-Still, Credits-Scrolling, Events-Conference, Events-Wedding, Interviews, Logos, Titles, etc.

Just the Beginning
There is still a lot more fun that can be had with fonts. This article should, hopefully, have opened up a whole new world of adventure; but, it doesn't have to end with the suggestions made here.