Re: The display of *kholam* on PCs

From: John H. Jenkins (
Date: Thu Mar 06 2003 - 18:06:34 EST

  • Next message: Ram Viswanadha: "Re: length of text by different languages"

    On Thursday, March 6, 2003, at 01:42 PM, John Hudson wrote:

    > The problem you have is that Apple, despite being involved with
    > Unicode from the earliest days, have only recently shipped an OS with
    > native Unicode text processing available;

    This isn't quite true. Unicode support has been available on Macs
    since Mac OS 8.5, and, via GX, even earlier than that. For various
    reasons (many of them admittedly legitimate) application developers
    haven't been taking advantage of that support, but it has been there.

    > this text processing is only available to 'Cocoa' apps, i.e. apps
    > writtenly natively for OS X, rather than 'Carbonised' i.e. updated
    > from previous versions;

    This is also slightly off the mark. Carbonized applications can do
    Unicode through MLTE and ATSUI, and there are some who do.

    > there are still very few native Cocoa apps, and even the MS Office
    > suite under Apple has very poor Unicode support compared to the same
    > apps under Windows;

    This is a Microsoft issue, not an Apple one.

    > Apple have been saying for years that they would support OpenType
    > Layout features in some way, but have yet to do anything;

    We've been deliberately vague on this issue, because OTL support
    (directly or indirectly) on the Mac is not high on the to-do list of
    the people who actually call the shots. In fairness, both MS and Adobe
    have had similar problems, where OTL support has been provided
    piecemeal because of how it fits in with their long-term strategies.

    In the meantime, the other issue for adding OTL support to the Mac is
    largely a resource one. We're a distant second in the OS desktop race.
      We don't have the resources that Adobe and MS have (and, if you ask
    people over there, they will also express frustration at how much
    they're expected to do with their limited resources). Under the
    circumstances, since we would have to rewrite large chunks of our
    layout engine in order to use OTL directly, it's no wonder that we
    haven't done it. There hasn't been a significant call for it among the
    bulk of our customers, and what engineers we have are set to other

    It's the same reason why Unicode support has been slow to come for some
    higher-end applications. Rewriting the guts of something that's
    already in use is costly and difficult, harder (in many cases) than
    writing it for the first time. It's no coincidence that InDesign had
    CoolType support from the beginning, whereas Illustrator had to wait
    for it to show up.

    I won't deny that Apple's had more than its share of ball-fumbling, and
    Unicode is a big part of that; but this is largely a side effect of our
    stumbling through most of the 90's without having a "next generation
    OS" strategy that we would actually follow through on.

    > Apple continue to rely on their own AAT font format, despite the fact
    > that almost no font developers are producing fonts for that format (GX
    > by any other name smelling as sweet). So while I sympathise with your
    > concern that the fonts might appear to be 'Windows-only', I think the
    > proper target for your frustration is Apple, who have been
    > systematically fumbling the ball for several years now.

    The AAT font format has been around for the better part of a decade,
    and free tools (more on which below) to develop AAT fonts has been
    around for pretty much that whole time. I think it would be fairer to
    say that it didn't make economic sense for font developers to build AAT
    features into their fonts. The number of languages which *require*
    complex typography is a minority of all languages (at least, in terms
    of economic clout), and with few apps (until recently) supporting it,
    there was little incentive.

    >> Also, are you saying that the requisite font layout features are only
    >> doable via OpenType?
    > In the initial version of the font, yes. It is an OpenType font, using
    > OpenType glyph substitution and positioning technology to correctly
    > render Biblical Hebrew from Unicode encoded text strings. That said,
    > if funding is available, it would be possible to make a version of the
    > typeface in the AAT format, using that technology to produce the same
    > shaping (I've some experience with AAT, but I'm not sure just how
    > difficult it might be to achieve some of the cleverer contextual stuff
    > I have in the SBL Hebrew OT font; AAT is a very difficult format to
    > develop for, and Apple's tools leave a *lot* to be desired).

    Our newer tools are substantially improved, but you have hit one of the
    problematic nails on the head here. The core of the AAT layout
    technology is the 'mort' table, which earned its name by being deadly
    difficult to make. The newer 'morx' table we use now isn't much
    better. The 'mort' table was designed in the early 1990's, when memory
    was much more at a premium than it is now and when processors were
    slower. The 'mort' is compact, fast, and powerful, but at a price.
    They're not terribly easy to make. In particular, most of the
    typographers I know are more artistic than geeky and tend to shudder at
    the thought of designing a state table.

    But not everything in a 'morx' requires a state table. Ligature
    support is *really* easy to do, and has been for years and years. The
    fact of the matter is that the bulk of the font designers out there
    don't even *know* that there's a way to add ligature support to fonts
    on the Mac. We've tried to get the word out, but obviously we haven't

    Still, when and where people have come to use to ask for help, we've
    done what we could to provide it. Frankly, few people have come.

    > The best long-term solution is for Apple to follow through on their
    > promise to support OpenType Layout features, so that we have a
    > genuinely cross platform font solution.

    As I say, we've been careful not to make public promises in any detail
    on this issue. I'm not aware of any time when we've said more than
    that we're hoping to provide OT to AAT layout table conversion possible
    using our tools. We really can't commit ourselves on this.

    Given the fact that many application developers are basically echoing
    the same sentiment (why waste money developing for the Mac when I can
    get 90% of the same customer base without spending the money), I'm not
    sure it's entirely a matter of it being our fault, however. Certainly
    I'm not sure that the best long-term solution to having competing OSes
    is for everybody to simply switch over to Windows, either.

    The best *short-term* solution is for someone to tell them that if
    they're interested, they can contact us directly and we'll see what we
    can work out. We could probably work out AAT support for their
    specific font without too much trouble.

    John H. Jenkins

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