To draw type, using a fully featured drawing program like Inkscape can be fun to experiment with shapes, but the drawing tools of an outline editor like FontForge are best for actually drawing a coherent system of glyphs. To learn more, there are Books and Typeface Design Education courses you can read and attend.
To make fonts, use FontForge and xgridfit. There is a great FontForge Tutorial to get started with. On the Existing Fonts page are links to scans from old books and specimen sheets that could be used to create 'revival' typefaces. This could be a good starting exercise.
This page lists software tools for creating and manipulation fonts.
Free Libre and Open Source Software
To run GNU/Linux programs on Mac OS X can be done natively, but it is complex. Instead, simply use a Virtual Machine. There is a great free software one!
1. Downloading the 700Mb Ubuntu Desktop i386 image from http://www.ubuntu.com/getubuntu/download
2. Download http://www.kju-app.org/kju/ to run it - start a VM and it will create a ~/Documents/Qemu/ folder with a disk image that will only take up as much space as you use, and is limited to 4Gb, and run a VM from that disk image. It will complain there is no disk, so from the File menu, tell it that the CD ROM is that ISO you just downloaded.
3. Ubuntu then boots!
- Inkscape is a SVG editor great for all drawing tasks. (A really great video of Inkscape 0.47 used to design type!)
- FontForge is the best Free Software font editor. See the FontForgeInstallation page for installation details.
- Xgridfit implements an XML-based language for hinting TrueType fonts.
- VIPS is a library and GUI for handing large images, such as high quality scans of public domain specimen sheets
- Spiro is Raph Levien's wildly innovative and totally new curve technology. Raph posted a litle about this before in October 2006. It is GPL licensed software, and covered in the USA by a Software Idea Patent (with a GPL exception!)
Command Line Editors
- TTX/FontTools -- "TTX is a tool to convert OpenType and TrueType fonts to and from XML. FontTools is a library for manipulating fonts, written in Python. It supports TrueType, OpenType, AFM and to an extent Type 1 and some Mac-specific formats."
- LCDF Type Tools -- "The LCDF Typetools package contains several command-line programs for manipulating PostScript Type 1 and PostScript-flavored OpenType fonts." The classical t1utils package is also found there.
- FontQA "fontQA is an easy framework for font testing and quality assurance written in Python" (GPLv2)
Java was set free in 2006 ([FSF Press Release])
- DoubleType "... is a type designer (font editor) that builds TrueType font files." It runs on all Java platforms.
- TTF to SVG convertor
- Another Java TTF to SVG utility
- RoboFab is ‘a Python library with objects that deal with data usually associated with fonts and type design’. It depends on FontLab for some of its functionality, like generating font binaries. The "NoneLab" components depend on only Python. There is a historical link with the TTX/FontTools. Python licensed.
- LetterSoup is a new GPLv3 tool by Ricardo Lafuente
- Dead Link gfontsampler font sampler
- gucharmap unicode character mapper
- guci gtk unicode inspector
- pdffonts list the fonts in a pdf
- Fonts::TTF a perl module for advanced fonts hacking
- sfddiff: differ for fontforge source format
- showttf: look at the font metadata
- fonttools: set of python utilities to represent fonts in XML
- gwaterfall: compare font rendering/hinting at different sizes
Scripts for FontLab (possibly portable/ported to Fontforge)
There is a Debian/Ubuntu metapackage available to easily install all this open font toolkit:
sudo apt-get install open-font-design-toolkit
A post on the Ubuntu Forum explains how to improving the on-screen display of fonts using sub pixel rendering
It is ethically legitimate to use non-free proprietary software in order to gain experience and ideas for helping to write Free Software replacements - GNU Project
We need to persuade proprietary programmers to respects users' freedom, or we ourselves need to write libre replacements, for the following tools:
- FontLab state-of-the-art proprietary font editor written originally for Windows but with a Mac OS X port.
- Kalliculator is an innovative approach to MetaFont-style calligraphic typeface design. Written in Python for Mac OS X using RoboFab.
- iKern - premier quality autospacing and autokerning system.
- Adobe Font Developer Kit
- Gustavo Ferreira presented an innovative system for designing pixel fonts at the ATypI 2005 Conference in Helsinki. He has suggested that it will be published in 2007 though its Free Software status is uncertain.