Variable Font Collections

This is a short article that is simply meant to draw developers’ attention to three OpenType/CFF2 Collections (aka Variable Font Collections) that I built this week, which are now available in the open source Variable Font Collection Test project. As stated in the project, the purpose of these Variable Font Collections is to simulate the Source Han and Noto CJK fonts deployed as Variable Fonts, to help make sure that the infrastructure—OSes, apps, layout engines, libraries, and so on—will support them. Remember that it took several years for Microsoft to support OpenType/CFF Collections (OTCs), which finally happened on 2016-08-02. In other words, this is not trivial.

In addition to being collections, these Variable Font Collections are also meant to exhibit characteristics that may have been overlooked in environments that support Variable Fonts, such as multiple FDArray elements, and also include a large number of glyphs and Unicode mappings. These are the characteristics of Pan-CJK fonts, meaning that these Variable Font Collections accurately simulate genuine real-world use cases. In terms of Adobe’s own apps, I am pleased to state that these Variable Font Collections are responsible for a half-dozen bug reports. None of my colleagues went into shock after learning that these fonts broke our apps.

Why collections? Deploying Pan-CJK fonts as separate language-specific Variable Fonts doesn’t make much sense, mainly because it defeats one of the purposes of Variable Fonts, which is a reduced footprint.

BTW, I built what may have been the very first Variable Font Collection on 2019-01-08 using Variable Fonts that my colleague, Masataka Hattori (服部正貴), prepared. I then built what may have been the very first Variable Font with multiple FDarray elements on 2019-01-29. Good stuff.

In closing, I’d like to thank my colleague, Miguel Sousa, for preparing the CFF2 glyph data that I used as the basis for these Variable Font Collections. They should serve as excellent testing fodder for developers of font-consuming software.


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