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Archive for April, 2009

Since I wrote the “Porting Fonts Tutorials” section of the website, there has been a new font conversion utility from Morrison SoftDesign (http://www.morrisonsoftdesign.com) that has been released. FontXChange is available for the Macintosh only and is for OS 10.3 or higher. It will convert fonts from Macintosh format to Windows format and vise-versa. The single-user license sells for $99 (US). It can convert fonts to OpenType PostScript (single-file format), PostScript Type 1 (two-file format) and TrueType for Macintosh and Windows.

One of the nice features is that it can batch convert an entire library of fonts. It also allows you to set preferences for different font encodings. It supports Adobe Standard, Unicode, Mac Roman, and Windows ANSI, and European encodings. With the new single-file OpenType format now being used, it can come in handy for converting PostScript two-file fonts to single-file OpenType fonts. This is especially helpful when working on page layouts with DTP applications where the document files will be edited on Macintosh and Windows computers. One of the biggest problems in the past was text reflow caused by font incompatibilites between Macintosh and Windows systems. Using OpenType fonts can help because the same font files can be used on both platforms.

Xara Xtreme is an all-in-one graphics application that is also a great value for only $89 USD. You can get it at the Xara.com website (http://www.xara.com/us/products/xtreme/). This graphics application has full vector drawing capability plus image editing all rolled into one. It has a large customer base and the gallery at the Xara website features several professional artists with some very impressive work (http://www.xara.com/gallery/). The Xara company is based in England. When you order the software, they will ship it to you on a CD-ROM.

Recently, after the demise of FreeHand, Xara began marketing Xtreme to FreeHand users as its replacement. Xara began to offer the Xtreme Pro version with PANTONE support and color separation support. The Xtreme Pro version goes for $249 USD.

Xara Xtreme has some really cool built-in features like 3D Extrude and named colors. Many users are already familiar with Xara 3D – a user-friendly application for making cool 3D headlines and graphics. Xara has incorporated some of the main functionality from Xara 3D into Xara Extreme. The named colors functionality is also very handy because you can define a few basic colors and change the whole look of a button or even a web page design by shifting the HSB values of the main color (the HSB / HSL color model is referred to as HSV in Xara).

This is just a short post on some of the high points of the software. I hope to explore this application in greater detail and provide more info on it in future posts.

The quickest and best free online font identification is to be found at WhatTheFont from MyFonts.com. (http://www.myfonts.com/WhatTheFont/). You simply upload an image file either from a url on the Internet or from a file on your local drive. The website will do character recognition on your image and separate the image into individual letters on a subsequent screen. Here you will have a chance to make corrections, such as replacing lower case letters with uppercase or vise-versa. On this screen you can also re-combine compound shapes that have become separated like the dotted “i”. You simply drag and drop the dot over the dotless “i” and assign the letter “i” to that re-combined shape. You can repeat this process for any letters that have become separated. After you have made corrections, simply click the “Search” button. You will be directed to a list of possible fonts that match the uploaded sample.

Tips for preparing images for upload:

  1. The maximum image size allowed is about 360 px x 275 px. I believe it goes by total number of pixels.
  2. The recommend ideal letter height is around 100 px.
  3. Try to make sure that each letter is separated and not touching.

The service will accept most common image file formats like GIF, JPEG, TIFF or BMP.

This free service is dead-on. If you have a good quality image that has been prepared well, it rarely misses. This is an invaluable tool that I use all the time. Here are a few tips that I have figured out from my own experience using Photoshop to prepare the images to be uploaded:

  1. Try to use black letters over a white background. If you are working from a color image you can convert it to grayscale first, then use the Photoshop Levels adjustment or brightness and Contrast adjustment to make the letters black.
  2. If you are working from a low resolution image sample that is not accurate enough for a good sample, sometimes it is possible to upsample the image to 150 ppi or 300 ppi.
  3. As an alternative to upsampling, you can sometimes use the Magic Wand to either select the letters or select the background – then invert the selection – whichever gives you a better selection of the letters. Make sure the “Anti-aliased” checkbox is selected in the Magic Wand Tools options. Then you can copy the selection to a new layer or a new file, then click Select > Transform Selection. Hold down the Shift key while dragging one of the corner selection handles and enlarge the selection area to a decent size. Then click Edit > Fill and choose Black as the fill color. This is one way to get a little more detail for the letters.

I can’t tell you how many times this service comes in handy. Many times I will get a job that requires small changes to some website graphics. Most of the website owners don’t have access to any of the source files that could be used to identify any of the fonts and have no clue what the fonts are. With this free service I can ID the fonts in short order.