image provider

Font Stitcher


This essay does not describe an existing computer program, just one that should exist. This essay is about a suggested student project in Java programming. This essay gives a rough overview of how it might work. I have no source, object, specifications, file layouts or anything else useful to implementing this project. Everything I have prepared to help you is right here.

This project outline is not like the artificial, tidy little problems you are spoon-fed in school, when all the facts you need are included, nothing extraneous is mentioned, the answer is fully specified, along with hints to nudge you toward a single expected canonical solution. This project is much more like the real world of messy problems where it is up to you to fully the define the end point, or a series of ever more difficult versions of this project and research the information yourself to solve them.

Everything I have to say to help you with this project is written below. I am not prepared to help you implement it; or give you any additional materials. I have too many other projects of my own.

Though I am a programmer by profession, I don’t do people’s homework for them. That just robs them of an education.

You have my full permission to implement this project in any way you please and to keep all the profits from your endeavour.

Please do not email me about this project without reading the disclaimer above.

The Problems

Your Mission

Your mission if you choose to accept it, is to build a giant database of as many fonts as you can find. The database would contain type, source URL (Uniform Resource Locator), Panose number, cost and information on which characters are supported. It would not include the font outlines themselves.

For free fonts, you would download the fonts and extract the information from the font file.

It is also possible to glean this information even for pay fonts, where you are permitted to examine some font samples. You don’t have to check every character. If you see support for a and z you can presume support for b through y. Similarly, if you discover no support for you can assume no support for the closely related musical characters. It could be quite a tricky problem detecting which characters are missing from the rendered sample. By carefully choosing the characters in each sample probe, you can deduce quite a bit without doing OCR (Optical Character Recognition). All you have to do is break the results into individual characters, which is fairly easy if there is no kerning. You just compare entire the bit maps for entire rendered characters.

You have to be careful not to hammer any font site sample generator too heavily, or they will panic thinking you are pirating their fonts. You might approach them first to see if they will give you an electronic copy of their font catalog that contains this information. That would save you huge amounts of time. You have to explain carefully what you are doing so they understand if they co-operate, they lose nothing and gain sales.

Now you can set up a website. Clients can provide a list of characters they need support for and you can tell them which fonts support them all or individually.

What if it takes at least three different fonts to support all the needed characters? You need tools to do gene splicing filling in missing characters in one from outlines in another similar font. Either you find such a tool, or you write one. Ideally you can mix and match *.ttf, *.ps, *.otf and *.woff fonts.

The control file to stitch fonts together might look like this so you can do them in batch mode with a file created by the customer:

As a side effect of creating such splicing tools, you would also have a way to prune out any glyph outlines you do not need. That way your font downloads will be quick.

Your business can be creating custom fonts for people. You stitch them together from free fonts, or you make the arrangements for the customers buy purchase fonts, taking a commission or buying at a discount and marking them up. In cases where there are no suitable fonts to cannibalise, you might have some amateur font designers on tap, who will create an outline for a single character in the style of some existing font. What you are really selling is your expertise. You might provide other services like tweak their CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) to add the fonts to make them downloadable.

downloadable fonts
FontCreator student project
Panose number

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