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Font Tattler


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 Font Tatter is a proposed tool to help debug CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) style sheets, Java GUI (Graphic User Interface) applications and HTML (Hypertext Markup Language). A programmer needs to know what font, size, style, anti-alias is being used at a given spot on the screen. She wants to make sure it is what she intended. She might want to match it somewhere else. She needs to know what is called to be able search for the place where it is being set. She needs to check for consistency. She needs to be sure font substitution logic is working.

I propose two completely different Font Tattler tools:

  1. As a CSS inspector extension to Firefox FireBug/Inspector or Opera FireFly. The inspector determines which CSS styles are being used to render a given text selection. It then decides which of the possible fonts are actually installed and tells you about the first one. You also sort through the various cascaded style sheets used to render the selection to work out the size of the font in points/pixels.
  2. As a stand alone Java program. You paste into it a screen shot sample of some text, picked of any screen in any program, perhaps using FastStone. You then analyse the bits looking for a match among the installed fonts. You have advantages over general OCR (Optical Character Recognition). You have a limited set of possible fonts. Your samples are perfect. You can precisely define height for each character. The problem in complicated by antialiasing various colours over other colours subtly changing the bit map. You don’t now what the text says, though you could ask the user or an OCR program. The user might present a font sample from some other computer, one not generated by a local font, or one generated by some hidden font not installed in the OS (Operating System) or Java.

The FontShower Applet shows you how to discover and render Fonts. You might borrow some code. The Masker Applet shows you how to build bit map text images in RAM (Random Access Memory).

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