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Intro | Start | Ligatures | Small caps | OS numerals | Case-sensitive | Proofing | InDesign test

VOLT and InDesign tutorial

This guide was originally written by Microsoft Typography summer intern Andy Crewdson and originally published on 16 August 2000. Subsequent updates have been made by the Microsoft Typography team.

While the OpenType specification has been around for some years now, as with any new technology, the development of applications and tools which support the standard has taken some time. Naturally, font developers and users have had to first understand the potential of OpenType before becoming willing to adopt it and commit time and effort toward its support.

Recently, however, real-world support for OpenType has taken some significant strides forward. With the introduction of Windows 2000 (which natively supports OpenType fonts), Adobe InDesign (which supports OpenType fonts and various OpenType layout features), and Microsoft VOLT (an application that adds OpenType support to TrueType fonts), the tools for creating and using OpenType fonts are here. Despite these recent advances, the average font designer might be left asking, "how do all these technologies and tools fit together?" That's the question this tutorial aims to answer, specifically with respect to OpentType, VOLT, and InDesign.

What is OpenType Layout?

One of the OpenType format's most important features is its ability to support increased typographic complexity within a single font; from multiple styles of figures to complex script-specific ligatures, OpenType allows for typographic richness which was previously quite difficult to acheive. OpenType fonts do this by containing extra data which can be accessed by OpenType-aware operating systems and applications. While OpenType fonts are backward-compatible with pre-OpenType programs (OpenType supersets both TrueType and Adobe Type 1 formats), the new layout features will not work with older programs. With the recent release of Adobe's new page-layout package InDesign (version 1.5 is the latest release), typographers and designers have access to a program which supports a selection of OpenType Layout (OTL) features.

Though there have been a few OpenType fonts released by Microsoft and Adobe (and more are still to come), the vast majority of existing fonts can't benefit from InDesign's OTL support in their current state. This is where apps like Microsoft's Visual OpenType Layout Tool come in: VOLT allows a font designer or developer to take an existing font and add OTL support, thereby allowing the font users to take advantage of the OpenType features in programs like InDesign. In this tutorial, we'll demonstrate how to use VOLT to add the InDesign-supported OTL features to a font. respect to OpentType, VOLT, and InDesign.

InDesign's OpenType support

Though VOLT allows the user to add a vast number of OpenType features (listed here) to a font, the current release of InDesign supports just a few of these features. Fortunately, the ones supported are some of the most useful to those attempting to produce high-quality, Latin script-based documents and publications. The seven features InDesign supports are:

    smcp:  allows for the use of true small caps, not spindly, computer-scaled caps which produce bad typographic color
    liga:  places ligatures (such as 'fi') while retaining the original, unaltered text
    kern:  allows for class-based and more complex sorts of kerning (in addition to the font's KERN table data)
    onum:  substitues lining numerals for old style (lower-case) numerals
    pnum:  substitues tabular numerals for proportional width numerals
    case:  provides support for case-sensitive substitutions (such as raised brackets for an all-caps settings)
    aalt:   this is the 'access all alternates' feature and it is implemented within InDesign's 'Insert/Replace Character' tool

Every OpenType font doesn't need to support all of these features (and it may indeed support others not covered here); of the seven features InDesign supports, we'll focus on the four we think are the most generally useful: liga, smcp, onum, and case. Also, it is important to understand that our method of implementing these features is not the only way of going about the job; different fonts are created with different uses in mind — this is meant solely as a basic introduction to adding OTL features with VOLT.

Next section: Start - opening a font in VOLT

this page was last updated 21 August 2000
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Intro | Start | Ligatures | Small caps | OS numerals | Case-sensitive | Proofing | InDesign test
Microsoft Typography | Developer information | VOLT and InDesign tutorial