Fontographer used to be the prime choice for font designers, both amateur and professional. This was mostly because it was easy to use. When Macromedia bought it from Altsys, though, it languished, until it was bought by FontLab, and version 4.7 was released, which ran on OS X. Fontographer 5 is still user-friendly, and it’s font-generating engine has been replaced with FontLab’s own engine. It has a number of new features, such as support for OpenType.

The new Fontographer has all the tools you need to create fonts from scratch, as well as tools that will be very helpful for designers. For onstance, if a font has both thin and thick versions, but you’re looking for something inbetween the two, Fontographer will generate it for you. It can also condense fonts without just scaling them horizontally. If necessary it can create new spacings, or add glyphs to a font, like logos or icons. These features can be incredibly useful if the font you’re working with isn’t exactly right for what you’re doing.

The Font Window will display all the components of any font. You can filter views in different ways, such as by width, Unicode value, Keystroke or Character. Fontographer also makes it easy to convert fonts to different formats. You can convert to a number of different formats, including PostScript Type 1 or 3, TrueType or OpenType.

Many of Fontographer’s advanced features for layout are used by programs like QuarkXpress and InDesign to replace characters automatically with alternate glyphs. Users experienced in Fontographer will also appreciate such as the ability to export and import specific projects using the FontLab Studio format, making collaborations much easier. You can also now zoom in on fonts by 1600 percent, display outlines with smooth anti-aliasing, and there are expanded encoding and Unicode tables, as well as intelligent renaming of font families, a robust Glyph search, and the ability to autotrace most bitmaps. The new version can also produce fonts with characters in excess of 20,000.

As well as all the new features, there is a manual of 525 pages that contains a good deal of information on technology and font features, clearly and concisely laid out, as well as useful tips from established font designers. The appendices steer you to the best resources and books that are available.

There are a number of sample files included that can prove quite helpful, like different scanned characters, accents, fonts and .eps files that you can use for practice. There is also a text file to help you determine the best pairings for kerned letters, and to test the appearance of existing kernings.