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FontLab is both the name of a company, Fontlab Ltd, Inc. and the name of their flagship font editor product (although version 5 was called FontLab Studio). Since the early 2000s, FontLab has been the dominant software tool for commercial/retail digital font development. This is partly because the once-dominant Fontographer by Altsys ceased development after its acquisition by Macromedia. During Macromedia's merger/acquisition by Adobe Systems in 2005, Macromedia sold Fontographer's rights and code to FontLab Ltd, so FontLab now owns and maintains both of the most popular font editing/development tools.
Originally, there were two separate companies. SoftUnion Ltd of Saint Petersburg, Russia, made the software, under lead programmer Yuri Yarmola. Pyrus North America Ltd, of the USA was formed in 1992 to distribute and market FontLab 2.0 for Microsoft Windows, which came out in 1993 (there was no Mac OS version at the time). Eventually Pyrus bought all the rights to FontLab, hired Mr. Yarmola, and then restructured as Fontlab Ltd., Inc. Today they have a wide range of font editing and conversion tools. The company is distributed, but programming is still done primarily by a Russian team, partly in St. Petersburg, while the company is incorporated in Panama.
FontLab's first Mac OS product was FontLab 3 for Mac, in 1998. Since then, FontLab (now FontLab Studio) has been issued for both Mac and Windows, but the Windows versions usually come out first, by six months to a year. In addition, FontLab has developed spinoff font editors for specific markets. TypeTool, a simplified version of FontLab Studio, is quite inexpensive and serves as an entry level typeface editor, which is popular with students, hobbyists, and those whose typographic needs are relatively simple. In the past, AsiaFont Studio (or Fontlab Composer) was a more sophisticated version of Fontlab, with special features for editing Chinese, Japanese and Korean fonts. These functions are now included in Fontlab Studio since version 5.1. OpenType features for complex scripts like Arabic, Devanagari, and Thai are not directly supported, but can be added through Microsoft’s Volt.
At a time when fonts came in different formats and were platform-specific, FontLab also began to create a line of font creation and conversion utilities. ScanFont, a tool for converting scans and bitmaps of glyphs into vector glyphs was part of FontLab 2, but in the next version it was split off, and became a stand-alone application. With FontLab VI, the ScanFont functionality was again integrated into the main application.
Next came TransType, a font converter for moving fonts between TrueType, OpenType and Type 1 formats and between Macintosh and Windows platforms. A few shorter-lived and more specialized font converters followed: FONmaker, for converting vector fonts into bitmaps; FontFlasher, for converting “normal” vector fonts into pixelated vector fonts for low-resolution display in Flash apps; and FogLamp, for converting native Fontographer files into modern formats. (Newer versions of FontLab Studio and FontLab VI can now open recent Fontographer files directly.)
- FontLab VI (was FontLab Studio for version 5) — font editor for professional type designers.
- Fontographer — font editor for graphic designers, artists, publishers
- TypeTool — font editor for students, hobbyists, users with minor editing needs
- TransType — font converter for Macintosh and Windows; OpenType, TrueType, web fonts, and PostScript Type 1
- FontLab Pad — Typesetting tool that supports all nascent color font formats.
- BitFonter — bitmap font editor
- FontLab VI: 8 Dec 2017 (Mac/Win)
- TypeTool 3: 28 Mar 2007 (Mac/Win)
- FontLab Studio 5: 12 Dec 2005 (Mac), Nov 2005 (Win)
- FontLab 4: 3 Dec 2001 (Win)
- FontLab 3: 1 June 1998 (Win), 1 April 1999 (Mac)
- TypeTool: 8 Aug 1997 (Win)
Deprecated and discontinued products
- AsiaFont Studio (formerly FontLab Composer) — font editor for professional typeface designers of CJK fonts, or other fonts with exceptionally large glyph counts. Its functions were rolled into FontLab Studio 5.1 and later.
- Photofont — a technology/format for creating bitmap fonts with color, texture and transparency and using them in page layout and website design
- SigMaker — a simple utility for adding a single character to a TrueType font
- FONmaker — a font converter that makes bitmap fonts from TrueType fonts
- FontFlasher — a font converter that optimizes fonts for display at small sizes and low resolution
- FogLamp — a font converter that converts Fontographer .fog files into several different modern formats
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- Vit, Armin; Palacio, Bryony Gomez (2009). Graphic Design, Referenced: A Visual Guide To The Language, Applications, and History of Graphic Design. Rockport Publishers. p. 219. ISBN 978-1-592-53447-0.
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