Has it ever happened to you that you thought you knew how to fix a problem, done everything right on the way, and ended up with a result that is wrong?
Here’s the thing: when we first prepared the Lato fonts for the release on Google Web Fonts in December 2010, we used the hinting tools available in FontLab Studio to fine-tune the family’s screen appearance. With the massive number of styles available in Lato, and the tight deadline, we couldn’t do manual hinting for every glyph, so we ended up doing so-called “controlled autohinting”. The results were quite OK, but not amazing.
In September 2011, we revisited the Lato family: we added the diacritical characters for the Polish language (since both Łukasz and myself are Polish, it seemed odd to release an opensource family that included characters for French or German but not for our native tongue.) We also wanted to make use of the new ttfautohint library by Werner Lemberg, which promised very good appearance on Windows grayscale and ClearType display settings. It turned out that indeed — apart from the Hairline and Light weights — fonts processed with ttfautohint looked better. So far so good. Version 1.100 was released.
In the last month, however, we discovered that while ttfautohint produces good results in Windows web browsers, the hinting code embedded into the fonts causes serious rendering problems when the font is used in desktop applications, specifically in Adobe Creative Suite applications: Illustrator and InDesign. The problems were especially visible when the text set in Lato was converted to outlines. I even coined the term “ttfautoshred” for the funky results:
Lato in Adobe Illustrator CS5
Now — we had a dilemma: fonts made with FontLab Studio autohinting did not look as good on screen, but were very reliable in desktop applications, while fonts processed with ttfautohint performed poorly in desktop applications but looked well in web browsers. Of course ttfautohint is a library that’s being actively developed by Werner, and at some point I’m sure the bugs will be ironed out and these problems will no longer occur. But what should we do now?
We decided to “split” the release. The fonts intended for people to download and use in desktop applications were to be FontLab-autohinted while the fonts that should be deployed at Google Web Fonts should use ttfautohint.
So yesterday, I’ve done all the steps of splitting the family and making two separate versions, and released version 1.102. Great — but there was one thing. What I thought were the FontLab-autohinted fonts turned out to be… the ttfautohint-processed fonts. Which I then processed again with ttfautohint to make the “real” web version. So yes: I had two versions, one for “desktop downloads” and one for Google Web Fonts, and the process to turn one into another was clean and nice, but in the end, I started off with the wrong data so both versions ended up being the “shreddy” ones.
Well — today I realized this, so I made sure that what I think I was looking at really was what I was looking at, and re-released the family as version 1.103. Which works.
So if you’d like to use Lato in desktop applications, you should go to the Download section and grab the latest release.
Update: version 1.104 no longer makes the split necessary. One and the same font works well on the web and in all desktop applications!