Why Font Combiner


First, a demonstration of what Font Combiner can do.

Demo 1


On the left, you'll see the popular font 'Varela Round', brought in straight from Google Fonts. On the right, the same font passed through Font Combiner:

Varela Round - Google Fonts

The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down what seemed to be a very deep well.

She found herself in a long, low hall, which was lit up by a row of lamps hanging from the roof. There were doors all 'round the hall, but they were all locked; and when Alice had been all the way down one side and up the other, trying every door, she walked sadly down the middle, wondering how she was ever to get out again.
Varela Round - Font Combiner

The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down what seemed to be a very deep well.

She found herself in a long, low hall, which was lit up by a row of lamps hanging from the roof. There were doors all 'round the hall, but they were all locked; and when Alice had been all the way down one side and up the other, trying every door, she walked sadly down the middle, wondering how she was ever to get out again.

Demo 2


On the left, you'll see the popular 'Average Sans', straight from Google Fonts. On the right, the same font passed through Font Combiner:

Average Sans - Google Fonts

The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down what seemed to be a very deep well.

She found herself in a long, low hall, which was lit up by a row of lamps hanging from the roof. There were doors all 'round the hall, but they were all locked; and when Alice had been all the way down one side and up the other, trying every door, she walked sadly down the middle, wondering how she was ever to get out again.
Average Sans - Font Combiner

The rabbit-hole went straight on like a tunnel for some way and then dipped suddenly down, so suddenly that Alice had not a moment to think about stopping herself before she found herself falling down what seemed to be a very deep well.

She found herself in a long, low hall, which was lit up by a row of lamps hanging from the roof. There were doors all 'round the hall, but they were all locked; and when Alice had been all the way down one side and up the other, trying every door, she walked sadly down the middle, wondering how she was ever to get out again.

There are no special CSS properties applied to either font above, and depending on your operating system and browser, you'll probably notice an improvement (differences are particularly noticeable in Windows and Google Chrome at the time of writing). You may also find that the font on the right loads faster due to an english-only character set, though this doesn't affect the rendering.

How is this possible?


The Font Combiner application uses a couple of different techniques to overhaul fonts. All glyph forms are extracted from vectors present in the original fonts and scaled to size where appropriate, the vertical metrics are recalculated from scratch, and spacing and fresh automated hinting are applied to the result.

Note at this stage, that were Font Combiner's generated fonts simply a match for Google's in terms of rendering, sizing and line-height consistency across browsers, the application would still add value.

If the fonts on the right offer an aesthetic improvement, that's even better.

Some web font history


Font Combiner has been in development for some two years. Web fonts have been around for some time, but have been held back by the lack of a standard and interoperable font file format.

On 8th April 2010, Microsoft, Mozilla and Opera submitted the WOFF File Format specification to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C). A W3C Team comment soon followed:
...a technology for automatically downloading and temporarily installing fonts on demand over the web, for the display of content without requiring the reader to separately download and install fonts to their operating system. Historically, a variety of formats have been used for this task. What was lacking was a single, interoperable format which all implementations would use.

Given the increasing interest in WOFF from browser implementors, tool creators and type foundries, [it] is expected that WOFF will soon serve as that single, interoperable format and that other implementors will add support over time.

Team Comment on "WOFF File Format 1.0" Submission

A lot has changed in that time. The excellent Font Squirrel had already embarked upon bridging the gap by offering full web font kits covering multiple file formats, and some clever people on the internet provided workarounds for inconsistencies between prominent web browsers, allowing for a working but cumbersome solution for web typography unhindered by the limited array of fonts one could expect a viewer of any website to have installed on their system.

In 2010, Google launched Google Web Fonts, a service offering a range of free fonts that could be included on any site simply by linking back to Google's API and having their system serve the appropriate format.

BEWARE INVASION

Things have changed


In December 2012, the WOFF format became a W3C Recommendation and finally, in October 2013, the CSS Fonts Module Level 3 was elevated from a Last Call Working Draft to a W3C Candidate Recommendation ready for implementation.

So it holds that at this stage, the WOFF format has become the interoperable web font format we've been waiting for, supported by nearly all modern browsers, a standard CSS @font-face syntax has been established and standard CSS 3 font properties such as font-kerning are set and unlikely to change.

Inverted metrics
WOFF support in 2013

This is great news for web coders. The implications of this kind of standardisation, though, go beyond severed ties to third-party delivery networks or servers a site designer has no control over. The flexibility to host a font easily from any server allows a web developer to customise fonts to her or his preference.

There are a plethora of free and open fonts available on the internet, enough to cover just about every style imaginable.

However, perhaps due in part to the lack of a fixed standard, many free and open fonts are lacking in line-height or sizing consistency, and overall quality can vary wildly.
WAVES & WAR.

Type foundries and typeface designers will often reserve their best work under a proprietary license, and well they should; type design is an artform and a skilled profession. Still, with the huge number of free fonts available, there's no reason an open license font shouldn't serve just as well in many if not most cases. Often the perception of a poor quality font is the result of that font's preparation for display on digital media and the way it's rendered.

This is where Font Combiner comes in.

Font Combiner offers a way to tweak and adjust any TTF or OTF font (license permitting), by bringing in font glyphs as vector shapes, providing a completely overhauled font generated to the user's specification with alternative metrics options, alternative hinting types, kerning and spacing options and the facility to make any average free font look great.

There are many reasons it could be useful to bring in small, dedicated web fonts. Perhaps headings across pages, banners or titles in true bold or real italics (the pros and cons of faux vs true bold and italics are a topic well worth looking into). Perhaps you'd like a glyph from one font added to another, a particular currency symbol, a particular style of upper case or an icon from an icon font. Perhaps you require only ASCII or english-only characters for reduced file sizes.

On top of this, Font Combiner offers downloadable SVG files cleanly rendered from any source glyph in any font, including many open license icon fonts. These SVG files are produced with a proper SVG-spec. conversion as opposed to a simple extraction from the font itself, offered alongside precision PNG-format equalivalents produced straight from the SVG vector information in any size.

Development is ongoing and there are always things to tweak and adjust, but as you can hopefully see from the demos on this page, the results are good and we're ready to add something positive to internet typography.