Font Squirrel’s Font Identifier Saves The Day

I’m wanting to offer an e-version of Critter Tales, like I did for 5 Acres & A Dream The Book. I plan to do this with Amazon’s Kindle Create, using the print replica option. This option works best for books like 5 Acres & A Dream The Book and Critter Tales because of the numerous images and complex formatting. The print replica option doesn’t require reformatting the entire book into a flowable form. Each page is a replica of the printed book.

Before I do that, I want to update the “Also By” page, to include the books I’ve published since Critter Tales. However, I need to remember which fancy font I used! Fortunately, I keep a record of the various fonts I use, but I also wanted to show you a very hand tool, Font Squirrel’s Font Identifier.

That’s it! Easy peasy

You can find Font Squirrel’s Font Identifier here.

Of Fonts and Fractions

Until I started formatting the interior file for my first print book, I pretty much took fonts for granted. After all, choosing a font was simply a matter of going to a drop-down menu and clicking on the one I liked. What could be easier than that? What I didn’t realize was that a font set must be built, one character at a time: letters, numerals, symbols, in regular, italic, bold; they are each designed and crafted to become beautiful tools to enhance our writing.

Some fonts are designed for easy reading on a computer screen. Others are designed to read better in print. All of them come with a license for use, and many of them are copyrighted, which means it’s possible that a royalty must be paid to use them. The fonts that come pre-installed on our computers are included in the license we receive with our operating system. That license covers computer and internet use of the fonts, but not necessarily use in print.

I set about trying to find open source fonts for my books from the beginning. The license for these allow their free use in all media. I found beautiful fonts that mirrored the classic fonts used in print and have been using them happily until recently. What happened recently? Fractions.

My current project is a print version of How To Bake Without Baking Powder. The “problem” is that it contains 54 recipes, and that all of those recipes contain fractions.

There are several ways to deal with fractions. They may be written as decimals, for example, 1½ may be written as 1.5. That one’s easy enough to figure out in a recipe, but what about 1⅔? Would you be quick to use a recipe that used 1.66 instead? While most font sets contain the standard quarter, half, and three-quarter fractions, many of them do not allow for thirds and eights which are not uncommon measurements in recipes. I learned that when my fonts formatted like this in my desktop publisher:fraction font blank boxThe little blank box ought to be a ⅓.

Now apparently, both InDesign CS4 and QuarkXPress 8 can make OpenType fractions, but alas, Scribus cannot. That sent me scrambling for a font set which contained those much desired fractions. In addition, it had to look good with EB Garamond, my primary font.

After a little experimentation, I chose Linux Biolinum. It’s a rather classic looking sans-serif font, which seems to pair well with EB Garamond, my rather classic looking serif font. The only downside is that each fraction must be manually updated in Scribus, one by one, to the new font. It’s making some rather tedious going, but I’ve learned some important things about fonts and book design. Hopefully that’s worth the effort.

How to Install a Script in Scribus

I recently had a problem with text I was preparing with Scribus desktop publisher. I needed a number of Semitic words, which I was easily able to copy and paste into the story editor. They looked fine there, but when I clicked the green check (okay) icon, the words were spelled backward in their text boxes. Scribus apparently only recognizes languages which are written left to right; most Semitic languages are written right to left.

This is a known bug for Scribus, which means developers know it’s something that needs to be fixed and should be working on. Being open source, however, development is done on a voluntary basis. That means that unless the problem is an urgent one which effects many users, a fix may be slow in the making.

Thankfully, someone wrote a script for this problem. A script is a bit of computer code which accomplishes a specific task or series of tasks. That meant all I had to do was copy the code and install it into Scribus. But how?

I found help at the Floss Manual website, Scribus – Scripter and Scripts. It was a simple matter of copying and pasting the script into a text editor, and saving as a .py file. Python is the language in which many scripts are written.

When I need to use the menu, I access it from Scribus’s Script menu. The first time I had to choose “execute script” and browse to the folder I saved the script in. After that, it showed up under Script > Recent Scripts.

Scribus

Initially I pasted the Hebrew words into the English paragraph. I learned the executing the script flipped the entire contents of the text frame! I had to go through each frame, cut the specific word, and put it in its own text frame. It’s a bit of work but worth it for the final result.

For more information on Scribus scripts (and a list of useful scripts), visit the scripts page at the Scribus wiki.

A Font is a Font is a Font? Not!

I never thought much about fonts. I’ve had a few that I liked the looks of, but for the most part, it was simply either serif or sans serif. It wasn’t until I ran across aspiring authors’ questions about paying for fonts that I realized there is more to it.

As an end user, I honestly never thought much about it. Fonts are just there, on my computer. They’re in my word processor, desktop publisher, image editor, etc. I just use them. But the fact of the matter is that fonts don’t simply grow on trees. They must be designed. Someone must take the time to determine and place every jot and tittle in both regular (Roman/Latin) and italic styles, including upper and lower case letters and numerals. Not only does a font have a designer, but it also has a copyright and a license. That license determines how the font can be used. For some end uses, that means purchasing the font if they want to use it in print.

Okay. I consider myself to have an artistic streak, but honestly, reading gushing font reviews about how elegant a font is, is beyond me. When one sits down to read a book, can they honestly tell the difference? Apparently font and book designers can, and from what I gather, an author’s choice of font can reward them with the labels of either “amateurish” or “professional looking.” Who knew?

Take, for example, the standard workhorse, Times New Roman. Often the default on word processors, it was originally designed for newspaper printing. To use it as one’s primary font in a book is considered amateurish.

So here I am, with 252 formatted pages, with photos, captions, and page numbers, all in Times New Roman. On top of that, I had a particular title font that I was already using on my blog. I want to use the same font on the title of my book. Now what? For me, it meant a couple of things.

Now, I’m not against paying someone for what they do. My husband and I have tried the craft selling route, and it’s discouraging how folks want to undercut the asking price you labored to determine fairly; “I could buy that at Walmart for a fraction of the price.” (No, you actually couldn’t, but that’s another story.) Also, I think that being able to make a living at one’s craft is extremely honorable. Don’t get me wrong on that.

My considerations include an empty pocketbook and my commitment to building this book exclusively open source. It’s my way of supporting a community that has offered me so much. I believe in open source philosophy.

All of this set me on the path to trying to find open source fonts. These are often pooh-poohed by both font and book designers, which is understandable because if all fonts were free no one could make a living at it.  On the other hand, wanting to profit from everything doesn’t set well with me either. The end user should have choices. Many authors willingly pay a premium for a particular font. For philosophical reasons, I want to stick with open source.

Fortunately, there are open source fonts available. One popular source for these is Font Squirrel. I found more at the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) International website, plus OS fonts can be found through internet searches as well. Even so, open source fonts are still designed, copyrighted, and licensed under the SIL Open Font License, Version 1.1. There is also a FAQ page, which told me that these fonts can indeed be used in print books.

Whew. Now all I have to do is change all the Times New Roman into something else that is appealing. This will take some sampling and experimentation, so I’ll have to get back to you on that.