TYPE DESIGN INFORMATION PAGE last updated on Sat Jun 22 21:47:55 EDT 2024






UFO: Unified Font Object

The Unified Font Object (UFO) is a cross-platform, cross-application, human readable, future proof format for storing font data. This XML-based font format was conceived in 2003 by Just van Rossum, Tal Leming and Erik van Blokland. As a text-based format, it is a first step in the right direction. The choice of XML (copyright Apple) and the absence of OpenSource or GNU-like licensing may be an impediment to its popularity. Furthermore the fact that each font consists of hundreds of files (at least one for each glyph, for example) is disappointing. One font, one file, is a better option.

The developers write: Glyphs are stored as .glif files. Other data is stored in XML-based plist files. The plist format is developed by Apple, has a DTD, but is platform independent.The UFO is a new file format for font and type design related data. Glyphs are stored as .glif files. Other data is stored in XML-based plist files. The plist format is developed by Apple, has a DTD, but is platform independent." Glif is Just van Rossum's description of one single letterform (glyph) in XML. UFO enables easy exchange of font source data between applications, it stores Cubic ("PostScript") as well Quadratic ("TrueType") contour data and it is application and operating system independent. Individual characters from a project can be distributed, checked into databases and manipulated with standard text tools and version control software. The UFO format contains glyphs, Unicode data, metrics, kerning, names, and many forms of data which would not normally be associated with a final font format like TrueType or PosScript." In 2004 they write: "RoboFab has a new, standardised object model for font, glyph, contour and friends. RoboFab supports a new, future-proof XML based file format for font source data, the Unified Font Objects or UFO. This allows scripts based on RoboFab to work the same in FontLab as in plain Python environments, cross platform, cross application. This new format is not a contender in the TrueType, Type 1 or OpenType race, it is a format to store **sources**: all data related to type design in an application independent and standardised XML way. UFO files can be used to exchange font and glyph data between applications. RoboFab is free for end users, well documented, and downloadable from http://www.letterror.com.

There are versions: UFO1 (2004), UFO2 (2009), UFO3 (2012). The design philosophy, summarized:

  • The data must be human readable and human editable.
  • The data should be application independent.
  • Data duplication should be avoided unless absolutely necessary.

UFO: Unified Font Object
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Font software ⦿ Unified Font Object ⦿

Luc Devroye ⦿ School of Computer Science ⦿ McGill University Montreal, Canada H3A 2K6 ⦿ lucdevroye@gmail.com ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org ⦿ http://luc.devroye.org/fonts.html