Small caps are capital letterforms that are shorter than full-sized caps. They are usually the height of the lowercase or slightly taller when part of a text font, and can be even taller – sometimes slightly shorter than the full caps – when designed for a display design. Small caps have many uses.
They can be used for titles, subtitles and title pages in publishing, headlines and subheads, text lead-ins, page headings and footers, column headings, as well as a substitute for full-sized caps in acronyms and abbreviations.
The most important thing to know about small caps is to only use the true-drawn variety as opposed to the fake, computer-generated ones.
True-drawn small caps are designed by the type designer to match the weight, width and spacing of the lowercase (or caps if designed for an all-cap typestyle). The fake, computer-generated ones look too light, too tight, and in some cases, too narrow.
For these reasons, they are considered a “type crime” by type-sensitive designers. Unfortunately, the use of these “fakers” is an all too common occurrence. Here is how this amateurish and unprofessional typographic practice can be avoided: if one knows ahead of time that small caps would be a useful feature in any particular job, only use font(s) that contain the true-drawn variety.
If small caps are such a useful typographic tool, why don’t more fonts have them?
Prior to the OpenType font format that can accommodate thousands of characters, the older Type1 and TrueType formats could only accommodate 256 characters, and therefore did not have room to include small caps – even if they were originally designed and available in older font technology such as phototypesetting and hot metal.
In order to work around this limitation, typeface designers and foundries wanting to include small caps had to put them in a second font – either an additional font designated with a SC in the name, or an Expert Set. This made it more expensive for the foundry, and more time-consuming and tedious for the type user, who had to access them from a separate font for each and every usage.
But with OpenType’s expanded character capacity, there is more than enough room for small caps, as well as many other characters desirable to graphic designers.
Identifying and Setting True-drawn Small Caps
So how does one know if a font has true drawn small caps? And if it does, how does one access them?
When using Adobe InDesign, the industry standard for page layout and typesetting, the user interface can be a bit confusing. One can always view the Glyphs panel to see if the font contains small caps, but there is a better way that combines identifying the availability of small caps and applying them.
Here are the steps:
– First, select the font in question in the font dropdown menu in the Character panel or Control panel.
– Next, open the OpenType panel. If the All Small Caps option is not bracketed, there are true-drawn small caps in that particular font. If it is bracketed, that font does not contain them. (Note that some typeface families have small caps for just some of the versions.)
Once you determine that a font does have small caps, you can apply them in one of two ways:
– If you want to convert both caps and lowercase to small caps, select the All Small Caps option in the OpenType panel.
– If you want to convert just the lowercase so that you have a blended cap/small cap setting, select the Small Caps option in the Character panel.
Note that if a font does not have true-drawn small caps, InDesign will create the fake version by reducing the full caps to the default 70% of the cap height.
If you want to eliminate the possibility of fake small caps from ever appearing in your work, you can change the default Small Cap Size from 70% to 100% via Preferences > Advanced Type > Character Settings.
This will not affect true-drawn small caps from appearing when available in a font.
February 9th, 2011 by Jim Kidwell
To align my presentation with the seminar’s focus on providing tips, tricks and techniques that boost productivity, I spent most of the time talking about the new time saving features in Suitcase Fusion 3. I also had the pleasure of awarding one lucky attendee a free copy of Suitcase Fusion!
The seminar attendees brought up several good questions about the details of font auto-activation and system fonts conflicts. Of course these were easy to answer since Suitcase Fusion uses Font Sense to always activate the correct font and can automatically de-activate conflicting system fonts.
The next stop for The InDesign Seminar Tour is Dallas, TX on March 3rd where we’ll be presenting again and giving away another copy of Suitcase Fusion 3. If you can’t make it, don’t worry – you can read our Font Management Best Practices Guide (PDF) or download a free trial of Suitcase Fusion 3.
What type of font management topics would you want to learn about at an InDesign seminar?
Typographer and type designer Steve Mehallo (hi Steve!) asked me the other day whether I had anything to do with Adobe’s optical kerning. First, I should explain what this unusual technology for font spacing actually is….
Kerning is of course adjustments in spacing between particular pairs of letters (well, glyphs really). Adobe refers to the kerning information built into the font as “metrics kerning,” and it’s the default in their applications. These days font designers set up that metric kerning with “classes,” so despite the old definition of kerning, the way it’s stored in fonts today often isn’t really “pairs” but more along the lines of “kern all the letters with this right hand diagonal shape (V, W) this much against all the letters with that left hand round shape (O, C, G, Q, and any accented variants).”
Different kerning effects on the Mac system version of Palatino, a passable quality font that gets some benefits from optical kerning.
Adobe’s “optical kerning,” seen as an option in InDesign, Illustrator and Photoshop, completely ignores the “metrics kerning” built into the font. It instead looks at just a couple of key instances of the base spacing in the font, and then mathematically calculates spacing for every glyph pairing in the current text.
This optical kerning uses technology patents originally from Peter Karow and URW. Said tech in turn was based on technology originally developed for TeX by Donald Knuth. I did not have much to do with the Adobe implementation, but I did occasionally work reasonably closely with Eric Menninga, the fellow who did Adobe’s last version of it for InDesign (though it had previously been seen in part in PageMaker).
My take is that optical kerning is a pretty cool thing, but one has to be careful with it and use it when appropriate. Originally when InDesign came out a decade ago, document performance would have been an issue, but that problem has largely gone away with increased processor speed. But there are some other issues.Optical kerning is most useful when dealing with:
- An average or worse font, of all fonts in the world. Even the Mac system version of Palatino (above graphic) is missing some useful kerning adjustments. This category likely includes >90% of “free fonts,” though a few have spacing which is beyond saving by optical kerning.
- Kerning between glyphs of different point sizes or different fonts; kerning in a font doesn’t deal with this.
- Specific glyph combinations which were not addressed in otherwise well-kerned fonts.
- It wreaks havoc on the spacing of script fonts, particularly connecting script fonts.
- Fonts which are well-spaced and well-kerned typically receive minimal benefits from optical kerning. (See Parisine in the graphic below.)
- At text sizes, in a really well-spaced and well-kerned font, optical kerning can actually destroy the “rhythm” of vertical strokes. In such cases it is more useful at “display” sizes rather than “text” sizes.
Different kerning effects on Parisine, a well-crafted font which does not much benefit from optical kerning.
Different kerning effects on Hill House, a free font with little or no built-in kerning. Optical kerning is a significant improvement.
So overall, there are several good reasons Adobe made “metrics” kerning the default rather than “optical” kerning. Most importantly, most of the typefaces bundled with Creative Suite are in that last category, and they just look better with metrics kerning. But you still might need to slip in occasionally to hand-kern some particular comnbination, or turn on optical kerning between two glyphs that weren’t kerned at all in the first place, but should have been.
August 31st, 2010 by Jim Kidwell
Today we released new font auto-activation plug-ins for Adobe Photoshop CS5 and CS4 for Suitcase Fusion™ 3. The plug-ins automatically activate the exact fonts required for each file using the patented Font Sense™ technology to create a unique fingerprint for each font.
We understand that Photoshop is a core part of many designer’s daily workflow, and these plug-ins bring powerful auto-activation to the industry-standard imaging application.
The new plug-ins are available for our Suitcase Fusion 3 font manager on both Macintosh® and Windows® operating systems. The full list of auto-activation plug-ins now includes:
• Adobe InDesign® CS5, CS4 and CS3
• Adobe Illustrator® CS5, CS4 and CS3
• Adobe Photoshop CS5 and CS4 (32 and 64-bit versions)
• QuarkXPress® 8 and 7
If you already have Suitcase Fusion 3, you can download the new plug-ins through the Check for Updates features of Suitcase Fusion 3. If you haven’t purchased yet, all new versions automatically include the new plug-ins.
Universal Type Client
Today we released an updated version of the Universal Type Client for Mac that includes new auto-activation plug-ins for Adobe InDesign and Illustrator CS5. This is a free update for all Universal Type Server users.
We are also developing a Windows version of the Universal Type Client that will contain CS5 plug-ins, and plan to have an updated installer early this fall.
The current version of Suitcase Fusion 2 for Mac and Windows is compatible with Adobe CS5 products. You can activate and deactivate fonts and Suitcase Fusion 2 places fonts in Adobe CS5 application font lists.
We will be releasing new plug-ins for Adobe InDesign and Illustrator CS5 with Suitcase Fusion 3 later this summer.
New Photoshop plug-ins
As a special bonus, along with a number of great new features, Suitcase Fusion 3 will include entirely new plug-ins for Adobe Photoshop. The new plug-ins will feature the same reliable Font Sense technology for precise font auto-activation that you’ve come to expect from Extensis font management plug-ins.
Free Upgrade to Suitcase Fusion 3
Beginning July 1st, all purchases of Suitcase Fusion 2 will receive a free upgrade to Suitcase Fusion 3 when it’s released later this summer.
We continue to test Portfolio to be sure that files generated by CS5 applications are cataloged and converted appropriately.
It’s hard to believe that Adobe InDesign has been around for 10 years now. Born from the kernels of Aldus Pagemaker, InDesign has grown up to be a standard publishing application that designers around the world rely upon.
In celebration, Adobe has released a free PDF e-book that chronicles the first 10 years. As expected, the book is well-designed and written. Download your free copy from http://www.indesign10anniversary.com/
We continue to develop font auto-activation plug-ins that work with InDesign for both our Suitcase Fusion 2 and Universal Type Server product lines. Download trial versions of either of these products from the Extensis website.
I’m excited to see Suitcase Fusion 2 for Windows come out as the second new Extensis font management product since I joined the company back in April. After all, it was almost two years ago that I wrote about how and why “Windows font management has sucked” for my Adobe blog.
The main thing is that finally, the Windows version of Extensis’ flagship font management application has parity with the Mac version. That’s huge, and the list of features is as long as your arm. The one feature I still can’t get over is the tear-off previews (check it out here, or see the Quicktime version).
Now, if you want to get picky, there are a tiny handful of differences between the Mac and Windows versions of the application, mostly related to differences between the operating system capabilities themselves. There are a couple of things the Mac version has which are lacking on the Windows version (export fonts by dragging to the desktop, and instantly activate with over-rides by dragging fonts onto the Dock icon), and there are a couple of things the Windows version has that the Mac version does not yet have (auto-activation plug-ins for CS2 apps in addition to CS3 and 4, recognizes and previews .TTC fonts in the system fonts folder). But it really is the same application for two different platforms, with general overall feature parity.
I’ve occasionally heard complaints about the stability/reliability of (older versions of) Suitcase. I’ll say right now that I take quality very seriously, and I am not going to ship a product I expect to be embarrassed by. I feel very lucky in that the underlying code for the Suitcase Fusion 2 products is shared with the Universal Type Server product line. This code was written from scratch a couple of years ago, to be stable and scalable enough for a client/server environment. Now we’ve had two versions of Universal Type Server out the door, so that code is fairly mature… without being antique.
In other news, with Windows 7 just around the corner, you might be wondering what the chances are that the app will run properly on Windows 7? After all, font management hooks into the operating system at a pretty low level, and there is new font-related functionality in Windows 7.
Well, since Windows 7 isn’t shipping to end users yet, we don’t list it as a supported operating system. But we (okay, actually Clint—thanks, man!) did a lot of testing on Windows 7, including on the version that went GM and is supposed to ship. We did just as much testing on Windows 7 as on Vista, in fact! We didn’t find any issues specific to Windows 7 that were left un-fixed, either. So unless something quite surprising happens, we’ll add “Windows 7” to the list of supporting operating systems when it ships.
Anyway, I’ve been running Suitcase Fusion 2 for Windows on a day-to-day basis for weeks now on my laptop, and I’m very happy with it. I hope you enjoy it, too. You can try out the Windows or Mac version for free for up to 30 days, so why not give it a whirl?
Creative director Sol Sender tells the story of conception and birth of the Obama 08 logo, including the strategy behind it, developmental concepts and finalist designs for the identity not chosen by the campaign.
Font management is about several things. The fun part is experimenting with your type. But the other part- the part behind the scenes- is the practical part: having the font you need- the RIGHT font you need- delivered for you.
Auto-activation plug-ins are the key to the operation. They work in the background to ‘call-up’ a precise font and activate it when you open a document in, say, Adobe InDesign CS4, or QuarkXPress 8. The plug-ins for Suitcase Fusion 2 are all-new (clearly- CS4 just come out…yesterday). But beyond the new compatibility, the auto-activation plug-ins have some really great productivity options built in to them:
- Create a ‘document set’ in Suitcase Fusion of all active faces in your document directly from within InDesign, Illustrator, or QuarkXPress
- ‘Pick best match’ – If you don’t have the exact font to auto-activate, Fusion 2 will find the best fit and activate it for you. Or you can do it manually- your choice.
- Activate the entire font family – Make all the other weights/styles in the family available for use.
- Activate only the single type face – if you prefer to only activate the precise faces used in your doc.
Curious about which fonts come with Adobe CS4? Adobe Product Manager for Fonts and Global Typography, Thomas Phinney, posted a complete list of the fonts that will be installed with the products after they are released.
Of note is the removal of a number of fonts. Arno Pro, Bickham Script Pro and Garamond Premier Pro that were previously included with CS3 were removed, as well as Bernhard Modern Std and Caflisch Script Pro from InDesign.
Admittedly, the list of included fonts is still fairly long, though it seems unfortunate to remove such a great script font like Bickham Script. I must admit that it’s one of my favorite script faces.
Check out Thomas’ blog, Typblography for the complete list.