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September 2000

The Free Files

By Klaus Staedtler von Przyborski, ©September 2000 , Translation: Frank Berke

Websites and files this article refers to:

Freetype/2 - http://www.freetype.org/ft_os2/index.html
PFM2AFM - http://www.leo.org/pub/comp/os/os2/leo/atmfonts/index.html
Charmap (by Joachim Scholtysik) - http://home.t-online.de/home/J.Scholtysik/index.htm
Charmap (by Dmitry Steklenev) - http://www.os2.spb.ru/software/stuff/charmap/
Table - http://redrival.com/os2util/index.htm
PMAsc - http://www.vr-transport.de/Martin/english/favor.html
Display Font Editor - http://www.os2.spb.ru/software/stuff/pmfoed/index.html.en
HP Postscript Fonts - http://www.hp.com/cposupport/printers/software/lj274en.exe.html
Dr. Berlin (Fonts) - http://www.dtcc.edu/~berlin/fonts.html
Chiner/2 - http://members.xoom.com/castlemaster/chiner/index.html

As the title indicates, this article is about freeware. To simplify things I count everything as freeware if the user doesn't have to pay for it, regardless of the program's license. That is, it's unimportant whether the file's under the GPL (which is the best license, actually, since the program sources have to be distributed as well), whether it's cardware, or beerware... So why especially freeware? Well, the market situation has changed. Entire operating systems and office suites are available as freeware; IBM's vague commitment to OS/2 made many commercial ISVs withdraw, so users are thinking twice before they spend money for OS/2 (even why they should spend it at all); and last, but not least, freeware simply is the 'salt in the soup'. In The Free Files articles, single programs won't be the focus very often. Rather, each article deals with a special topic, if possible, and looks at all the files relating to it. The programs, which I look at, are meant to be a sort of 'positive list', i.e. they work (at least for me) without errors, because it isn't helpful for anybody if I'm tearing software to pieces.

At the very beginning, I'd like to make a request (or critiques). First to the users of freeware: please, give some feedback to the developers from time to time, but, please, not like "XYZ is the worst piece of software the world has seen since Eniac..." Oh yes, developers love being praised (which gives you the opportunity to add your wishes), which is all they get back from their software. Secondly, to the developers: if for whatever reason you stop maintaining your program, please make sure development can be continued by releasing the source.

I'd most like to start writing about programs I am using regularly - simply because I know them best - but I think that would not be a good beginning. So this time I have chosen a topic which surely has affected every OS/2 user at one time or another. (And, yes, there are also women using OS/2 -- and doing a lot more. What is OS/2 worth today without for example Daniela Engert's driver? Which currently available hard disk would run at a reasonable performance without her?): [Translator's note: the term used in the original hints at male and female users.]

Characters and Fonts

For a long time the situation was very bad, regarding characters and fonts; by now it's only 'bad'. It's similar to Freudian therapy being successful, because only 'a little misery' is left behind. Of course, OS/2 has (at least since version 2.1 anyway, since I don't know earlier versions) a unique font management. If you ever have used DOS or Linux, you know what I am talking about. From the beginning OS/2 used the preferable Postscript fonts, and since Warp 4 even TrueType. Warp 3 can be enhanced using Freetype/2 1.01 . In Warp 4 improvement of the built-in TrueType engine via fixpaks makes the differences not as obvious any more. Maybe this will change with Freetype 2 being finished, which, amongst other features, supports Auto-Hinting, and Postscript.

For a long time the only usable font management tool has been FontView (curently I don't know a source for downloading) by Cliff Cullum, who developed the commercial and highly recommended Fontfolder, and PFM2AFM by Markus Schmidt. With Fontview it's possible to preview even currently not installed fonts, but this only works for Postscript fonts - will it ever become available for Truetype as well? PFM2APM is a tool to generate *.afm, which are required in OS/2, from *.pfm to use Windows Postscript fonts in OS/2, for example. However, this is not necessary anymore, since loads of free fonts are available (both, Postscript and Truetype) in almost every shape and size.

Does anybody recall Amipro 3.0 or Starwriter 2.0? They both were missing a function to "insert a special character" (or whatever creative developers may have named it). Even WordPro 96 was suffering from that. Had there been a usable tool like Charmap (as it comes with Windows 3.1), there would have been no problem, but such a tool simply was not there. Everything I tried out (even Shareware), simply turned out to be useless. Not until approximately two years, did two tools exist that you can really work with: Charmap by Joachim Scholtysik, and Charmap 1.14 by Dmitry Steklenev. The first one (Charmap), is a simple 1:1 copy of the Windows 3.1 Character Mapper; the latter provides additional information about the fonts used and has been more efficiently programmed. If only Charmap 1.14 could be enhanced with a font-preview and a history function for the fonts least used, it'd exceed my wishes. The irony with all of this: every recent word processor has a built-in function to insert special characters. So the tools at least can be used to get an overview about the overall shape of a font. Unfortunately, Describe has been discontinued, which had a special feature that showed the font selection in the way the fonts later appeared in the text.

At least there have always been quite usable ASCII tables, such as Goran Ivankovics Table 1.11, or PMAsc dated 1989 (for that it's extra lean), to insert special chracters via Alt-NNN or the Clipboard. However, that's not too elegant.

Speaking about fonts, some may think about font editors. There was one - it's name I fortunately have forgotten - that crashed any time one started to get creative with it. A reasonably good beginning for a font editor was Display Font Editor, by Victor Smirnoff & Kolosoft Group. But now, Display Font Editor can be used only to edit screen fonts. It was initially developed to display Russian fonts correctly in VIO applications. Now imagine if some additional development could be done...

After all this mostly bad news, there are some positives: for Hewlett Packard Laser printers Postscript Display Fonts do exist, that are equal to those hardcoded within the printer. To people who always wanted to write with strange fonts (no matter how exotic they may be, even Sütterlin [translator's note: old-fashioned German handwriting], and Fraktur are amongst them) I recommend Dr. Berlin's URL. To make Chinese work as well, you just need Chiner/2 by Castlemaster.

My desires? Well, I became a disillusioned realist: Freetype/2 2.0 and a font viewer with a Truetype and Postscript preview will be virtually sufficient.

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