Ideas for types of measurement tools

While a guideline is helpful in seeing measurements across an entire section of a glyph, I often find that there are only select portions of a glyph that I am trying to measure. Adding guidelines to measure only certain portions quickly becomes a visual mess (especially with multiple diagonal lines) because a) the guidelines extend infinitely across the window b) the rest of the measurement happening along guideline become irrelevant information/visual noise.

(Thinking out loud)
I wish there were types of measurement tools that go from general to specific

Type 1: Infinity extending (default)
In addition to measurements across a glyph, it is also helpful to see alignments across a series of glyphs.

Type 2: Limited to metrics bounds of each glyph
Instead of extending the guideline fully across the window, it would be clipped at the metric bounds. This could be used a type of local guideline. This is a feature I really appreciate in @Mark Fromberg’s Show Stems.

Note: A correlation is how in InDesign rulers can be placed on either a page or extend across a spread which is toggled with the command key.

Type 3: Limited between nodes
Select any two nodes and click a measurement button (similar to the changing a guideline to measuring line) to give a live read-out of that distance/angle. The similar idea to the Show Distance and Angle but allow multiple read-outs which would remain while nodes are adjusted.

Type 4: Limited between segments
The best example of measuring select portions of a glyph I found is using Show Stem Thickness by Rafal Buchner (@RafalBuchner). It’s advantages are:

  1. Subtle measurement reading
  2. The measurement moves with the mouse cursor
  3. The key feature is the dynamic measuring of the true thickness between two segments
  4. Two-finger click reveals an option to Add Measurement Guide

In essence, the idea is that the added measurement guide of step 4 would retain the same limited measurement line between the segments and still provide dynamic/live read-out of measurement information.

The benefit of this would be the ability to add multiple measurement read-outs across different portions and at different angles without creating a chaos of lines going across the window.

Perhaps this can be accomplished with a sort of guide-node which when placed between segments would draw a line measuring only the closest points (similar to how the cursor position of the mouse works in Rafal’s plugin). As portions of the segments are adjusted the results will always be accurate read-outs of the thickness.

Made a short video using the Show Stem Thickness plugin, hopefully, it illustrates what I mean.



I think most of what you need it already in a future version.


Have there been any new features in G3 relating to the measurement tools/guidelines?

Here is a visual of the different types of measurement tools based on levels of information…going from measure everything the guideline touches across the editor window → to only provide a limited measurement between select nodes or segments.


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The problem is, how would you keep track of the ‘right’ place to measure once the shape changes? Think of resetting start points, added and subtracted points, the path merged with another, the path cut in two halves, etc.

Also, if the goal is to reduce the visual noise, what advantage is there in keeping the measurements in the layer all the time as opposed to the way Show Stem Thickness works now? The problem with the screenshot up there is that there are unnecessarily many guides. I wonder in which workflow it makes sense to measure so much at once all the time.

Having said that, I could think of a solution that measures the distances between named nodes. Node names survive reordering, splitting and merging, at least to some extent.

For the live measurement between segments, the Stem Thickness plugin works based on the cursor position. The problem for me is that I want to be able to measure and edit the outline at the same time.

Sure, I can find a hack/workaround with the plugin to select handles, position the cursor, and use the arrow keys…but it’s not ideal.


Idea: What if there was a sort of Measurement Node (I’m imagining it is a node that has the measurement readout flag attached to it) so that when it is placed in an outline that it will act as the cursor does in Stem Thickness, and relative to that point, it will always try to measure to the nearest paths. This would make outline editing and dynamic measurement related yet independent. The nodes can be easily repositioned or removed. It could allow for placing multiple Measurement Nodes throughout the outline.

I realize that the animation in the previous post may be misleading. I am not suggesting having all of those measurements on all at once…each is an example of different types and levels of measurement. I imagine they can be used in combination or isolation.


Thinking about it. Maybe I can come up with a plug-in solution.

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I recently came across the measurement tool in RoboFont which resonated with some of the ideas I had suggested previously.


I like the fact that it allows for setting shorter measurement lines that allow for focusing on a single area of measurement and are less obtrusive than a guideline that measures everything in its path.

Another neat feature is that the line can snap to two points and provide the measurement along the hypotenuse, as well as, the horizontal and verticals legs…however, one shortcoming is that the line isn’t linked to the points so if the outline is adjusted the measurement line doesn’t follow.

There may be a way to limit the amount of info in RF but out-of-the-box there is too much information

maybe something simpler, showing relevant info can be more like this

I’d be happy to hear other peoples thoughts on this.

Would something like this be possible for Glyphs?

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