Questions, comments, wishes from a pro who's a Glyphs newbie

Hi there,

I’m new here, coming from Fontographer, then FontLab with lots of robofab I would now like to learn how this works. My first impression of Glyphs is surely a good one. I’ve tried the scripts for generating .glyphs files in FontLab and it works flawlessly, so moving .vfb files to this program is a breeze.

I’ve been trying out Glyphs a bit, spend some time on, checked the manual and made a few notes. It’s a bunch of questions and some wishes, a bit of everything. I’ve not yet gotten my feet wet with multiple masters (glancing at it makes it seem straight forward) so my comments relate to working with single masters only.

My wish list for the Glyph Edit Window, all regarding visibility:

  • hide the tangents if the on curve point/points isn’t/aren’t selected
  • adjust the colors of the guides, zones and nodes
  • hide the zones. They surely are handy to have, but maybe not all the time
  • reveal the vertical metrics over the whole width of the Text View even if the glyph isn’t selected. This would help when comparing glyphs.

Windows vs tabs:
I’m sure this was thought about long and hard, but, by any chance, is it possible to have the Glyph Edit Window separate from the Font Window? I sometimes would like to work in both views simultaneously. I would furthermore like to be able to compare outlines (nodes et al) from two different glyphs.

Generating diacritics with python:
I’m frequently dealing with bigger families and I have a python script that generates all sort of combinations of base glyph and accents (often multiple hundreds with specific requirements) as well as adjusts kerning classes accordingly. This robofab script does not run in Glyphs (it’s written for FontLab and needs more than just Is there a similar script around for Glyphs? Same question for another robofab script I frequently use in FL, which is selecting glyphs based on their mark color (I end up with an AttributeError: ‘RGlyph’ object has no attribute ‘mark’).

Kerning Classes:
It is very convenient to have the list view show how one glyph is associated with the other. I’m not sure about the maintenance though, because instead of keeping (let’s say) 100 lists with glyphs I need to go thought my (let’s say) 1,500 glyphs to control glyph associations.

Using Sample Text for spacing and kerning:
I would love to be able to step through a set of Sample Texts. Is there a shortcut for “show next” and “show previous”.

Some stuff I’ve noticed:

“Missing Glyphs” function:
My euro is spelled “Euro” which makes Glyphs report that it’s missing (In the side bar: Categories > Symbol > Currency shows 5/6), I guess that is Glyphs’ naming convention to write it with a lower case “e”. After adding I do end up with two Euro glyphs, each with the same unicode value. (I wonder if it’s risky to be able to add a glyph even though a glyph with that unicode already exists.)

A little typo regarding the guillemot for left and right:
they are missing their letter “o”, you spelled it “guillemet”. In the Mac Roman set (in the side bar) for example these two are listed as missing.

When I choose to add a missing glyph I select the glyph name and then hit the “Generate” button. I had expected that a double click on the name of the glyph would do the same.

The Glyph Edit Window’s Info Box allows to enter Kerning Values even if for example only one Glyph is shown. Is there something else other than a kerning value that one could enter?

I’ve set up a custom “List Filter”. When I click it, on some occasions, it shows the glyphs divided into categories (Letter, Number, …) and sometimes it shows them as one single set. I can’t quite recognize the pattern here.

Thanks, any input is welcome,

I’m a Gylphs newbie so please forgive me if I misunderstand here and there how things work.

Edit Window
3. Alignment zones are hidden when you uncheck “Show Metrics” menu.
4. Vertical metrics can be seen in the vertical preview mode, otherwise it shouldn’t matter, should it?

Generating diacritic glyphs
Like in FontLab, the best way to create diacritic glyphs is to make use of anchors. What is better though, is that it really sticks to the anchors (which you can disable at will). Glyphs has an internal library of what diacritic mark should go to which glyph, so you shouldn’t need any script unless you are talking about really big family. Even then, writing a composition recipe does the job. I think you need to read the handbook first (2.4.4–.8) or these posts:

Should you find it not powerful enough for your projects, of course you (or I) can build a script.

Using sample text
Edit > Other > Select Next/Previous Sample String. You can add shortcut from System Preference > Keyboard > Application. I usually just open sample text window (Option+Command+F) and visually select it.

"Missing Glyphs"
I think that’s OpenType compiler that’s missing a glyph. If you change the Euro to euro in the code, it should be fine.

Guillemot is the name of the bird that became standard for whatever reason. Actual spelling is guillemet, and renamed to guillemot in the exported font (i.e. Glyphs knows it has to be guillemot in the font, and just does it automatically). If you’re curious about glyph name issues, read this post:

Inconsistent listing of list filter is a bug I would say.

For some of the tasks you mention, there are scripts and plugins. Take a look at:

Or roll your own. The Python API is pretty straightforward.

What for? I have heard similar requests before, but never a good reason, i.e. one that would make it worth to overcomplicate the UI (and thus complicate support etc.). After all, what can you do with coloured guides that you can't with zones as they are? Same goes for windows vs. tabs.

Hi Tosche,

thank you for your fast and detailed reply.

Edit Window:
3. The question was if there is a metrics only view one without the zones.
4. I was referring to baseline, descender, ascender, caps. I would think it helpful if I could show those not only for the selected glyph but all visible glyphs i.e. the whole width of the Text View.

I’m well aware of anchors, even my wife knows about them :wink: I understand your suggestion and it’s a good solution. (There isn’t one solution (for all diacritics) that fits all problems (glyph designs). My ideal is to have job based diacritics assembly definitions. I’ll fidget around a bit, maybe I can manage a script myself.)

Sample text:
Good idea, that works well.

Got it.


Hi mekkablue,

Thanks for your reply. I’ll have a closer look at the scripts.

If various people requested this feature already the request might not be a unreasonable one – don’t get me wrong, your guides are fine and there are many things I rather like about Glyphs! Anyway, my personal user experience is the only “good reason” I can give you. Same goes for windows vs. tabs.


I assume you need something like this because you have special cases. For typical ones, Glyphs supports them by default. For example, if you have (diacritics with .case suffix), it will be automatically used as a capital-specific mark. If you have a diacritic with either .i or .narrow suffix, it will be used for i and j (again, automatically).

For diacritics you want to position differently (as I do with Polytonic Greek), you can have multiple anchors with suffix (e.g. topleft and topleft_far). Glyphs recognises they are variations of the same anchor. For more details please read here:

I can’t think of other exceptions on top of my head. Specifically what do you need to do?

And whatever you want to do, you can do it in your custom XML. You can edit the “decompose” entry of each glyph in the way you want.


Thank you for making such an effort, I had understood the principles of the roll-your-own (GlyphData.xml) alreaday. It makes sense.

(Just thinking, would it be convenient to have a GlyphDataExceptions.xml that only contains ones exceptions? Definitions from that file would overrule definitions in GlyphData.xml. This way one would not have to work in the big glyphData file but could focus on ones custom assembled glyphs.)

Thanks again for your very prompt response,

Your local copy in: ~/Library/Application Support/Glyphs/Info/GlyphData.xml only needs your changes; it does not need to include a copy of the entire GlyphData.xml included with

Regarding guidelines, I too want support for colour or name. Some guidelines are more important than the others (e.g. numeral height or half of x-height), but due to the lack of differentiation I often forget which one is actually okay to move. And that means I want guideline lock too.

I see. Thank you, that's precisely what I meant.
Guidelines are overrated. I need to make a t-shirt for that.

To me, this just says that you have too many global guidelines. If you want vertical metrics, why not define a zone? If a guideline is only needed for a handful of glyphs, why not make them local?

I am afraid that adding color and names will make it only more confusing.

Guidelines are underrated. I need to tattoo that.

Numeral heights are not that trivial, and you might need to paste global guidelines at least 9 times (and when you have proportional variants, slashed, and other masters…). For numeral height, alignment zones might do the job, but that’s not the only purpose. As I said, it might be the half of x-height, or superscript baseline, subscript cap height, and so on. Making zones to all is going to make things more confusing than managing it with named (or coloured) guidelines. And what if I want vertical alignment?

I don’t need colours AND names, just one of them (preferably the latter). I don’t understand why naming them becomes confusing.


I couldn’t agree more. Guidelines are underrated…I would definitely tattoo that. :smile:

1 Like

Well you can have names on global guides now: Select them, choose Edit > Info for Selection.