Outline Character View

The outline character view is the window in which most editing happens.

At the top of the window, underneath the menu bar is an information line. The first item is the location of the mouse pointer (in the internal coordinate system of the character). If there is a single selected point then the next item gives its location, and the next three are, respectively, the offsets from the selected point to the current location, the distance from the selected point, and the angle from the horizontal (measured counter-clockwise). Then we have the current scale factor, and the layer which is active. Finally (in the debugging view) is an indication of whether the instruction pointer is in the glyph program, the 'prep' program of the 'fpgm'.

Underneath the information is a ruler showing the current pointer location as a red line. There's a similar ruler on the left side.

Underneath that is the character itself. On the left edge of the screen is a grey line indicating the x=0 line, further right is a black line showing where the character's width is currently set. There are also grey lines showing the ascent, descent and baseline.

Background images and background splines are drawn in grey. Grid lines are also drawn in grey. Vertical hinting regions are drawn in light blue, Horizontal hints are drawn in light green. If any hints overlap the boundaries are drawn in cyan.

The points of the character are of three types, corner points drawn as filled squares, curve points drawn as filled circles and tangent points drawn as filled triangles. If a point is selected then it will be drawn as an outlined square, circle or triangle and its control points are drawn as little magenta or dull-cyan xs at the end of a similarly colored line. (in a curved point the control points will be collinear). (the "Next" control point will be drawn dull cyan, and the Prev point will be magenta).

The initial point in a contour will be drawn in green, and beside it will be a tiny arrow pointing in the direction of the contour.

Sometimes it is important to know which points are at the extrema of splines (postscript likes for there to be points at the extrema of all splines), if this is important to you set the "Mark Extrema" flag in the View menu. After that points at extrema will show up as dull purple.

There are also two palettes, one, a layer palette, allowing you to control which layers are visible, and one, a tool palette, from which you may pick editing tools. Normally these are free floating windows, but you may choose to dock them in the window with View->Palettes->Dock Palettes.

You select an editing tool by clicking on the appropriate button on the tools palette, or you may depress the right mouse button and select a tool from a popup menu (you may also change layers and do a few other things with this menu). There are four different tools bindings available to you (this may be a complication with no utility). The left mouse button has a tool bound to it, and this tool will be displayed when the program is idle. If you hold down the control key, another tool is available, by default this is a pointer but if you click on the tools palette with the control key down you can select something else. If you depress the middle mouse button you get a third tool (by default a magnifying glass), and the control key and middle button give you the fourth (a ruler).

If the mouse pointer is close to a point (within a few pixels) when you depress the mouse, then the effective location of the press will be the location of the point.

If you drag a character from the font view and drop it into a character view then PfaEdit will drop a reference to the dragged character into the view.


There are several layers in the outline view, three of which are editable. Each layer has a check box (indicating whether it is visible or not) and the editable layers also have a radio button (indicating whether it is editable).

You may use the indicated mnemonics to change the editable layer (even if the focus is not in the layers window).

The first is the foreground layer, this contains the splines that actually make up the character that will be placed into the font.

The second is the background layer, this contains background images and splines. These do not go into the font, but may be helpful to you in tracing the outline of your character. It is possible to paste an image into the background if you have an image manipulation program that supports selection by mime type (the kde family of applications does this, perhaps others), then PfaEdit will be able to read images in either "image/png" or "image/bmp".

The third layer is a set of guide lines/splines. These are common to all characters in the font. A few lines are provided for you (the x=0 line, the ascent, descent and baseline). Other handy lines might be the x-height of the font, the cap-height, ascender-height, descender-height, ... When you are working in any of the other layers, points will snap to splines in this layer (making it easy to force a consistant x-height for example).

The next 4 entries control what hints for this character are visible. Most hints may be created with the Hints->AutoHint command, the presence of hints will sometimes improve rasterization. The blues entry displays the BlueValues zones. These may be set with Element->Font Info->PS Private.

The Anchors entry controls what whether anchor points are displayed.

The last two entries control whether the horizontal or vertical metrics for the character are visible. When editing Latin (Cyrillic, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, etc.) glyphs only horizontal metrics are generally present. When editing Chinese, Japanese, Korean fonts both horizontal and vertical metrics are needed. By default vertical metrics are not available, if you want them go to Element->FontInfo->General.


There are 16 different editing tools of which two (rectangle/ellipse and polygon/star) come in two forms.

At the bottom of the palette is a list of the current bindings of the mouse buttons. Here mouse button 1 is bound to the pointer tool, mouse button 1 with the control key pressed is also bound to pointer, mouse button 2 is bound to magnify, and mouse button 2 with control is bound to ruler.

The pointer tool

This tool is used for selecting points, images and referenced characters. It can also move these and scale images and referenced characters.

Only things that are in the layer that is currently editable may be selected or moved or scaled.

A simple click on an unselected point selects it and deselects everything else. A shift click on a point toggles whether that point is selected or not. A double click selects all points on the path containing that point. Clicking on the background will deselect everything. Clicking on the background and dragging out a rectangle will select everything within the rectangle. Clicking on a line or spline will select the two end points of that line or spline. Clicking on the dark part of an image (when in the background layer) will select the image. Clicking on the outline of a referenced character will select that reference (if a reference character happens to have the same outline and bounding box, then holding down the meta key will allow you to move it once it is selected, without the meta key you will resize it).

If a point has no visible control points, then they are at the same location as the point itself. If you want to select one of the control points then first select the point (to make the control points active) then hold down the meta key and depress the mouse on the point. This should allow you to drag one of the control points (if you get the wrong point the first time drag it out of the way, repeat the process to get the other control and then put the first one back). Sadly some window managers (gnome-sawtooth for one) will steal meta-clicks. If this happens you will need to use Element->Get Info to set the control points.

Once something is selected you may drag it around. If you select something and drag the mouse then it and everything else selected will be moved. If you drag an open path and one of the end points happens to fall on the end point of another open path, then the two will be merged into one. If you drag a control point then it will be moved.

If you selected a spline, then dragging it will drag the location on the spline where you pressed the mouse (so you are changing the shape of the spline).

If you hold the shift key down when you drag then the motion will be constrained to be either horizontal, vertical, or at a 45° angle. (When moving control points the combination of shift and meta (alt) will mean that the control point is constrained to be the same angle from the base point as it was before you started moving it).

If your font has an ItalicAngle set, and the ItalicConstrain preference item is set, then motion that would normally be constrained to the vertical is constrained to be along the ItalicAngle.

If you move the mouse to the bounding box of a selected image or reference character and drag it then you will scale that object.

If you move the mouse to the width line, then dragging it will change the width of the current character. If there are any bitmaps of this character then their widths will also be updated. If there are any other characters which depend on this character (ie. include this character as a reference) and their width was the same as the character's, then their widths will also be updated (so if you change the width of A, then the width of À, Á, Â, Ã, Ä and Å might also be changed).

It is also possible to use the arrow keys to move selected items around. Each arrow will move the selection one em-unit (this can be changed in preferences to be any number of em-units) in the obvious direction. The selection may include the width (right bearing) line (or vertical with line). If the last thing you selected was a control point then that point will be moved. If you hold down the shift key at the same time the up and down arrows will move parallel to the italic angle (be careful of this: this leads to non-integral values). If you hold down the meta (alt) key, then the motion will be 10 times the normal amount.

If you hold down the control key while working with the arrows then the view will be scrolled rather than moving the selection.

If the character is a ligature (and has a ligature entry in Char Info) then it has the potential of having "ligature caret locations". Essentially this means that between each ligature component it is possible to place a caret location (so that the word processor will place be able to place a caret between each component of the ligature). In a ligature window a series of vertical lines will be drawn across the screen at the caret locations. By default these lines will be placed at the origin, but you may move one by placing the mouse pointer on it, depressing the button and dragging the line around. See the description on building a ligature for a more complete description.

The magnifying tool

Clicking with the magnifying tool will magnify the view and center it around the point you clicked on. Holding down the Alt (Meta) key and clicking will minify the view, again centered around the point at which you clicked. Again some window managers will steal meta-clicks, so you may have to use the View menu to minify (It's called Zoom Out

If you drag out a rectangle with this tool then when you release, PfaEdit will shift and scale the view so that your rectangle just fits into the window.

The hand tool

You can use this tool to scroll the window without using the scroll bars.

The freehand tool

You can use this tool to draw a random curve which PfaEdit will then attempt to convert into a set of splines. If you hold down the Alt (Meta) key then PfaEdit will close the curve when you release the mouse.

If you double click on the icon in the tool palette you get a dialog similar to the Element->Expand Stroke which will give you more control over the results. You can:

If you have a wacom graphics tablet you can configure these pens to have variable sizes depending on the amount of pressure you apply to the stylus. Simply move the stylus around in the two boxes using the amount of pressure appropriate for the corresponding pen-size (Stroke Width)

Tools for adding curved, corner and tangent points.

These three tools behave similarly, differing only in what kind of point is added to the view.

If a single point is selected, and if that point is at the end of a path then depressing the mouse button will create a new point where the mouse was depressed and draw a spline from the selected point to new point. If this new location happens to be the end of a path then the two paths will be joined (or if it is the end of the current path then the path will be closed).

Otherwise if the mouse is depressed while being on a spline then a point will be added to that spline.

Otherwise a new point is created not on any path at the location of the press.

Once the point has been created then it becomes selected and all others are deselected. You may drag the point around, and if the point is on an open path and you drag it to the end point of another open path then the two paths will be joined.

If you double click then a point will be added as above and a Point Info dlg will appear to give you fine control over the location of the point and its control points.

The pen tool

In many ways this is similar to the tools above, the only differences are that the points created are curved points, they are initially created with the control points on the point and as you drag you drag out the control points rather than moving the point itself around.

The knife tool

This tool is used to cut splines. As you drag it across the view pfaedit draws a line showing where the cut will happen. When you release, every spline you intersect will be cut-- that is at the location where this line intersects the spline two new points will be created and the old spline will be split in two connecting to the two new end points. These endpoints are not joined, so the spline is now open (or if it were previously open, it is now cut in two).

The ruler tool

This tool tells you the x-y offsets, distance and angle from the point where you depressed the mouse to the mouse's current location. If you depress the tool at the end point of a spline and move it to the other endpoint then it will also show the length of that spline. If you hold down the Meta (Alt) key then the current location will be shown more accurately than on the status line.

The scale tool

This tool allows you to scale the selection by eye rather than by a set amount (if there is no selection then everything in the current layer will be scaled). The location of the press will be the origin of the transformation, the further you move the point up and to the right the more it will be scaled in that dimension. If you want the scaling to be uniform or only in one dimension then hold down the shift key.

The flip tool

This tool allows you to flip the selection either horizontally or vertically. Again the point at which you press the mouse is the origin of the transformation.

The rotate tool

This tools allows you to rotate the selection freely.

The skew tool

This tool allows you to skew the selection.

The rectangle/ellipse tool

By default this produces a rectangle, but if you double click on the button in the tools palette you can make it produce an ellipse or a rectangle with rounded corners.

You can choose whether the rectangle (or ellipse) will be drawn between the point where you depressed the mouse on the view and the point where you released it (bounding box), or whether the point where you depress the mouse becomes the center of the rectangle and the point where you release it provides an end-point (center out).

The polygon/star tool

By default this draws a regular polygon, but by double clicking on the button in the tools palette you can make it draw a star, or select the number of verteces in your polygon.

The polygon is drawn as though it were inscribed in the circle whose center is the point where you depressed the mouse and whose radius is the distance between the press point and the release point. One of the polygon's verteces will be at the release point.

A star is drawn similarly. It will be a star generated from a regular polygon. As the number of verteces of the polygon gets larger the star will look more and more like a circle, for this reason the dialog box that allows you to pick the number of verteces will also allow you to pick how far the star's points should extend beyond the circle in which the polygon is inscribed (this will make a non-regular star, but it might look nicer).

Vertical View

In this view the vertical metrics of the character are shown. You can change the vertical advance just as you changed the character's width (by selecting the pointer tool and draging the vertical advance line up or down).

Grid Fit View

If you have the freetype library, then you can see the results of rasterizing your character. If you have freetype's bytecode interpreter enabled you can also see how the truetype instructions in the character have moved the points around (if you don't have the bytecode interpreter enabled you will see what freetype's autohinter does to points). This mode can be invoked with View->Show Grid Fit...

The Show Grid Fit command will ask you for some basic information first. It needs to know the pointsize and resolution for which you want the action performed (the example at right is 12pt on a 72dpi screen).

The Debugging View

PfaEdit has a truetype debugger -- provided you have a version of freetype on your machine with the bytecode interpreter enabled (Note: you need a license from Apple to enable this. It is protected by several patents).

The image to the right shows an example of this mode. You invoke it with Hints->Debug, and as with the grid-fit view above you must establish a pointsize and and resolution. The view divides into two panes, the left of which is similar to the grid fit view above (except that it changes as you step through the instructions), the right pane provides a list of the instructions to be executed.

There are a series of buttons at the top of the instruction view. The first will single step the truetype program (step into), the second will step over procedure calls, the third will set a break point at the return point for the current function and continue until that is hit, and the fourth will continue until:

The red "STOPPED" arrow shows the current location of the instruction pointer (and what instruction will be executed next).

The fifth button allows you to set a watch point. You select a point (or several points) in the left hand pane, and press this button. Thereafter, whenever one of those points is moved PfaEdit will stop the glyph program.

Flaw: PfaEdit only allows you to select a single control point (multiple on-curve points, but only one control point) so currently there is no good way to watch several control points.

You can set a more conventional break point by clicking on an instruction. A little red stop sign will appear on top of the address area, and the program will halt when the instruction pointer reaches that instruction. Clicking on the instruction again will remove the breakpoint.

Flaw: Currently there is no way to set breakpoints outside of the current function.

Flaw: Currently there is no way to examine the call stack.

The sixth button brings up a menu with which you can control which of various debugging palettes are visible. The ones available so far are:
Shows the truetype graphics state. Shows the truetype stack. The value in parentheses is a 26.6 number. Shows the points. You may choose to view the twilight points, or the points displayed in the glyph pane (the normal points). You may view the current location or the original location. You may view them in the units of the current grid, or in em-units.

The points may have some flags associated with them 'H' means the horizontal touch flag has been set, 'V' means the vertical touch flag has been set and 'W' means that the point has a watch point set on it.

Shows the truetype storage locations. Shows the current values in the cvt array.

Flaw: most of these palettes should have scrollbars. For now just resize them to look at things off the bottom.

The final button will exit the debugger.

The debugger also responds to some single character commands common to many debuggers:
s step into
n step over (next)
c continue
r restart (with same grid)
f step out (finish routine)
k kill the debugger
q kill the debugger

The Hints->Debug menu command can also be used to exit the debugger (by turning off the debug check box), or to restart the debugger with different values for the point size and resolution. This dlg can also control whether the fpgm and prep tables are debugged. Usually debugging will start when execution reaches the instructions associated with this glyph.
Intermediate version of "A" showing two other styles in background
Intermediate version of "A" with two other styles in the background

Multiple Master View

In a multiple master font the MM menu gives you control over which style of the font you are editing. It will also allow you to display any (or all) of the other styles in the background

Multiple Layer Editing

If you wish to edit type3 fonts, and you have configured PfaEdit correctly, the PfaEdit can display a glyph broken down into a series of strokes and fills and allow you to edit each one.

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