[scribus] Can Scribus use small caps from open-type fonts?

John Jason Jordan johnxj at comcast.net
Wed Jun 18 22:16:22 CEST 2008

On Wed, 18 Jun 2008 15:01:34 -0400
Gregory Pittman <gpittman at iglou.com> dijo:

> Gerry Snyder wrote:

> > Small caps that are in the font, on the other hand, seem to be ignored. 
> > Unless, of course, I am missing something.
> >
> > Is there a way, other than writing a script to do the translation, to 
> > use what is in the open-type font? If not, does anyone know of plans to 
> > add that capability? The small-cap glyphs are in a private-use area, but 
> > presumably they are located in a consistent manner, at least from a 
> > given source.
> >   
> Someone may correct me, but I think smallcaps works two different ways. 
> There is a "global" availability of smallcaps with any font, created by 
> Scribus. A few fonts may also have their own built-in smallcaps, which 
> is handled just like italics, bold, condensed, etc., in other words, its 
> own separate listing in the font list.
> So, for example, in Properties palette > Text, you have the top button 
> for the font category, then underneath a subcategory button, which is 
> where the choice for the built-in smallcaps should be, if it's not a 
> completely different font item in the list.
> The Scribus-manufactured smallcaps comes from the row of small buttons 
> farther down the palette.

There are actually three ways to get small caps:

1) In any word processor you can apply a small caps attribute, the same
as italic, bold, etc. However, when the word processor applies italic
or bold it does so by choosing the italic of bold font for the typeface
you are using. This is not true for small caps. Since most fonts do not
have separate glyphs for small caps the word processor fakes a small
cap by resizing the regular caps so they are the same x-height as other
characters in the font.

The problem with (1) is that the x-height size is not always the same
from one font to the next. Most word processors are set to assume that
the x-height is 70% of the full cap height. Although some full-featured
word processors allow you to adjust this percentage, if you just leave
it at the default the size of your small caps may be slightly off. More
important to those of us who like good typography is that the width of
the small cap strokes will be too thin. That is an inescapable result
of scaling down the regular caps.

2) To get around the above problems font vendors in the olden days
would make "expert sets" of fonts. Thus, you would buy a font with the
four standard versions (regular, bold, italic, and bold-italic; and
perhaps additional weights in some of the truly professional fonts),
and then you would  buy an expert set which included true small caps,
as well as certain other typographic niceties like ligatures,
ornaments, and so on. The expert set would come in various fonts to
match the wieghts of the regular fonts. The true small caps in the
expert set would be the correct x-height and the strokes would be
lovingly designed to look correct.

To apply the true small caps from the expert set you had to choose a
different font. This worked, but was a clumsy way to get true small
caps. Still, in the olden days it is all that layout people could do if
we wanted true small caps. 

3) Enter Unicode and the OpenType font technology. OpenType fonts can
have alternate glyphs that can be accessed without having to use a
separate font. As far as I know, at this time the only program that can
use this feature of OpenType fonts is Adobe InDesign (except I dimly
remember hearing about another program or two that can do so, but I
can't remember what they were). The cool thing about the way InDesign
does it is that you can set "use true small caps" as an option (even in
a style), and InDesign will apply the alternate true small cap glyphs
whenever you just apply the small cap attribute in the format options.
Or, if the font does not have true small cap alternate glyphs, InDesign
will fake small caps by resizing regular caps. This is transparent to
the user. You don't have to do anything to get the true small caps from
your OpenType font other than to set the option in your style.

I believe what Jenny was asking about was if Scribus can do (3) above
and, if not, if it is on the roadmap.

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