[scribus] Why scribus lacks letter-spacing? was: how does scribus do justification?
torlasz at net.sote.hu
Thu Jan 28 10:30:40 CET 2010
On 01/26/2010 11:48 PM, John Culleton wrote:
> Kerning between letters, also called letterspacing is not a good way to
> justify. One guru is famously quoted as saying "A man who would letterspace
> lower case would steal sheep."
Although I am neither a typographer, nor a native English speaker, let
me correct you a bit.
1. "Kerning" is to adjust the space between specific pairs of letters to
achieve a better, more natural look of a word. Kerning information is in
the font file, you may override this manually, for specific pairs of
letters in scribus.
2. "Letter spacing" is one way to do hyphenation/justification.
"Hyphenation/justification" (H&J) is to achieve an even, straight line
for the right, left or both margins by optionally hyphenating words at
line ends and by changing the position of words/characters.
3. The quote you mention is actually a misquote (see:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederic_Goudy). Goudy (a famous American
typographer) said: "Any man who would letterspace blackletter would
shag sheep." As you see, the statement is actually a lot stronger :-),
but it is only about blackletter fonts.
I like books that where produced with care, according to the built up
skills and tradition of printers and typographers. These people well
deserve our respect. However, typography is more of an art than an exact
science. There are rules, traditions that we should follow, but these
exist for a goal: to produce a readable, esthetically pleasing text. So
I don't think statements of any typographer should be considered
There are many ways to achieve hyphenation/justification. Gutenberg
solved the problem by carefully crafting special character combinations.
Today we can use:
1. change the word-spaces (spaces between words)
2. change the letter-spaces (spaces between characters within word)
3. change the width of the characters themselves
In an ideal case you can give % values for the minimal and maximal
values for all of these. (Plus you should be able to change the mean as
well, to achieve "tracking").
In Scribus 1.3.5 you can set (Properties, Text, Advanced settings): Word
Tracking (that's word-spaces) minimal and normal value (I guess this is
the mean), and you can set Glyph extension (that's character width) min
and max value. There is no way to set letter-spaces. So we have #1 and
#3 but no #2.
It is well known, that misusing letter-spacing is ugly. Setting it to
more than +/- 3-5% from 100% can lead to a change of "color" of the text
(the average grey impression of the text when not directly focusing on
it). But you can also misuse #1 and #3 as well! There is a wide belief
that letter-spacing is from the evil (based in part on the above
misquoted opinion of Goudy). I rather believe my eyes. There are lots of
examples in the book "J Felici: The Complete Manual of Typography" of
the same block of text set with different combination of H&J methods #1,
#2 and #3. It is clear, that a combination of these methods gives the
best results if used properly. I simply don't believe anyone can spot 3%
So my humble request for the developers: PLEASE, AT LEAST CONSIDER
including the ability to change letter-spacing. You don't get as much
flexibility with it as with #1 and #3, but it is useful. I think Scribus
should be the best layout program, and this is a useful feature.
I understand the implications: the H&J algorithm becomes more
complicated, possibly slower, but I still think it should be implemented.
Optical margins are very nice (they are available in 1.3.5) and H&J
"paragraph at a time" would be very-very welcome. But I understand it is
coming for Scribus.
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