Type News

On-Canvas Glyph Selection in Adobe InDesign CC 2015.2

January 20, 2016 by
Yves Peters
Yves Peters

The November 30 update of Adobe InDesign CC introduced new enhancements in the OpenType interface that came out of Adobe’s collaboration with the Adobe Typography Customer Advisory Board. Last October the audience at Adobe MAX 2015 in Los Angeles were treated to a sneak preview in Michael Ninness’ keynote address. Check the one-minute segment: the applause that spontaneously erupted not once but twice when the feature was demonstrated proves once again that people do care about typography.

After the long-overdue addition of the Glyphs panel to Adobe Photoshop CC 2015 just before the summer, Adobe is now moving away from panels and menus, and switching to a much more intuitive on-canvas interface concept. The first example of this shift in approach can be found in the newest update of Adobe InDesign CC 2015.2.

I wanted to show real-life examples, not idealised images, so I added red borders in the screengrabs to highlight the relevant areas.

On-Canvas Display and Selection of Alternate Glyphs in InDesign

No real need to interrupt your workflow to open the Glyphs panel anymore – all the available alternate glyphs for a selected character show up in a pop-up menu, right on the canvas. Typeface: [FF Hertz™](/families/ff-hertz)
No real need to interrupt your workflow to open the Glyphs panel anymore – all the available alternate glyphs for a selected character show up in a pop-up menu, right on the canvas. Typeface: FF Hertz™

When you select a character in the newest version of Adobe InDesign, and the font has one or more alternate glyphs available for that character, those alternates are displayed in a pop-up menu directly on the canvas. Instead of having to open the Glyphs panel, you can simply click the alternate glyph you want to use without having to leave the canvas.

This new approach abstracts some of the complexities of the OpenType feature set. No need anymore to figure out which specific feature the glyph belongs to – is it a Titling Alternate, or a Swash, or a Contextual Alternate? Is it included in Stylistic Set 1 or 2 or 3 or…? Now you get an immediate, on-the-fly visual representation of what the different options are, and you can select the desired alternate without interrupting your work. This considerably speeds up the workflow.

When selecting a string of characters, the first character with alternates is highlighted and the available options are shown in the pop-up menu.
When selecting a string of characters, the first character with alternates is highlighted and the available options are shown in the pop-up menu.

This functionality is not limited to a single character. If you select a string of characters, like an entire word, the first character in the string that has alternates is highlighted with a blue underscore and the alternate glyphs are displayed in the pop-up menu.

No need to search through the entire glyph set – only the _Alternates for Selection_ are shown. Typeface: [Seashore](/families/seashore)
No need to search through the entire glyph set – only the Alternates for Selection are shown. Typeface: Seashore

What the new functionality does is show the subset of the Glyphs panel that relates to the selected character, on the canvas. So for example if different types of end swashes are available for a final form, only those for the selected character will be displayed.

When opening the Glyphs panel when a character is selected, the default view is now _Alternates for Selection._
When opening the Glyphs panel when a character is selected, the default view is now Alternates for Selection.

The same line of thinking was applied to the way the Glyphs panel itself behaves. The previous default was to show the entire glyph set available in the current font. This meant you often had to scroll through a very long list depending on the font you were using. As it made no sense to show the entire glyph set when you had an actual character selected, the new default for the panel is to only show the subset Alternates for Selection – the alternate glyphs available for that specific character. This is a definite improvement because any users were unaware of the Alternates for Selection option. If you still want to see the entire glyph set, simply switch the setting back to Entire Font in the Show pop-up menu.

No need to scan through the entire Glyph set anymore when searching for a specific character. Entering its Name, Unicode Value, or Character/Glyph ID in the Search bar will bring up all the available options.
No need to scan through the entire Glyph set anymore when searching for a specific character. Entering its Name, Unicode Value, or Character/Glyph ID in the Search bar will bring up all the available options.

To make finding a specific glyph easier a new Search field was added to the Glyphs panel in InDesign. This allows you to search in the chosen font for glyphs by Name, Unicode Value, or Character/Glyph ID.

To format a fraction, simply type the figures with the slash, select the string and click the true fraction that pops up. Typeface: [Katarine](/families/katarine)
To format a fraction, simply type the figures with the slash, select the string and click the true fraction that pops up. Typeface: Katarine

The on-canvas selection of alternate glyphs also works for certain selections of multiple characters. This can be very handy for fractions for example. You have to be careful when applying the Fractions OpenType feature to an entire text. Unless the font is designed to recognise fractions, it will turn every single figure into its numerator version (or denominator if it follows a slash), also the numbers that are not part of fractions. And in any case a casually written date like 2016/01/08 will turn into its fractional form. To format individual fractions quickly and easily, simply type the sequence, select the string and click the proper fraction that appears in the pop-up menu. No need to leave the canvas and go to the OpenType menu anymore. This trick also works for ordinals.

An unexpected advantage of the on-canvas pop-up menu is that it reveals what character strings you need to type to compose icons and dingbats. In this example we learn that a number in a circle can be composed by typing that number between parentheses.
An unexpected advantage of the on-canvas pop-up menu is that it reveals what character strings you need to type to compose icons and dingbats. In this example we learn that a number in a circle can be composed by typing that number between parentheses.

The new functionality has an additional advantage. Icons and dingbats are typically selected in the Glyphs panel, and it often takes time to locate them in large glyph sets. However few users know that more and more contemporary fonts call upon advanced OpenType features like Discretionary Ligatures to quickly and efficiently compose them. But what characters do you need to type for any given icon or dingbat?

Try this – after inserting an icon or dingbat through the Glyphs panel, select it on the canvas. This brings up the pop-up menu, revealing the character string needed to compose it. In the example above the pop-up menu teaches us that a number in a circle can be obtained by typing that number between parentheses when the Discretionary Ligatures OpenType feature is activated. If you use certain icons or dingbats very often this trick allows you to learn and memorise the relevant character strings. After a while you don’t need to rely on the Gyphs panel anymore and can simply type them, which speeds up your workflow considerably.

Some designers go all the way and create comprehensive sets of icons and dingbats in their fonts. The on-canvas pop-up menu becomes very helpful when using those complex sets. In this example I made a mock-up for fictional airport signage using Siruca. The stencil sibling of Sirucanorm is an ideal signage face, thanks to its extensive icon library and its stencil shapes that can be routed in different materials for backlit signs. Yet locating an icon can be time-consuming due to the large number you have to search through. However all the icons and dingbats can be composed with simple, logical text, as you can see in the screengrab above. Turn on Discretionary Ligatures and you can type them on the fly.

Further improvements in the type interface in Adobe CC

There are also some improvements in the new versions of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator CC.

In Photoshop you can now filter the Font menu by Font Style (Serif, Slab Serif, Script, etc.), and the Show Similar Fonts button filters the list of available fonts to show the fonts similar to the one applied to selected text.

Paragraph and/or Character Styles defined in one app can now be used in another product via CC Libraries – for example a Paragraph Style defined in InDesign will be available in Illustrator. When you add a Paragraph or Character Style to a CC Library, those styles show up in the CC Libraries panel in all the other products. Simply click on the style you want to use in the CC Libraries panel, and that style will get applied to your text and added to the Paragraph or Character Styles panel for that document.

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Trademark attribution notice
Hertz is a trademark of Monotype GmbH and may be registered in certain jurisdictions. FF is a trademark of Monotype GmbH registered in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and may be registered in certain other jurisdictions. All other trademarks and copyrights are the property of their respective owners.

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