[texhax] How can we best keep on using small caps and oldstyle figures?

Paul Isambert zappathustra at free.fr
Mon Apr 18 11:52:39 CEST 2011

Hello Pierre,

Le 16/04/2011 18:19, Pierre MacKay a écrit :
> Your detailed response was (in one sense) exactly the sort of thing I 
> was hoping for, but I am distressed, as obviously you are, by some of 
> your observations.
> Immediate relief for my immediate situation came when the online 
> distiller opened up again, and the Windows instance of Distiller was 
> silently corrected (which means that Adobe is secretly invading my 
> system to fix things, and that does not entirely sit well with me).
> Why do I use distiller? Because the commercial firms I have to satisfy 
> won't accept anything else.  Moreover, not all PDF is the same.  For 
> example, Ghostscript produces apparently successful PDF through the 
> various ps2pdf instances, but you cannot display them in Adobe Reader 
> 7+, because Reader 7+ substitutes blank space for all the characters 
> in Adobe Expert Encoding.   The various direct to PDF versions of TeX 
> may help, and ultimately I may have to try them, but the manuals are 
> not reassuring.  The correspondence associated with direct-to-PDF 
> output does not sound as if refinements such as small caps and old 
> -style figures are of any more concern to the participants than they 
> are to the "industry" as you describe it.

I don't quite see what you are expecting: what could pdf/Xe/Lua-TeX do 
with respect to small caps and associates? The engines simply used the 
fonts they're given; if they support anything related to fonts, it's 
so-called microtypography (I'm not sure what the state of it in XeTeX, 
though). Otherwise, it's garbage in, garbage out.

Martin mentionned the fontspec package; it is designed for LaTeX, 
though, and I think you use plain TeX. But using modern fonts format is 
extremely easy in XeTeX; in LuaTeX you need the luaotfload package (on 
which fontspec relies when used with LuaTeX), although learning to load 
fonts by yourself is something you might want to learn; it is achievable.

> In addition, I have looked through the documentation to find any 
> support for the independent setting of bleedbox and trimbox that seems 
> to be offered only by a computer resident version of distiller (not 
> offered by online distiller) and when one makes up a cover with a 
> solid color underlay, printers insist on a bleedbox 18pt outside the 
> trim box all round to insure against white hairlines at the edge of 
> the cover. I could force this code into a PDF that didn't have it 
> through a perl script, but it would be rather a bear to do, and Adobe 
> Reader does have the virtue that it shows you that trimbox is entirely 
> inside bleedbox with a discrete green line that is not part of the PDF.

The \pdfpageattr token list lets you add properties to a Page object 
(\pdfpagesattr -- note the /s/ -- does that for all pages at once, i.e. 
Pages), including /BleedBox, /TrimBox, etc. There are many PDF 
functionalities that pdfTeX don't support directly because (I suppose 
that's a reason) there are just too many of them and they can be easily 
added to the proper dictionary by hand with a \special-like command.

> Free font development would be nice but, as you say, it is rarely done 
> to anything like the standards that some of the older Type1 packages 
> maintained.  One of the problems that shows up again and again is 
> completely random set-widths.  In one once-touted Greek package I 
> found /alpha, /alphaacute, /alphagrave, and /alphaperispomene each 
> with different widths, the most extreme pairs reaching nearly a point 
> in difference.  That really shows up in densely set text.  (It took me 
> nearly four years to refine Ibycus to even its present imperfect level.)
> I recently had the pleasure of setting a long text in Bruce Rogers's 
> Centaur, and I doubt that any free clone will ever come near the 
> elegance Rogers put into that.  It may be the finest single font ever 
> produced in the United States. Centaur is not a good screen display 
> font, but it seems grossly wasteful of quality to dump it forever just 
> for that limitation.

I once considered buying Rogers's Bible; but then I saw the price tag, 
and decided I should remain an atheist...

I think Centaur is well-preserved by its quasi-mythical status, and I'm 
sure you can find it in many a sword-and-sorcery novel (probably not the 
worst way to use it). Instead, I'm worried by what appears to me as a 
lack of interest in modern fonts in book publishing (not advertising), 
as if literacy should be emphasized by Renaissance.

> Perhaps, as you suggest, luatex may provide a way of holding on to the 
> good fonts from the past.  When I get out from under my present 
> backlog, I shall look into it, and be very grateful to you and luatex 
> for the assstance.

The LuaTeX way as I understand it isn't just adding a fancy programming 
language to a venerable tool; nor is it simply going modern with Unicode 
and True/OpenType (although that is a quite goal in itself); it is 
maximum control on the finest details, among which typographic ones, and 
that is why it is, in my opinion, so good and so in line with the 
philosophy of TeX. (That's also why I can't help talking about it.)

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