Are you addicted to fonts? Geoffrey Dean certainly is, which is why a new CD from the Electronic Font Foundry is likely to make his affliction even worse.
The Electronic Font Foundry is one of the longest-running companies serving the RISC OS platform, and over the ten years or more that it's been producing outline fonts for RISC OS machines, it has built up a vast collection of really top-notch fonts.
What's more, because these fonts are created specifically with Acorn's outline font manager in mind, and are much more than just shapes converted from another platform, EFF's collection is unparalleled in quality. Although EFF is not the only producer of professional-quality fonts in the RISC OS market, it's by far the most well-established and there's no denying that, in technical terms, its fonts are simply the best you can buy.
EFF Professional Typography
So it came as a bit of a surprise in 1997 when EFF launched its first Professional Typography CD-ROM. Although EFF's professional-quality fonts could hardly be accused of being expensive (just compare them with the technically inferior equivalents on other platforms, which cost many times the price), it was still selling them individually for a few pounds each. So, the appearance of a CD containing 500 of these outstanding fonts for the normal price of only a handful of them was extremely exciting for fontoholics like me.
That CD was actually christened EFF 1, which led me to hope that there would eventually be a volume 2. Now, around two years on, EFF has indeed released a second volume, and what a pleasure it is to see it! Although it's still far from representing EFF's entire font catalogue, the new CD contains no fewer than 800 fonts (in fact, there are actually 805 faces).
The first thing to realise is that if you've got the original EFF disc, you won't need it any more; every single font that was on volume 1 is still present on volume 2. If you do have the first CD, you are entitled to upgrade to this new version for half price, so there's no reason to feel cheesed off about duplicated contents. The great thing is that, as well as numerous new font families which haven't been on CD before, the new disc adds extra weights to families from volume 1, so if you've got the first disc you'll find that many of the fonts you already know and love have suddenly become a whole lot more useful.
RISC OS and more
So, even if you've already bought volume 1, volume 2 gives you an extra 300 RISC OS fonts on top of the original 500. Great! But it's actually better than that: the new volume 2 disc is dual-platform. It supports both RISC OS and Windows. EFF itself also sells Mac-format fonts, so maybe if there's ever a third CD, it might support the Mac too. But since a lot of RISC OS users also have PCs, this is great news; as well as the 800+ RISC OS fonts that you now own, exactly equivalent fonts can be used under Windows, which makes it a lot easier to create a consistent appearance between work done on different platforms. If you upgrade from the first disc, therefore, you'll find yourself in possession of PC equivalents of most of your best existing RISC OS fonts in addition to all the new ones.
What do you get?
The CD is attractively presented and comes in a jewel case with a booklet that lists all 800 fonts, fifty per page (all the references are in the fonts themselves, of course, so you can see what each one looks like). The booklet actually says '800+5' fonts, because there are five extra symbolic fonts in addition to the alphanumeric range. In fact there are only four, but EFF Mackintosh (a tribute to Charles Rennie Mackintosh) is a pair of faces comprising a highy decorative alphanumeric face and a set of ornaments.
So, what do you actually get on the disc? Well, opening the root directory reveals a set of files for Windows users and directories of PostScript and TrueType fonts for the PC, plus a RISC OS directory. There is also multi-platform documentation in the form of illustrated HTML files, which give installation instructions for both platforms along with a bit of information about EFF and its products.
RISC OS users actually get a bit more than Windows users, as the RISC OS directory contains a couple of applications as well as the fonts. One application is EFF's 2000 catalogue; the other is a special version of the catalogue which lists the contents of the CD and allows you to install selections of fonts to your hard disc. It's actually possible to use the fonts directly from the CD, though performance will clearly be better if you copy them to your hard disc first. Such a wide range of fonts makes a font manager application such as LOOKsystems' Font Directory Pro a particular asset, of course.
Both catalogues allow you to view font samples (including fonts not on the CD in the case of the full catalogue), and indeed the full catalogue indicates exactly which faces are included on the CD by means of a tick or cross. That obviously helps you to know if there are more faces in a family than the ones you own. For both catalogues, although you can view all fonts in one huge list if you want, they can also be viewed by category by turning on switches for 'Transitional serif', 'Script', 'Open' fonts and so on, which makes it very easy to find the kind of font you're looking for quickly. These programs are therefore pretty well thought out.
What of the fonts themselves? Well, ignoring the PostScript and TrueType fonts for Windows, the RISC OS fonts are actually in EFF's 'Publisher' format. That means that you get the full RISC OS font plus an equivalent PostScript Type I version of each face for downloading to PostScript printers and imagesetters. As this represents the most comprehensive and expensive of EFF's font formats, there's no complaining about value. Note that all the RISC OS fonts are in RISC OS 3 format, and include auto-kerning data. This means that they won't work on RISC OS 2 machines; but surely no-one's still using RISC OS 2 these days...
As for the range of fonts provided, the emphasis is definitely on the useful. There's a limited range of display faces, script faces and other novelties, but the vast majority fall into the usual serif and sans serif categories, and many have a huge range of weights and complementary faces. To give a specific example, the Baskerville family (entirely new to volume 2) has no fewer than 24 faces in three basic weights, and includes old-style-figures and small-caps versions together with a complete range of expert sets. Such variety allows a lot of typographic freedom. The New Swiss family, of which there were sixteen faces on the first disc, has been expanded to include an amazing fifty faces on the second CD, including both condensed and extended versions of the nine overall weights. In other cases (e.g. Eric, better known as Gill Sans), there are open weights to complement the normal faces.
Click on the image to see a 24-face sample of the Baskerville font.
This really is a stunning collection. For me personally, volume 1 was by far the best CD-ROM of 1997, and I suspect that volume 2 is likely to be my favourite of 2000. If you've no interest in fonts then you're not likely to agree, but if you do then you'll be in seventh heaven here (if not to say eight-hundredth heaven). You may, of course, still consider the disc relatively expensive, but these fonts really are the best quality you can buy, and to get such a huge range of them for such a generous price makes this CD remarkable value. After all, even if you buy it at full price rather than upgrading, you get 800 'Publisher' fonts for the price of seventeen individual faces.
A final point to make about the fonts provided is that, surprisingly enough, there aren't too many! That sounds odd when we're taking about 800 fonts, but the point is that you get 800 faces rather than 800 families. Although there are plenty of families to choose from, of course, a lot of them have a great many weights within them (like New Swiss, mentioned above). This means that you can get a lot of typographic mileage out of such families. Having many related weights gives you a lot of scope for your design work; far more than having lots of families with only a handful of weights in each.
So, if you have any serious use for fonts, you really must buy this excellent CD. If you happen to use both a RISC OS machine and a PC (and many RISC OS users do), then the CD is especially valuable as it works with both platforms. So what are you waiting for? Get it ordered at once!