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What OOo Writer needs more than anything else: Typography

Posted by: Anonymous [ip:] on September 12, 2007 04:28 AM

I come from a publishing background. I grew up in a print shop. I work in a commercial print shop today. And I have to tell you, what Open Source has to offer as an alternative to the commercial page layout packages is dismal. Abysmal almost.

Here's my beef with the OOo line, that no one has seen fit to address, and no one seems likely ever to do so: It has almost no real typography support. It almost never does the right thing. No real OpenType support. Yeah, on Windows you can use them, but only as dumbed down TT fonts. It is still stuck in the Regular, Bold, Italic, BoldItalic paradigm. It should support an unlimited number of variants (semibold, extend, narrow, whatever). It has crappy justification code which leaves rivers of white space (MS Word is better only IF you turn on the "compatibility feature" called "Do full justification like Word Perfect). No ligature support (not just fi, fl, ffi, ffl. There are many others in good OT fonts that are not supported at all). Superscript and Subscript variants are not used (again, an OT support thing). Same goes for Small Caps (like Word, it only fakes small caps, even when the OT font has them). I could go on.

Yeah, there's Latex. IF you want to spend hours tweaking layouts to get it to do something simple. IF you don't care that it is ridiculously complicated to add custom fonts. Latex is fabulous for some things, like its justification code, but it really really sucks for making quick and basic layout changes that just work. Yeah, I know, "But you only need this macro!". Please. I don't need to spend hours for searching for macros that should be included in the package in the first place. Macros that kinda-sorta work. Oh, and all you others getting ready to say "but but but", save it, please. I'm not a n00b. I just want robust, effective, and correct page layout using a coherent, internally consistent, and feature complete markup language. I'd even settle for XFO if there were good engines out there that supported it.

If Latex and other TeX variants were a reasonable solution for general publishing, these things should be easy and already supported out of the box. Sorry, but text processed page layout is a long way from being mature enough for general commercial use. I have yet to see LaTeX match InDesign even in terms of it's basic layout and font capabilities. Scribus has improved on LaTeX, so maybe there's some promise there. Still way too buggy, though.


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