Software Support for OpenType Features


This page is addressed to anyone who is interested in software that provides the most complete support for OpenType and other ‘smart font’ technologies.  This may include linguists and scholars who need the advanced language support offered by OT as well as typesetters and graphic designers.



The Problem


Although there are many applications available that take advantage of OpenType, very few provide complete support.  Many implement only a subset of OT features, some do not support right to left text, while others do not work with characters in the Supplementary Planes of Unicode (which makes them useless for scholars in certain fields).  This page provides information about those applications that do implement OT completely.  If there are any I’ve missed, please email me!



LibreOffice, version 5.3 or higher


Beginning with ver. 5.3, LibreOffice offers support for all OT features (as far as I can tell), including right to left text.  LibreOffice works the same on Mac OS, Windows, and Linux and is available to anyone (unlike some publishing software that is very expensive).  It also supports Graphite, another ‘smart font’ technology. 


LibreOffice is generally similar to other office suites and is reasonably easy to learn, with plenty of online support.  However, for OT features, one types codes in the font selection box rather than choosing options from a menu.  This is not difficult but is different from the methods to which users may have become accustomed in other software.  I have written a guide to using the OT features in LibreOffice, which is available in PDF form from this link.  (This PDF is also included in the download packages for the Italica Vetus font.)



XeTeX and XeLaTeX


Two Unicode-enabled versions of the TeX typesetting language, XeTeX and XeLaTeX, offer full support for OT, Graphite, and AAT (an Apple-specific font technology).  There is complete support for advanced typography and multilingual features, including historic and uncommon scripts.  All variants of TeX are free and cross-platform.  When working with TeX, however, one types commands into an editor rather than using a graphical interface such as that provided by typical office applications.  The learning curve is fairly steep, but in return you get tremendous control over your documents.  There are many on-line and printed resources if you wish to learn XeTeX.


We owe a great debt to the teams that have produced and work to maintain these excellent tools. 


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Last updated August 4, 2017.