Tag Archives: Apple

Apple’s San Francisco font: adding double-decker g’s and humanist a’s

The letters "gaga" using both original and alternate a's and g's in Apple's San Francisco font.

Apple’s new San Francisco font is going to be a vast improvement on Helvetica as a system font in iOS 9 and OS X 10.11. But it features a double-story a without a double-decker, looptail, or eyeglass g. It’s always seemed right to me for a font to have either both, or neither, of these special letters.

Turns out the font world disagrees with my intuition. Futura is the only one of my favorite fonts with a single-story a, and while Gill Sans, Trebuchet, Times, Palatino, Optima and American Typewriter all have both double-story as and double-decker gs (left side), Helvetica, Arial, Courier, Verdana, and Lucida Grande (right side) all have mixed double-story as with simple humanist gs.

The letters a and g in various popular fonts, showing the range of variation.

However, I still wanted to see a more Futura-like and a more Gill-Sans-like San Francisco, and although the font is only available at the moment to Apple developers, I was able to get a copy, and I’ve made alternate glyphs.

Here’s the original:

The word "hamburgefons" in Apple's San Francisco font.

And here it is with a simple humanist a:

The word "hamburgefons" in Apple's San Francisco font, with an alternate humanist a.

And here it is again with a double-decker g:

The word "hamburgefons" in Apple's San Francisco font, with an alternate double-decker g.

And just for fun, here are SVG versions of my alternate a and alternate g, and an animated version over on tumblr.

Update: I hereby release it all into the public domain. Apple, if you’re listening, feel free to incorporate one or the other of these into San Francisco.

A week with Snow Leopard and Lion

After starting a new job a few weeks ago, I found myself in the somewhat unusual position of having a new Mac OS X Lion (10.7) installation at work and a Snow Leopard (10.6) installation at home. Switching every day focused my attention on the differences between the two. Read on to hear my thoughts.

Mission Control

What used to be Dashboard, Spaces, and Exposé have been combined into Mission Control. Overall, this is a tremendous improvement.

The All Windows mode scales all the windows proportionally, like Exposé did in Leopard. If you use any application with small windows (like Stickies), you’ll know how silly Snow Leopard’s Exposé looked when it scaled a 1200×1200 browser window to the same size as a bunch of 100×100 sticky notes and threw them all in a grid. (The non-proportional scaling in Snow Leopard’s Exposé is so useless I hack the Dock after every upgrade to bring back Leopard’s scaling.) The Application Windows mode in Lion uses Snow Leopard’s non-proportional scaling, which is generally ok because multiple windows in the same app are usually similarly sized.

All Windows also groups windows together, which I find helpful, although not critical. You can drag windows into other desktops from the All Windows mode, too. But if you move your pointer even slightly while clicking on a window to activate it, Mission Control thinks you’re starting to drag it, and ends up doing nothing when you meant to activate a window. This is maddening. There should be a threshold below which any mouse movement while clicking just ends up as a click (or perhaps there is; if so, it’s too low).

Mission Control stole Ctrl-Left and Ctrl-right keystrokes to switch desktops, which I use in the terminal all the fricking time. Luckily these keystrokes can be turned off in the settings. I was a multiple desktop power-user back when I used Xwindows, but I never turned on Spaces on Snow Leopard and still haven’t used them on Lion. I’m not sure why not.

There are a few display bugs. Sometimes the blue window highlights are way bigger than the window previews. Textmate’s Find dialog doesn’t (always) show up in Mission Control, which I hope will be fixed sometime before Textmate 2 is released later this year.

The biggest problem for Mission Control is that it doesn’t let you restore or even see minimized windows in All Windows mode, only in Application Windows mode, where they are lumped in with previously opened documents. If you enable “Minimize to Application Icon”, the only way to get at your minimized windows is via the Application Windows mode.

Scroll bars

I got used to the new scroll bars in 30 seconds. I haven’t missed the up/down arrows at all. Weirdly, the default scrolling direction on the MacMini was set up out of the box for trackpads, but on the MacBook, it was set up for scroll wheels.

Migration Assistant

Earlier this year I helped my mom migrate from a vintage MacMini running Tiger (10.4) to a new one running Snow Leopard. The Migration Assistants on the two machines completely refused to cooperate with each other during the initial setup of the new Mini. It took many, many attempts after the install was complete to I get it to migrate her documents. I thought this was because I was migrating between two major releases.

I started out using Lion on an elderly MacMini while my new laptop was in the mail, so I got to experience Migration Assistant again. Before attempting to migrate, I set up the new laptop using a dummy account, and ran Software Update on both computers until they were both running 10.7.1. I hoped the up-to-date Migration Assistant would do better at migrating between two identical versions of Mac OS, but it was just as recalcitrant as before. The two computers steadfastly refused to recognize each other at the same time, even though they were both on the same wireless network just inches away from each other (and from the wireless router). I finally borrowed an ethernet cable, turned the wireless off on both, and hooked them up ethernet port to ethernet port. It felt dirty, but it seemed to help; after a few more tries my account was migrated. I think it took longer to coax Migration Assistant into cooperation than it did to actually migrate my files.

So Migration Assistant is just as cranky between two Lion installs as it was between Tiger and Snow Leopard. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must be for the average, non-technical Mac user to migrate to a new Mac.

The new Mail

I forced myself to use the new side-by-side Mail interface for the first week, hoping that I’d come to like it. I didn’t. I hate it. I switched back to classic view after a week.

I can’t really say what bugs me about Mail, but it just feels wrong. One glaring issue is that the text and icons in the message list have been made bigger, which is a pain for someone with over ten years of email in lots of different folders. Some people, including Jon Gruber, speak highly of it, so I’m holding out hope that it will grow on me.

But when I install Lion on my personal machine, I’ll make a backup of Snow Leopard’s Mail.app and see if it works on Lion. Just in case.


Autocorrect is for people who aren’t fast, good typers. It’s not for me. I turned it off. In Mail and system-wide. I wonder why Mail has its own setting for autocorrect that overrides the system setting.


Seriously, Apple? You mean I have to create an iTunes account, even though this is a work computer and I won’t ever be buying software for it, and verify it, just in order to download XCode? And then, the XCode application that gets installed is actually the XCode installer? What a hassle.

Ok, ok, to be fair, this isn’t a Lion thing. But seriously, Apple?


Aside from mysql5-server, I got everything I needed installed fine. I was even able to beat mysql5-server into submission, with a judicious application of MacPorts-kung-fu.


After hearing many rumors about Textmate not really working under Lion, I’m happy to report that it seems to work fine. (Aside from the aforementioned wacky interaction with Mission Control.)


I won’t use Launchpad. Apple is clearly trying to unify the experience of iOS and Mac OS. But I already have Spotlight, the Dock, and the Applications folder. How many views of my applications do I need?


The resume feature rocks, at least in Terminal. Quit Terminal or restart your machine, and when you relaunch Terminal, all your windows are there, in the same places, with the same tabs, and the scrollback buffers are still there.

I honestly haven’t used or noticed Resume from any other applications. Of course, all the web browsers already have something like it.

Resize from any edge

For the last twenty-odd years, Windows (since 3.1) and most Xwindows window managers have had the ability to resize windows from any edge And Mac OS, going back just as long, to Classic Mac OS, has always forced you to resize (only down and to the right) by grabbing a little, 16×16 pixel box at the lower right of the window. This has always been a minor shortcoming in Mac OS’s interface.

Leave it to Apple’s UI designers to realize you could resize windows from any edge without having an fat, ugly, click-target border all the way around every single window. Resize from any edge is a perfect illustration of Apple’s design genius: Less clutter, same power. I’ve wanted this on Mac OS for so long, I’d be willing to pay the €23 just for this feature alone.

Just because it’s lost doesn’t mean it can’t be stolen

When normal people find something left behind, in a place of business (like a bar), that someone will likely want to have back (like an iPhone), they leave it with someone who works there (like the bartender). Then, the person who left it behind has a way to check if anyone has returned it. Taking it is stealing.

Gizmodo probably suspected that the prototype iPhone they bought was stolen. By now, they’ve made back the purchase price in page views, with a healthy return on top to help cover legal fees.

And if you think any of this will hurt the new iPhone’s sales, I have a bridg^H^H^H^H^Hphone to sell you.

A surprising interface

This quote from an ex-Apple employee about the rumored Apple tablet has got me thinking:

You will be very surprised how you interact with the new tablet.

What could this mean? There are not many interfaces that would be “very surprising.”

A virtual laser keyboard would be surprising. But like a real keyboard, those keyboards aren’t very mobile; they require a flat surface, which you normally don’t have on the move. And a virtual keyboard doesn’t really seem like Apple’s style.

Voice control, or at least good speech recognition to complement keyboard input, is also a serious possibility. It’s something Apple has been interested in for a long time (via DF). A world where airports, subways and coffee shops are filled with people dictating emails and blog posts to their mobile devices is a little terrifying, but then again we already live in a world where people are have intimate personal conversations on their mobile phones in public.

A significantly expanded set of multi-touch gestures is the most likely. Taking advantage of the larger surface of a tablet screen to allow two-handed gestures seems like a natural choice. And handwriting detection would actually not be that much of a surprise from the company that brought us the Newton. Both of these are hinted at in recent patent filings.

While the article I link to in the previous paragraph compares Apple’s patent to the interface in Minority Report, the interface that article talks about requires the user’s fingers to be touching a surface, not in the air. A true Minority Report-style interface, where you gesture in the air to control the device, would be quite surprising. Being able to control a device without actually touching the screen (and getting finger marks on it) would make the tablet more attractive for full-screen uses like watching movies and playing games. This interface is a ways off still, though.

I’m not going to say I told you so

The whole flap about Apple “bricking” unlocked and hacked iPhones with the latest software update reminds me of this article I wrote about Kaleidoscope in 2003.

I won’t say I told you so because I didn’t, exactly. (In fact, re-reading my article on Freshmeat makes me cringe; it’s a half-thought-out piece of naiive open-source evangelism.) But looking back, this is a story that gets repeated over and over again. It goes like this:

  1. A company releases a popular, closed product.
  2. A third party “hacks” the product and adds killer functionality via an undocumented, reverse-engineered API or infrastructure.
  3. A future update to the software eliminates the hack or alters the reverse-engineered API enough to eliminate the killer functionality.
  4. Go back to step 2.

I’m not suprised that this story is being repeated with the iPhone, because if there’s any company that’s extremely likely to take step 3, it’s Apple. Their entire business is based on total control of the whole widget, and they are doing a killer job. It wouldn’t be fair to expect them to even care about whether a new OS will break unofficial uses of hardware interfaces in the iPhone that weren’t documented or intended for third-party use.

It’s an old story, and I’m sure we’ll hear it again someday.