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Where in most font files do they store information such as "If character %1 is followed by character %2, decrease the spacing by x points"? Are all the (%1,%2, resulting_kerning) tuples in a central location by themselves, or would the section of the font file describing %2 have a section identifying %1 as a kerning pair (or a table of (%1, resulting_kerning) tuples if %2 had multiple possible kerning results for different preceding characters)? Or something different? How is it actually architected in most font file formats?

%1 and %2 were just used as symbol placeholders in my question here.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 18 down vote accepted

For Classic TeX using tfm files the kerning and ligature information is in the ligtable in the tfm file. That is a binary file but there is a human readable version of it "property list" format, and a tftopl utility to convert the file:

On the command line (texlive version, other implementations may vary slightly)

tftopl cmr10.tfm

Produces a long list of font metric information which you might want to direct to a file. The bit you are interested in is

   (LABEL O 40)
   (KRN C l R -0.277779)
   (KRN C L R -0.319446)

where you can find for example

   (LABEL C F)
   (LABEL C V)
   (LABEL C W)
   (KRN C o R -0.083334)
   (KRN C e R -0.083334)
   (KRN C u R -0.083334)
   (KRN C r R -0.083334)
   (KRN C a R -0.083334)
   (KRN C A R -0.111112)

which information is repeated as a comment in the characters main entry:

   (CHARWD R 0.750002)
   (CHARHT R 0.683332)
   (CHARIC R 0.013888)
      (KRN C o R -0.083334)
      (KRN C e R -0.083334)
      (KRN C u R -0.083334)
      (KRN C r R -0.083334)
      (KRN C a R -0.083334)
      (KRN C A R -0.111112)
      (KRN C O R -0.027779)
      (KRN C C R -0.027779)
      (KRN C G R -0.027779)
      (KRN C Q R -0.027779)

Which tells you the height width and italic correction of a capital V and the fact that it has a negative kern of -0.111112 *10pt if followed by A.

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Thanks very much. Now I'm interested to find documentation for Property List format to know what words/things all those codes such as 'O', 'C', and 'R' are supposed to represent. – mring Apr 24 '13 at 14:00
They'll be in the metafont book (not free) you can use texdoc tftopl but that's the documented source of the program and a bit opaque:-) C is character O is octal R is a real number (a length in pt usually) – David Carlisle Apr 24 '13 at 14:34
@DavidCarlisle Actually SPACE R 0.333334 means "0.333334" times the design size, which is in points. So for cmr10 the space is 3.333334pt because the design size is 10 (this is in points). – egreg Apr 24 '13 at 18:04
@egreg Oh yes, that makes more sense:-) – David Carlisle Apr 24 '13 at 18:11
I had too many 3's the last time. :) I'd like to note that for Postscript fonts, the TFM files are usually derived from AFM files with fontinst. – egreg Apr 24 '13 at 20:08

In Computer Modern family (METAFONT) such information is described in *.mf (METAFONT) files and used via *.tfm (Table of Font Metric) files.

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