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I dabble in graphics design and webcomics, so when I got the opportunity to play with 2TTF.com's do-it-yourself iFontMaker app, I leapt at the opportunity. The promise of crafting my own handwriting fonts directly on the iPad was too juicy an opportunity for me to pass up. Fortunately, iFontMaker delivers on its promise. Anyone will be able create a Mac and PC compatible handwriting font with iFontMaker; and who among us hasn't wanted to do that?
Making Your Font
iFontmaker has a single, straightforward interface with a few adjustable options. It’s very clean, very simple to figure out, and, as it turns out, very black. This threw me off for a second, as most of us are used to looking at a font most often as black text on white background. I’m not sure why they chose to do it this way; it may be a graphic design thing. It doesn’t hinder the functionality of the app.
Making a font from your own writing is pretty straightforward. Each letter has to be written individually, in large size (the entry field takes up most of the iPad screen). The screen provides guides for you so that you can provide a consistency of size and baseline; if you don’t want the guides, they can be turned off. You can also control the pen tip to achieve rounded, squared, or chiseled tip; and line width for bolder or finer fonts. This isn't a lot of variety, but it allows you to find a line that looks good in your handwriting. I preferred the square "pencil" tip, and I recommend choosing a finer line than the default 5 pt. Don't go too fine, though; the line may look big on the screen, but could become hard to read when shrunk down to 12 point type.
You must enter each letter, number, and character one at a time. For my review, I tried this with both my finger and a Pogo Stylus. I preferred the stylus for finer handwriting control, but even a finger works fine.
Being able to write directly onto the screen is great for making a handwriting font, and the large screen size means you can get a decent line even with your fingertip.
The 2TTF website promises that you can make your own font in about five minutes, and that’s true. It took me about 5 minutes to create a decent set of 95 standard characters. The app gives you the option to do more than 400 characters, however, including another 96 Latin characters (many of them accented letters), 256 extended characters, and two Japanese font sets. It's great that they don't limit the fonts to a basic character set, and it real adds to the app's international appeal.
Generating Your Font
Once you've entered all your characters, creating a usable font is pretty simple. You just upload it via WiFi to 2TTF.com--you don't even need an account name or password--and the website sends you a passkey. Within a minute, the font is ready, and anyone with the URL and passkey can download your creation for free.
The fonts work, too. I imported both of my fonts into a Windows PC without a single issue. I tried them out in both Microsoft Word 2007 and an older version of Adobe Photoshop CS; they functioned without issue, the same as all my other TTFs. They didn’t necessarily look great, but then, my handwriting rarely does.
So, should you buy iFontMaker? Ultimately, the question boils down to: how badly do you want a font based on your own handwriting? The app delivers what it promises, a font based on your handwriting for the relatively low price of $7.99. Getting a personal handwriting font created online generally costs $10 to $20, and with those services you don't get to go back and create another one, or fix the one you have, or let your six-year-old make a font. So iFontMaker is definitely a value for what it does.
Once you've perfected your personal font, however, there’s really not much reason to keep iFontMaker on your iPad. It lacks any drafting type tools, so there's no way to create straight lines, elegant curves, or the next Helvetica. Sure, some graphic designer types, or those artists on YouTube drawing phenomenal portraits on the iPad with their fingers, might be able to suss more out of this app (2TTF.com features a few). But for most of us, this is a finite process: complete your personal font, transfer it to your desktop or laptop, and then delete iFontmaker from your device.
I commend the 2TTF for putting out such a neat app that allows many of us to do something that we've always wanted to do, in a way that makes use of the unique iPad interface. I hope that they create a more robust font creation tool out of iFontMaker in the future. In the meantime, though, it’s a fun experience for anyone interested in a novelty handwriting app, and even though it’s of finite use, it’s still a couple of bucks cheaper and more flexible than online font creation services.