Figures: proportional, tabular, lining and old-style figure sets

by Rainer Erich Scheichelbauer
en fr zh

9 August 2022 Published on 8 July 2013

You want to make tabular and proportional, old-style and lining figures? You’ll be amazed at how simple it is!

Creating default figures

First, whatever else you may plan to put into your font, you need to decide what your default set of figures should look like. In any event, their glyph names are simply:

zero one two three four five six seven eight nine

It does not matter whether your default numerals are tabular or proportional, lining or old-style. You don’t need to type them in, just open the Number category in the sidebar of the Font tab, right-click on Decimal Digit, and generate the missing digits.

Also, you don’t need to tell Glyphs what they are, because the app applies some heuristics to find out: First, it measures the height of your eight and your zero, and if the zero is more than 17 percent smaller than eight, the default figures are deemed old-style by the app. Likewise, if the width difference of all default figures exceeds one unit, they are considered proportional. This is important if you want to add additional figure styles.

Creating the rest

Now that you have your default figures, you can do the other three kinds of figures. They have the same names, except for their dot suffixes:

  • .tf: tabular lining
  • .tosf: tabular old-style
  • .lf: proportional lining
  • .osf: proportional old-style

Since you have one of them already covered by your default figures, all you need to do is create one, two, or all of the other three.

Another cool trick: By default, figure components are not automatically aligned. This allows to easily re-use proportional figures for tabular figures and vice versa. You can quickly build alternative figures with components by choosing Glyph > Add Glyphs and entering something in the line of:

… and so on. This example will create and inserts a zero component into it. Same thing with one, etc., you get the idea. Keep going until you have four styles, one of them being the default:

All you need to do now, is go into File > Font Info > Features and click the Update button in the lower left corner of the window. And Boom! Based on the heuristics described above, Glyphs can auto-generate the numeral features, lnum, onum, pnum, tnum:

Now your user can choose between different figure styles. Cool!


Update 2020-03-25: changed title.
Update 2020-03-30: changed the name of the button Refresh to Update.
Update 2022-07-29: updated title, related articles, minor formatting.