Why Type Professionals Prefer Quark: The Kerning Table Editor

I got my start in typesetting and production by setting type and building kern tables on command-line typesetting equipment. When I was hired to set up and develop an in-house type and production department for a major, award-winning advertising agency, I quickly came to appreciate the unmatched typographic control that Quark offered. This quality remains unparalleled to this day.

The Art Directors I worked with demanded the best typography the industry could offer, and frankly, they didn’t care how much time — or rounds of revisions — it took me to produce that quality. I quickly won over skeptics by using Quark’s Kerning Table editor. This little-known utility has the power to virtually automate typographic precision, thereby guaranteeing precision across projects, clients and business units.

Rather than adjusting kern pairs locally by using the Measurements Palette, the Kerning Table editor allows you to adjust those pairs globally, on a document level. Letter pair spacing handled in this way gets done once and, even more importantly, gets applied consistently across the entire document. By kerning with the Kerning Table Editor, entire annual reports and other long publications can be professionally and consistently kerned. Furthermore, when the inevitable edits come, you can make copy adjustments and even flow in entirely new copy without losing any of your work… or your credibility.

The Kerning Table Editor is found about 3/4 of the way down the Utilities menu. Choosing it will bring up the following dialog box:

The Kerning Table Editor

The first thing to be aware of is that fonts are listed alphabetically. That means that you may not have your font weights listed together, as the example above shows. That might seem very obvious to most users, but there were many times I searched for that certain weight of Helvetica, only to remember that fonts in the Helvetica Neue family begin with weight numbers in front of them (i.e. “95 Helvetica Black”), and would thus be found at the top of the list.

More importantly, since the tool provides access to those font weights as styled by the Measurements Palette, you have access to “plain”, “Bold” “Italic” as well as “Bold+Italic” weights. Most professional typographers wouldn’t (and shouldn’t) use those methods of choosing to bold or italicize a font anyway, but doing your spacing with the Kerning Pair Editor gives you just one more reason to not do so. Just be aware that, unless you want to create multiple tables, you should always choose the “plain” table as I’ve shown in the example.

Double clicking on that listing will bring up the font’s kern tables:

The Kerning Table Editor

It is here that you’ll make all your kern entries under the “With-Stream” field. You will likely want to save and preview several times before you’re totally satisfied, but once you are, you can also then export your tables using the lower left button. In this way we developed entire libraries of kern tables (we called them “kerners”) on ou file server. The beauty of working this way is that new documents can be kerned in seconds by anyone in the company — even those with no background in typography — providing total consistency across client projects.

Because of the substantial amount of time it takes to develop an entire table (it takes us in excess of 20 hours to properly space each font, using our 15-page tab-size master document) we would often just work on the somewhat limited character set of a current campaign. You’ll find that you can really create a quality product on an extremely limited character set — and because Quark makes it so easy to make additions and adjustments as copy changes, you can adjust and append the tables over time.

One tip I’d like to leave you with today is that when you’re entering pairs in the editor, under no circumstances should you ever create a “space-character” pair or a “character-space” pair. As type director, it originally never dawned on me to instruct new employees to not do that until one day we had huge text reflow issues throughout a document revised by a new employee. It turned out that artist was creating kern pairs for those “space-letter” pairs. If you think about it, you can easily see why this would be a problem: you never know what’s on the other side of a space. In essence you’re always adjusting not only the “space-T” pair, for example, but also perhaps “space-period” or any other letter next to the space.

Take some time experimenting with the Kerning Table Editor. It has the power to streamline your typographic workflow, allowing you to produce the quality that you and your clients deserve.

If you have any comments or questions, please don’t hesitate to use the Comments field below. Also, visit our website at www.kernprose.com where we have many additional tips, techniques and tools available as resources for type professionals.