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Company Profile: Fontlab Ltd.

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The predecessor of Fontlab Ltd. was Pyrus North America Ltd. The company was established in 1992 to internationally market and distribute software produced by SoftUnion Ltd. of St. Petersburg, Russia. In 1993 the first product, FontLab 2.0 for Windows, one of the first digital typeface editors for the Windows environment, was released. Reviews and feedback from marketing research showed the product was very well received by a new and rapidly growing group of graphic designers who worked on the PC.


In 1994 SoftUnion developed and Pyrus released version 2.5 of FontLab for Windows, which included many new enhancements, including TrueType font editing. This catapulted FontLab to the head of its class as the most sophisticated font editor for the Windows platform. Two other products, ScanFont, a program for scanning images and converting them to font characters, and FindFont, a utility for searching hard disks for fonts with particular characteristics, were also both introduced in 1994 and bundled with FontLab 2.5.

In 1995 SoftUnion decided to divest itself of its software business in order to concentrate on its hardware business. All the rights to FontLab were sold to Pyrus North America and the SoftUnion programming team. Pyrus retained Mr. Yuri Yarmola, head of the original programming group, to continue development of FontLab and related products.

In 1996 Pyrus released two new products: FontLab Composer, a multilingual, multi-platform (Windows, OS/2) international font editor with most of the features of FontLab plus the ability to edit and manipulate CID-keyed fonts of the very large Chinese, Korean, and Japanese character sets; and SigMaker, a simple utility that can add a signature (or other bitmap image) to a TrueType font in only a few steps.

In 1997 Pyrus started a major revision of its product line. This started with the release of one more new product: TypeTool ? a basic font editor with transparent, seamless conversion betweenTrueType and Type 1 font formats. In addition, a new version of ScanFont was introduced. ScanFont 3.0 includes a much improved autotracing algorithm which is specialized for the creation of type.

FontLab 3.0 for Windows was finally finished and released in June of 1998 after a complete rewrite. the new version was much faster and more powerful and included many innovative features not found in previous font editors, most notably custom TrueType hinting, VectorPaint drawing tools, and native TrueType (cubic B-spline) font format editing. Localization in European languages was begun.

Late in 1998 Pyrus introduced its first product for the Macintosh platform ? a port of FontLab Composer. At the same time both Mac and PC versions of Composer were localized to the Japanese language. This gave Pyrus complete penetration of the China/Japan/Korea font editing market with the only commercially available products.

In early 1999 a flurry of new products was introduced: first was TransType, a Macintosh program for converting fonts seamlessly between Windows and Mac font formats. This was followed two weeks later by FONmaker, a bitmap font editor for the creation of Windows screen fonts, Windows font resources, and HP Soft Fonts for legacy HP printers and applications. Then, in March at the Seybold Spring Seminar in Boston Pyrus announced the complete port of FontLab 3.0 to the Macintosh environment.

In January 2000 a new company, Fontlab Ltd., bought all the assets of Pyrus NA with the intention of further expanding international sales. The new company continues development of the FontLab product line and in 2001 released TransType 2, an upgrade for the font conversion product, and BitFonter, a new product dedicated to the editing and creation of bitmap fonts.

In October 2001 Fontlab also announced the new "photofont" technology, a non-proprietary XML-based specification which allows users to create text-searchable bitmap fonts for web sites. And in December, after 3 years of incubation, FontLab 4 for Windows was released with the first OpenType font editing capability.

After extensive consultation with Asian customers and typographers Fontlab developed and released (in March 2002) AsiaFont Studio for Windows, a new product that combined most of the features of FontLab 4 and FontLab Composer and added many new capabilities to make CJKV font editing faster and easier. Almost simultaneously TransType 2 for Windows, and TypeTool 2 for Windows (also with CJKV) were finished and released.

In 2003-2004, a series of major updates to Fontlab Ltd.'s products were released: FontLab 4.6, ScanFont 4 for Mac and BitFonter 2 for Mac. In May 2005, Fontlab Ltd. amazed the critics and the user community by announcing that the company licensed the Fontographer product line from Macromedia and plans to continue the development of the font editing classic. Later that year saw the release of FontFlasher (for creating pixelfonts) and FogLamp (for converting native Fontographer files into native Fontlab files). 

Fontlab Ltd. now occupies the leading role worldwide in computer typography tools with more typography products on more platforms in more languages than any other company.