Variable fonts

I am looking at purchasing Univers Next for use in Dorico and the Affinity range of products amongst others. Does Dorico support variable fonts? Thanks.

No, at the present time Dorico has no specific support for variable-width fonts.

Recently using Dorico 4 (on macOS), I see that it uses variable fonts within the software: it shows the instances in font dropdown menus (but not on the optical axis) and applies optical changes automatically. I’ve been using Source Serif 4 and it looks rather good: large headers use the subhead font while small technique text uses closer to small text.

However, I have noticed when exporting to PDF that these optical variants aren’t applied and everything goes back to ‘standard’. I think it uses the 16pt Regular shapes, but keeps the Subhead metrics, so that the letters are tighter. If I export to PNG the variants are correct. Is there a way to use the optical variants in the PDF export?

There’s no explicit support for variable fonts in Dorico at present, I’m afraid. The Core Text APIs used to display text on-screen evidently have some support, but the PDF export – which is handled directly by the Qt application framework – certainly has no support.

If you can get hold of specific fixed instances that match the desired weights, then you would probably find you can use them with more success.

Having lived through the two previous attempts at variable fonts (Apple’s GX fonts and Adobe’s Multiple Masters), I remain unconvinced of any typographic benefit of variable weight fonts.

It’s also still cheaper to buy all 64 fixed-size faces of Univers Next than the 2 variable fonts!!

Graphic designers spend days, months or years ruminating on the choice of contrasting weights and styles to produce an attractive design: the necessity for “something between Thin and Light that’s not quite as Condensed” is minimal, I’d argue.

Some of the most beautiful typography in moveable type is done with one typeface in two or maybe three different point sizes, and one Italic style. Using Bold is just show-boating!

/rant off


I bought the Universe Next complete family a year ago and I have used it in Dorico with great success. However, the iPad version doesn’t support these fonts (it’s a problem with Apple) which is kind of disappointing.