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So, this is a question I've never asked, and in most cases avoided pointing out all together. I'm finally open to finding a non-ligature solution too. Preferably one that doesn't require a font change.

Illustrator

Some ideas for fixing the Ill are..

  1. Reduce the height of the LL to match the x-height.
  2. Use a different I- i.e Use a Serif font
  3. Create my own character and use GREP to hunt down the offending beasts and replace with said character.
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    I have to ask, what is wrong with ligatures? Because so far it reads like a question asking for a solution excluding the ideal solution. Amd, wouldnt 3. be a ligature then? – KMSTR Jul 10 '15 at 6:19
  • What ligature? How can you reasonably combine Ill without a script face? – plainclothes Jul 10 '15 at 6:23
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    First of all make sure you have a look at the typeface's license to see if you can legally alter it. If you know what you're doing I'd suggest altering the kerning table of your typeface to your liking. Robert Bringhurst has some info on altering typefaces in "Grooming the Font" chapter of his book. It seems like this sort of thing is a faux pas in typography! But according to the type bible, fixing the font once and for all may serve your needs well. You shouldn't really have to do this if the font isn't good enough - I'd strongly consider trying another typeface. – johnp Nov 7 '15 at 18:52
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    @johnp you can modify any typeface you purchase. You just may not be able to distribute it afterwards. – DA01 Dec 7 '15 at 16:25
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    As for this question, what is the issue you are trying to resolve? The question is unclear. – DA01 Dec 7 '15 at 16:26
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I've checked several classic sans-serifs (Helvetica, the Neue Haas Grotesk update of it, Akzidenz Grotesk, and Univers), and they seem to have an convention that I (upper case i) is slightly fatter and taller than l (lower case L). That's good enough for me; in your case you might want to consider using a serif font if it's driving you crazy.

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How to get rid of unwanted ligatures in InDesign

Webfonts often have very "bad" "stylish" ligatures and I don't notice the same with PostScripts or TrueType fonts in general.

But you can turn on/off the ligatures using the character panel in Adobe InDesign if you want to get rid of them! Simply uncheck the ligatures option in the character panel options.

How to remove ligatures in InDesign

If you want to NOT have ligatures by default for every new document, simply close all your files in InDesign, then make sure the "Ligatures" option is not checked in the character panel options. This should become the new default setting for this.

To fix the ligature issue, I only use them when it's important for spelling and add them manually when I need to; it's a personal preference. It's faster to add them on the few words that really require ligatures than removing or fixing the ones that don't. I don't use them anymore by default, and there's always the kerning that can be adjusted for the extreme cases.

Good old postscript and quality fonts will make your life easier and they look good; it's a pain and really unsafe to use different fonts in the same word/sentence unless it's done in a title. Creating your own font is an option, yes, but a lot of work too.


Edit:

(added to remove the confusion between the "decorative" use of ligature vs grammar/editing, and how/when they're really necessary)

Some history about ligatures

Ligatures: A Guide to their Proper and Improper Use

"The use of these little characters increased during the 15th century with the advent of metal movable type, a system of printing that uses metal blocks of letters to print documents. In this system, ligatures were both a time and space saver. They began to fall out of use in the 1950s due to the widespread use of sans-serif fonts—that is, letters with little overlap—and typewriters. Now, with modern printing and desktop publishing, ligatures are rarely used. When they are, it is simply out of stylistic preference."

"...They do, however, recommend using ligatures to maintain Old English spelling in an Old English context or in foreign languages where they are commonly used characters."

Latin alphabets that use special ligatures

  • Danish and Norwegian
  • Faroese
  • French
  • German
  • Icelandic
  • Swedish

List of words that may be spelled with a ligature

I don't see any "fi", "fl" in that list; they can be safely ignored if you don't like how they look like and put a priority on spelling above "style."

"The fl and fi ligatures, among others, are still commonly used to render modern text in fine typography. Page-layout programs such as QuarkXPress and Adobe InDesign can be configured to automatically replace the individual characters with the appropriate ligatures. However this is a typographic feature and not part of the spelling."


Even if some people consider some ligature are a "character" on their keyboard, the reality in modern time is that ligatures are ligatures. The aesc for example is not universally recognized as an extra alphabet character.

Designers can use them or not, but usually high level editors will absolutely prefer to see the "grammatical ligatures" respected in their texts. English might be more relaxed about this rule, but in general, english is very laid back when it comes to language and grammatical rules anyway. In french, for example, you need to use the aesc when a word requires it otherwise it's considered bad (or lower level) grammar. Of course, we're not talking about plain text here.

  • are 'bad' ligatures worse than none at all? – Vincent Jul 10 '15 at 9:51
  • Notice the quotes before and after the word bad. You ask me if it's better than none, as in my personal vs your opinion? Why does it matter? My clients hate it. All of them without any exception. 0% like them. Zero percent. Sometimes none are better yes, that's my opinion. These "fi" stuck together are not very popular in a book, the "i" seems to disappear. The "ae" are alright. If we were in the 14th century and I needed to save "gold pigments", maybe I'd be happy with them. But in 2015, I like to see the dot on my "i". That doesn't deserve a downvote, I responded to the question after all. – go-junta Jul 10 '15 at 10:21
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    @elCavador My solution is... I only use them when it's important for spelling and add them manually when I need to (or my editor does.) It's faster to add them on the few words that really require ligatures than removing or fixing the ones that don't. I don't use them anymore by default, and there's always the kerning that can be adjusted for the extreme cases. Good old postscript and quality fonts will make your life easier and they look good; it's a pain and really unsafe to use different fonts in the same word/sentence unless it's a title. Or create your own font, yes. Lot of work though! – go-junta Aug 9 '15 at 12:20
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    @go-me sounds good. Every so often I discover I've purchased a font family, and (no) surprise I forgot to check ligatures and or how 'i' and 'L' look together. – elCavador Aug 9 '15 at 23:45
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    Using ligatures does not ‘put a priority on spelling above “style”’ unless you have a font that abuses the Private Use Area, such that attempts to extract plain text from a PDF will not be entirely successful, and you’re worried about spelling in that plain text. Words with ligatures are spelled correctly: the correct letters are present, even if the forms of the glyphs differ somewhat from their isolated shapes. If ligatures amounted to misspellings, all those spelling tests we took in school with pen and ink, in cursive writing, were doomed to failure. – Thérèse Nov 7 '15 at 19:40

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