Nan Jay Barchowsky of Swansbury, Inc. commissioned Eccentrifuge to build an OpenType version of her Barchowsky Fluent Hand font for use in her handwriting instruction package for educators and home schoolers.
Each letter has variant glyphs covering all possible exit strokes, and initial (start-of-word) variations if any. This works in essentially the same way as Adobe's Caflisch Script Pro, currently the most advanced OpenType implementation of a connecting Latin script font.
However we did not stop there. Currently the only method to get to the Contextual Alternates feature is through Adobe's InDesign, which is easily worth the price, but not everyone has $700 to spend. Other than OpenType, the other available smart font technologies are Graphite and Apple Advanced Typography. Graphite is an open-source technology that implements smart fonts along the same lines as AAT and OpenType, but in a more powerful and extensible way. So far the only program to take advantage of Graphite is SIL's WorldPad, a small Windows-based word processor with Graphite support. It is available at no cost from the Summer Institute of Linguistics and can access the same kinds of features in Barchowsky Fluent Hand that InDesign 2.0 can access via OpenType. There is also some effort underway to add Graphite support to OpenOffice.org, a free, cross-platform alternative to Microsoft Office* that can read and write files in Word*, Excel* and other formats.
It is important to note that the Barchowsky Fluent Hand font is a model, and not an end unto itself. Students are expected to follow the model in the beginning, but they eventually form their own individual lettering styles. The program is designed to teach rapid everyday handwriting that is nonetheless elegant and legible. It is not a course in formal calligraphy, which requires more focus and concentration.
Since the main market for Barchowsky Fluent Hand is educators and home schoolers, we have included most every math symbol that one typically encounters in primary school curricula. There are also some special behaviors that automate the typesetting of radical (square root) expressions and long division. A key part of the Barchowsky method is the idea that children should hone their handwriting skills in the pursuit of other subjects like reading, math, history and foreign languages. Barchowsky Fluent Hand supports all Western European languages and Turkish.
In the future we may add AAT support so that Mac owners running OS X can take advantage of the same behavior using Apple Advanced Typography. To my knowledge, Barchowsky Fluent Hand OT+Gr is the first available dual-technology font of its kind.