Background

Mechanic – the RoboFont extension to manage RoboFont extensions – was conceived and developed by Jack Jennings. Released in 2015, it quickly became an essential tool for many RoboFont users. It established a bridge between extension developers and designers, and stimulated the creation of more and better extensions. Today Mechanic hosts nearly 100 open-source extensions by 30 different authors.

Why Mechanic 2

With the development of RoboFont 3, Mechanic was initially ported to Python 3 too – but this update introduced bugs which turned out to be really difficult to solve. Around the same time, the Extension Store was developed and released, offering similar extension management functions – but built using a different set of tools.

The challenge to update Mechanic for RoboFont 3 became a opportunity to join forces and build the next generation of Mechanic from scratch. Mechanic 2 keeps the essential functionality and look’n’feel of Mechanic, but both website and extension were completely rewritten using the same infra-structure as the Extension Store.

The result is an all new Mechanic experience which looks and feels familiar to long-time Mechanic users, works smoothly with RoboFont 3 – and has some new tricks to offer.

Mechanic architecture

Mechanic consists of two components:

Mechanic website
  • a database of open-source RoboFont extensions
  • a web-based interface to browse through extension data
Mechanic extension
An extension to find, download, install/uninstall and update extensions.

Differences between Mechanic and Mechanic 2

Mechanic Mechanic 2
server written in Ruby static website written with Jekyll
extension metadata is stored in .plist files inside the extensions extension metadata is stored in .yaml files inside the website
extensions are registered from within RoboFont using the Mechanic extension extensions are registered by forking the Mechanic 2 website, adding extension data, and submitting a pull request
red theme blue theme
developed and maintained by Jack Jennings developed and maintained by Mechanic Developers™

New features in Mechanic 2

Mechanic website

On the surface, the new Mechanic 2 website looks and feels the same – only a few UI changes were introduced:

  • the list of extensions can now be filtered by tags and/or developers
  • a direct link to the zip download is shown next to the link to the repository (only for extensions hosted on GitHub)
  • a hover effect highlights the current row

Mechanic extension

The new Mechanic 2 extension introduces one powerful new feature: multiple extension streams.

An extension stream is a collection of metadata about RoboFont extensions. Different extension servers provide extension streams in .json format. The Mechanic 2 extension reads data from the linked streams, and builds a list of supported extensions.

Mechanic 2 comes with two pre-configured extension streams: Mechanic and Extension Store.

Commercial extensions from the Extension Store can now be installed and managed alongside free & open-source extensions from Mechanic.

The Extension Store extension has been deprecated.

Mechanic 2 also supports .mechanic files with metadata about individual extensions. Thanks to this feature, developers can now use Mechanic 2 to deliver updates of custom extensions to clients.

Read more about Mechanic 2 in the updated documentation pages:

Moving forward

Mechanic 2 is now live and replaces Mechanic as the official extension manager for RoboFont. The future is bright for developers and users of RoboFont 3. Enjoy!

Huge thanks to Jack Jennings for creating Mechanic, and for making Mechanic 2 possible!!

Last edited on 16/06/2018