Proposal To Design A Better Font Selection Widget

James Richard Tyrer tyrerj at
Thu Oct 20 20:57:31 PDT 2005

Edward H. Trager wrote:
> Hi, everyone,
> I originally posted a version of this message as an open letter to:
>  - Gnome Desktop developers (gtk-i18n mailing list)
>  - KDE Desktop developers   (KDE developers mailing list)
>  - developers (OpenOffice developers list)
>  - Gimp developers           (Gimp developers list)
>  - Inkscape developers       (Inkscape developers list)
> ... regarding a proposal for an improved font selection drop-down
> widget that would be ideal for use in professional-quality Open Source
> word processing, desktop publishing, and graphic design programs
> such as, Gimp, Inkscape, Scribus, and similar
> programs.
> The original message was posted on 2005.09.27.  After posting the
> original message, I realized that I should also have posted to the
> Scribus developers list, and Keith Packard rightly suggested that
> I post to this list, which I am finally now getting around to doing!
> As with the original post, I welcome your suggestions and criticisms.
> The proposal suggests a design that is particularly
> applicable where users require a streamlined and intuitive interface
> for selecting multiple fonts from large font collections present on
> the user's machine.  The proposal also attempts to fully address
> aspects of internationalization related to font selection
> that I believe have been largely overlooked until now.  Finally,
> the proposal suggests using a common XML configuration file 
> for storing font collection information.
> To see the full proposal, which now also includes updates based on
> feedback I have received, as well as a number of the original replies
> I received, please see:
Some other problems with CJK.  A Unicode CJK font also needs to be 
classified as being Chinese, Japanese, or Korean based on the form of 
the Han characters.  For example, is Arial Unicode Chinese, Japanese, or 

These characters have the same meaning in the three languages but (very 
unfortunately) there is a difference of opinion on what the glyphs 
should look like.  IAC with many characters they are about the same but 
with some characters there is considerable difference  and the Japanese 
are rather picky about this.

I have no idea how to obtain this information.

I also note that it was my understanding that there were three kinds of 
Chinese fonts, Main-Land, Taiwan, and HK.  This might be the case even 
with Unicode due to differences in the Han characters.

Also I reiterate that your example shows:

	Arial Black
	Arial Narrow

This is an artifact of the way that TrueType names fonts.  If this was 
Type1 Helvetica, there would only be one family:


with "Black" being a weight and "Narrow" being a width.

I can't figure out how to map TrueType names to the Type1 system without 
knowledge.  To illustrate the problem, your example also has:

	Bitstream Vera Sans
	Bitstream Vera Sans Mono
	Bitstream Vera Serif

which are three separate families.  To make the distinction by parsing 
the names, you need a complete list of ALL possible weights and widths. 
  These could be configuration files that the user could add to if they 
installed a weird font.

OTOH it is probably simple to map Type1 names to the Type1 system with 
only short lists of strings to check.  Apparently any width is 
considered another family and any attribute other than Bold or 
italic/oblique/slanted/(and probably others) makes it another family. 
Only slight problem is the various degrees of bold, Demi Bold/Semi Bold, 
Extra Bold, and Ultra Bold -- are there others?  This (the bold issue) 
can cause problems.  Some fonts have both Demi Bold and Bold while some 
have Demi Bold but lack Bold, and then some call "Demi Bold" just 
"Demi".  Unfortunately, this is not the correct definition of a font 
family so it isn't really correct.


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