OSDL DTL Tech Board: Fonts & Linux (Thu, Aug 31)

James Richard Tyrer tyrerj at acm.org
Wed Aug 30 01:13:45 PDT 2006

Bastian, Waldo wrote:
> The OSDL DTL Technical Board is organizing a number of conference calls
> on topics that, the tech board believes, are affecting Desktop Linux
> adoption. This week's agenda topic is dedicated to Font support on
> Linux.
> OSDL DTL organized the second OSDL Desktop Architects Meeting (DAM)
> earlier this year and the availability and support of high quality fonts
> in emerging markets (e.g. Asia) as well as document fidelity between
> different Linux distributions were identified as font-related issues
> that could be improved.
> We hereby want to invite interested people to this weeks DTL Tech Board
> Call to talk about current efforts around fonts, licensing, etc.
> Goal for the call is to improve the understanding of font issues as they
> exist in current generation Linux Desktop systems, inform people about
> current initiatives related to fonts and, if possible, mobilize
> individual contributors, OSDL and other corporate resources to help
> these efforts along.

In case I don't get to discuss this on the call, my main problem with 
fonts on Linux is that some apps don't work correctly with fonts.

I have (for example) these Helvetica Type1 fonts installed:

      PS Font Name                PFB File

Helvetica-Condensed-Light	hvcl____.pfb
Helvetica-Condensed-LightObl	hvclo___.pfb
Helvetica-Condensed		hvc_____.pfb
Helvetica-Condensed-Oblique	hvcdo___.pfb
Helvetica-Condensed-Bold	hvcb____.pfb
Helvetica-Condensed-BoldObl	hvcbo___.pfb
Helvetica-Narrow		hvn_____.pfb
Helvetica-Narrow-Oblique	hvno____.pfb
Helvetica-Narrow-Bold		hvnb____.pfb
Helvetica-Narrow-BoldOblique	hvnbo___.pfb
Helvetica-Light			hvl_____.pfb
Helvetica-LightOblique		hvlo____.pfb
Helvetica			hv______.pfb
Helvetica-Oblique		hvo_____.pfb
Helvetica-Bold			hvb_____.pfb
Helvetica-BoldOblique		hvbo____.pfb

HelveticaRounded-BoldCond	hebc____.pfb
HelveticaRounded-BoldCondObl	hebco___.pfb
HelveticaRounded-Bold		heb_____.pfb
HelveticaRounded-BoldObl	hebo____.pfb
HelveticaRounded-Black		hebl____.pfb
HelveticaRounded-BlackObl	heblo___.pfb

The old X system has them listed correctly.  FontConfig has them listed 

KDE manages to find 6 of the Helvetica and 4 of the Helvetica Rounded. 
Perhaps the fault lines in Qt.

OpenOffice manages to find 6 of Helvetica but they aren't the same 6. 
KDE is better since at least it has the standard 4 faces (regular, 
oblique, bold, bold-oblique), but OO seems unable to find regular and 
oblique.  It finds 4 of Helvetica Rounded but (again) not the same ones 
and  bold-oblique isn't there.  If I had paid full price for these 
rather than getting them secondhand, I would not be happy about this. :-)

GNOME does better in this example since if finds all of them.  I suppose 
that it probably makes some errors on more obscure fonts and I haven't 
checked every font lately.  However, I do have a complaint with GNOME, 
the font chooser doesn't list the fonts in a logical order if they are 

The other issue which does seem to be an issue with X and FontConfig is 
that the fonts are handled differently depending on whether they are 
Type1 or TrueType.  For example: Helvetica Narrow Bold.  With Type1, the 
family is: "Helvetica", but with TrueType the family is: "Helvetica 
Narrow". This issue starts with the way the font name is formatted in 
the font file.  However, this does not provide a consistent (or good) 
user interface -- 16 faces in a jumbled order is not good (and there are 
more kinds of Helvetica available).  The dialogs seems to be designed 
for the TrueType system so it would probably be better to convert the 
Type1 font names to the TrueType font name schema.



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