Jim Gettys jg at
Thu Apr 9 06:59:48 PDT 2009

On Thu, 2009-04-09 at 20:52 +0700, Mikhail Gusarov wrote:
> Twas brillig at 09:31:01 09.04.2009 UTC-04 when jg at did gyre and gimble:
>  JG> So the X11 core font design is fundamentally a mistake, which we
>  JG> fixed.
> Given this topic resurfaced again, I'd like to ask the related question:
> core X fonts had the feature of being controlled by server settings
> (XRDB), so applications did ajust the fonts according to the per-display
> preferences (given the XRDB settings for the each display were set
> correctly), so it was possible to have radically different fonts on tiny
> LCD screen on netbook and hude 2m-sized display, not limited to
> recalculating size due to different DPI.
> Is there equivalent functionality with Xft? And whose responsibility it
> is now, if this functionality is not here: applications, toolkits or
> something else?

No, and I wish there were.  The young (10 years ago; not so young now)
turks that did the current round of toolkits had little experience in
using X remotely, and dropped the ball.  I consider this a bug in
current toolkits.  But the old X resource mechanism was terribly
overused, and therefore had much less value than I had originally
envisioned, and had itself become a big problem.

Note, however, that our concept of "size" of fonts is fundamentally
broken: the physical size in pixels of some physical size is *very*
seldom what you actually want; what you really want is the size of a
font in terms of angle: the physical size at some distance.

The viewer is at a very different distance depending on whether the
application is on a PDA a foot from your eyes, several feet for a
desktop, and across the room for a projector.  

As far as I'm concerned, this is unfinished business...
                          - Jim

Jim Gettys <jg at>

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