Friday, July 2, 2010

Font Management on Linux

When you think of scalable fonts in Linux (True Type and Open Type/Post Script), are there any acceptable options? Or Linux still suffers in the font management department?
Gone are the days when Linux was limited in dealing with TTF fonts. Today, support for scalable fonts is very good, allowing Linux to be a viable option for Desktop Publishing.

Fontmatrix (TTF Font Manager)
Font management is relatively easy in KDE. With the integration of the font installer with Konqueror, it is very easy to control the fonts on your system. But in other DE's, management is somewhat more laborious. With Font Matrix, it is very easy to manage TTF fonts in any DE.
Fontmatrix is aimed at adventurous graphic designers and typesetters who need to manage hundreds and even thousands of fonts for their work – avoiding the need to browse overly long lists in dialogs.
Basically, Fontmatrix helps you to do three things:
  • Activating and deactivating fonts
  • Tagging fonts with sets
  • Generating font “books” as PDF.
Fontmatrix lets the user label a font with multiple tags (similar to Gmail labels), which may be activated or deactivated as sets. It also allows the user to toggle features of OpenType fonts for testing purposes. As of November 2008, the PANOSE classification present in fonts may also be used to select them by similarity. Fontmatrix is included in Debian, Ubuntu, and Fedora Linux.
Font management is done in a per user basis, activating or deactivating fonts for each user that is running Fontmatrix at the moment.
If Fontmatrix is executed as root, it will allow the manipulation of the fonts installed in the system. Be very careful if you do this, to do not delete necessary fonts for the system's applications, and get a weird appearance in your system.

Opcion Font Viewer( Viewer/Font Manager)
Opcion font viewer is a free and open source font viewer written in Java. It allows you to view both installed and uninstalled fonts and makes selecting the right font for your project quick and easy.
For viewing fonts, seeing how they would appear applied to your name/logo/tagline, and keeping track of which fonts best suit the job is the purpose of Opcion Font Viewer. Opcion allows you to view both installed and uninstalled fonts in different views depending on your needs. Written in Java, Opcion will work on all platforms that the Java Runtime Environment supports (which includes Windows, Mac, Solaris & Linux).
Opcion needs at least the Java Runtime Environment version 1.4.0+ to run.

  • Viewing of installed/uninstalled fonts.
  • List view of installed/uninstalled fonts.
  • Adding/removing of favourite fonts.
  • Saving of favourite fonts.
  • Customizable sample/display text.
  • Customizable font size.
  • Customizable font properties (bold, italic, etc.) in sample text area.
  • Changeable fonts displayed per page in List View.

FontForge(Scalable Font Editor)
FontForge (formerly known as PfaEdit) is a typeface (font) editor program developed by George Williams. Fontforge is free software and is distributed under the BSD license. FontForge is available for several operating systems and is localized in several languages.
What's FontForge ? FontForge is a program designed to create and modify fonts.
The most obvious aspect is that it is a drawing program like FreeHand, Inkscape or Illustrator which lets you draw the outlines of your letters. Unlike other drawing programs it expects you to draw many pictures at once (one or more for each letter) and collects them into a database.
It allows you to describe the way these pictures interact with each other (if you put one picture after the other then they should normally be separated by a certain distance -- the font's metrics, or if these two pictures are placed adjacent to one another then they turn into a third -- the font's ligatures, and so on).
Finally a font editor will bundle up all the pictures you have drawn, and all the metadata about how those pictures fit together, and will turn that bundle of stuff into a font that your computer can use to display text.
Fontforge supports many font formats, including TrueType, PostScript, OpenType, and SVG. It can convert fonts from one format to another, or can store fonts in its native "spline font database" format (.sfd file name extension), which has the advantage of being text-based. This format facilitates designer collaboration, because difference files can be easily created, but users usually need to use the same Fontforge version, otherwise the .sfd text representation can differ too much to be useful for difference reviewing.
To facilitate automated format conversions and other transformations, Fontforge implements two scripting languages—its own legacy language, and more recently Python. FontForge can be built as a python module to be loaded from python scripts.

Supported font formats
  • SFD (Fontforge's native file format)
  • TTF (TrueType font)
  • (PostScript, Type 1 font)
  • (TeX Bitmap Fonts)
  • OTB (X11 bitmap only sfnt)
  • BDF (Glyph Bitmap Distribution Format)
  • FON (Windows)
  • FNT (Windows)
  • OTF (OpenType)
  • SVG
  • TTC (TrueType Collection)
  • WOFF (Web Open Font Format)

Many free fonts were developed with FontForge. Here is a list:
  • Free UCS Outline Fonts (freefont)
  • Linux Libertine
  • DejaVu Fonts
  • Asana-Math
  • Beteckna
  • Inconsolata
  • Junicode
  • OCR-A
  • Rufscript
  • M+ FONTS
  • Jura
  • AtariSmall
  • Engadget
  • Fonts included with Fontforge
  • Open Din Schriften Engschrift
  • OSP foundry

And, last but not least, how to install TTF fonts in the command line (CLI).
First, download, copy, move the TTF fonts you want to a temporary folder in your /home. The Desktop would be acceptable.
Next step is to create a folder inside /usr/share/fonts that will hold the fonts you want to install.
Lets say, testfonts

$ sudo mkdir /usr/share/fonts/testfonts

Then open your terminal to install them:

$ sudo cp /home/user/Desktop/*.ttf /usr/share/fonts/testfonts/

and refresh your font cache like this:

$ sudo fc-cache -f

Now open Open Office Writer or Gimp, and your fonts should be available! You can access your new true type fonts in any graphics, design, text based document application that uses fonts.
Hope you enjoyed. In upcoming articles, I'll discuss a fine piece of desktop publishing software for Linux, Scribbus. Until there, bye!

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