Adding Fonts to XFree86

Installing TrueType Font Files

Installing Fonts for xfs

Warning!

XFree86 supports several font-managing technologies. Older software built for Red Hat Linux 7.X series require the TrueType font files to be accessible by the xfs font server.

If any of your application software was not specifically designed for Red Hat Linux 8.0 (Psyche) or higher, then perform the following tasks. Some older packages included with Psyche still require this older method of font installation.

See below for one alternative step to provide the same fonts for newer software designed for the Xft2 font engine included in Red Hat Linux 8.0 (Psyche).

Choose or make a local directory for your TrueType fonts to be stored. Fill that directory with TrueType font files (see the next section for some sources). Correct any filenames to use all-lowercase names and extensions.

$ su -
# mkdir /usr/share/fonts/ttf
# cd /usr/share/fonts/ttf
# cp /mnt/win-c/windows/fonts/* .
# rename .TTF .ttf *.TTF

Add the directory to the xfs (X11 font server) catalogue. Insert a new line like the existing font directories in the "catalogue =" area. Make sure that all lines except the last line have a comma (,) following it.

/etc/X11/fs/config (excerpt)
catalogue = /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/misc:unscaled,
        /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/75dpi:unscaled,
        /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/japanese,
[...]
        /usr/share/fonts/ttf,
[...]
        /usr/share/AbiSuite/fonts

Create a fonts.scale file to give font scaling information to the font server. Then signal the xfs service (X11 font server) to reload the configuration, and verify your fonts are installed (best verified as a regular user).

# cd /usr/share/fonts/ttf
# ttmkfdir -o fonts.scale
# /sbin/service xfs reload
# exit
$ gfontsel

The most important aspect of finding and incorporating TrueType fonts into your XFree86 setup is to make sure the font file is named properly. The filename must match the font's name, must be in all lowercase ASCII letters (using only the letters a through z), have no punctuation characters in the filename, and end in the suffix of .ttf precisely. The current versions of the XFS engine are not forgiving of minor problems with filenames, and badly named fonts will not appear in applications properly.

Installing Fonts for Xft2

Warning!

The following is an alternative step to provide the same fonts for newer software designed for the Xft2 font engine included in Red Hat Linux 8.0 (Psyche). The above steps may still be appropriate for older application font support.

For systems and software which support the newer Xft2 font engine, installing fonts is far easier. Copy or link the fonts into one of the Xft2 font directories. The system will automatically discover the new fonts within 30 seconds.

Add TrueType font files for a single user account into the user's own ~/.fonts/ directory; create the directory first if it does not exist. Alternatively, deposit TrueType font files for local system-wide use into the /usr/share/fonts/ directory.

Even more helpfully, these font files can be symbolic links if you want to save space and use the same fonts for older software and newer software alike. They can be organized or grouped in subdirectories deep under the two main directories, also. Xft2 finds any valid font buried in these locations.

$ cp /mnt/cdrom/funstuff.ttf ~/.fonts/
$ su -
# cp /mnt/cdrom/corporate.ttf /usr/share/fonts/ttf
# exit

Nobody should need to modify the default configuration for Xft2, but it can be examined. It's a simple file with plenty of comments at /etc/fonts/fonts.conf, formatted in a very straightforward XML syntax.

Some applications may be able to use the new fonts without restarting, but most may need to be quit and restarted before they can discover the new fonts that Xft2 makes available to the system.


Finding Free TrueType Fonts

From Microsoft

If you have paid for a Microsoft operating system, and have not sold it or destroyed the Certificate of Authenticity, then you are able to use the TrueType fonts included in that operating system on one Linux machine you privately control. Copying or distributing these files separately from the certified Microsoft product is not advised.

Once upon a time, Microsoft graciously allowed all web users to download some files and install them for their personal use on their own computers. Unfortunately, for whatever philosophical or political reason, Microsoft no longer makes those fonts freely available. You can still use them legally if you obtained them legally, such as through a licensed purchase, but new users are left out of Microsoft's offer.

The previously-available xf86ttfontools package would have helped you review Microsoft's usage policies, download their free "Core Fonts for the Web" packages, and install them for your Linux system, entirely within the scope of Microsoft's offer. Since they followed Microsoft's legal agreement not to redistribute the fonts themselves, they depended on Microsoft's website which provided the font packages and the legal license text. Since those are not available, the xf86ttfontools package has been removed as obsolete.

(Of course, this decision harms Microsoft-faithful web creators who have designed their websites using Microsoft's fonts, and removes Microsoft's leadership in creating and providing quality fonts to all Internet users. It also shows a pretty good example of the benefits of an Open Source license or a Free Software license; such public resources cannot be revoked and the freedoms of users cannot be unilaterally rescinded by corporations who have no vested interest in the rights of the individual.)

There are a few RPM packages of these core fonts available on the web, pursuant to the original end-user agreement, but until their legality is verified, this page does not offer any links to such packages.

From independent sites or products

Finding free (legally produced) TrueType fonts on the web is a matter of searching the web with a good search engine. Due to the heavy bandwidth and the high maintenance required to present a good font sampling website, many sites come and go on a monthly basis. Even so, there are thousands of excellent free and shareware fonts out there, ready to be found.

Also, many collections of TrueType fonts are produced on CD-ROM for extremely low prices. Thousands of fonts can be found for only a few dollars, filling a disc with dozens of handwriting or script or other decorative styles. Generally, most of these fonts are poorly stocked with punctuation or other extended symbols, have poor line or character spacing and kerning, have no display hinting information and other signs of the low production value. However, a few fonts on a disc may have just the look you want, so these discs may be worth examining.

Please honor the copying license for TrueType fonts. If they're listed as freeware, you can download them and use them on your own computer. Some font files are listed as shareware, which means that you should send some money to the font's designer if you intend to keep that font installed beyond a trial period. Many fonts are available on the web which are stolen and reproduced without the creator's permission. Professional font design foundries such as Bitstream and Microsoft and ITC generally do not allow independent sites to distribute their typefaces.



Contact Ed Halley by email at ed@halley.cc.
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