April 19, 2019

New HOWTO: XFree86 Font Deuglification Mini HOWTO - page 3

Table of Contents, Section 1

  • March 23, 2001
3. TrueType Fonts (One of the few things Windows is good for)

Because the boys at Redmond are very concerned with the appearance of their
software (as opposed to the internal workings ;) they built TrueType font
support into Windows. And of course, they got the idea from MacOS which is
where TrueType originated. Windows 9x and nearly every other flavor of
Windows comes with Arial, Times New Roman, and Courier New, which are roughly
equivalent to Helvetica, Times and Courier. TrueType fonts are scalable, so
they look good in large sizes, and they are well hinted, so they are readable
at small sizes. Many windows applications come with dozens more TrueType
fonts. Don't microwave your Windows CD yet, you'll want to get those fonts

Unfortunately, XFree86 3.x does not come with built in TrueType support, so
you'll have to add it yourself. XFree86 4.x does have built in support
however (see Section 4). This will mean installing a font server that does
support TrueType and, of course, installing the fonts themselves. You won't
find decent TrueType fonts included with any distribution. The likely reason
is that there are not any quality TrueType fonts available under a suitable
license at this time. 

3.1. Making TrueType Fonts Available

Let's start with the fonts first. Any TrueType font included with the various
MS Windows incarnations should work. Don't forget word processors and other
apps that may include their own fonts too. MacOS fonts will not work. There
are also some 'free' TrueType fonts available for download if you have
already nuked that CD (see Links in Section 6.2).

In order to use TrueType, the fonts will have to be always accessible to the
font server. This means they will have to be on a filesystem that is always
mounted. This can conceivably be a Windows partition on a dual boot system.
Alternately, the fonts can be copied to Linux. First su to root:

 # su -
 # mkdir -p /usr/local/share/fonts/ttfonts

Now, change to the new font directory:

  # cd  /usr/local/share/fonts/ttfonts

Then, add the fonts to this directory, either by copying them from your
Windows system:

 # cp /mnt/

/*ttf  .

or by downloading those available directly from [http://www.microsoft.com/
typography/fontpack/default.htm] Microsoft. These fonts are in
self-extracting zip archives. You will need to get the ones labeled for use
with 'Windows 3.1' if you need to extract them under Linux. You can indeed
unpack these in Linux with the Linux zip utility:

 # ls *exe | xargs -n 1 unzip -L

The '-L' option will convert to lower case font names (this may be necessary
for some versions of xfsft and Redhat's xfs). Note that the current Linux zip
utility does not work with the 32 bit Win9x font archives. (It also looks
like Microsoft no longer has the 16 bit Arial, Courier and Times-Roman on
this site.) Or you can get an RPM of WebFonts that contains some of the MS
TrueTypes [http://rpmfind.net/linux/RPM/contrib/noarch/noarch/
webfonts-1-3.noarch.html] here. This has enough fonts to keep Netscape and
other web browsers happy.

You will also have to include the new TrueType directory(s) in the X server's
fontpath. So with your text editor of choice add the line(s) as appropriate:

    FontPath        "/usr/local/share/fonts/ttfonts"
    FontPath        "/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/misc:unscaled"
    FontPath        "/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/100dpi:unscaled"
    FontPath        "/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/75dpi:unscaled"
    FontPath        "/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/Type1"
    FontPath        "/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/Speedo"
    FontPath        "/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/misc"
    FontPath        "/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/100dpi"
    FontPath        "/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/75dpi"
3.2. Font Servers

There are several font servers available that will do the job: xfstt, xfsft,
and Redhat's patched version of xfs based on xfsft. While these names are all
too similar, these are different packages. One, or more, of these should be
included with any recent Linux distribution, and you may have one installed

Historically, font servers were used to serve fonts over a network. Font
resources could then reside on one host, and clients could access them as
needed. But, the developers have enhanced these to include features such as
the ability to render TrueType fonts. (XFree86 4.x has this ability included
already, and thus an additional font server is not really needed just solely
for the purpose of having TrueType support.) 

3.2.1. xfstt

One such font server is xfstt. xfstt was designed specifically with TrueType
fonts in mind.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------- Installation

xfstt is very easy to install and configure. If it isn't already installed,
you'll want to download the tarball, or check your CD. The most current
version can be found at [http://metalab.unc.edu/pub/Linux/X11/fonts/] http://

Once you have the tarball, unpack it:

 $ tar -zxvf xfstt-*tgz

Then build and install it. Read the INSTALL file for quick instructions, but
it's a no brainer.  

From the xfstt directory is all you have to do.

 # make
 # make install

Then start xfstt with:

 # xfstt --sync            # updates xfstt's font database
 # xfstt &                 # runs xfstt in the background.

xfstt should be started before the X server starts. Once you have this
working correctly, you can add the above lines to /etc/rc.d/rc.local, or
other suitable start up file. Then type:

 $ xset +fp unix/:7101     #
 tells X about xfstt, and where to look for fonts.

or add:

    FontPath "unix/:7101"
to your XF86Config to tell X about the font server. Rerun xfstt --sync any
time the FontPath, or contents, change.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------- Adjusting the Default Font Size

If your TrueType fonts appear to be very tiny, the following commands may

Add the -dpi switch to your X server command line (see section 3 above to do

Use the --res switch to tell xfstt to increase the default resolution. Use
the following command line.

 # xfstt --res 120

3.2.2. Redhat's xfs

As of Redhat Linux 6.0, Redhat based distributions (Mandrake, etc) have
included a specially patched version of xfs, the XFree86 Font Server, and
patched X servers as well. Redhat's xfs includes the xfsft patch set which in
turn is built upon the FreeType Font library. Redhat's xfs provides similar
functionality to xfstt. xfs is able to serve both TrueType and Type 1 fonts,
as well as legacy X fonts.

If you are using a Redhat based distro, you should have xfs installed
already. If not, it is in the XFree86-xfs*rpm. To make sure it runs as one of
the default services, either use ntsysv or:

# chkconfig --add xfs

Now xfs will start every time you boot.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------- Setting the xfs FontPath

The default Redhat installation of xfs serves fonts via a Unix Domain Socket.
We'll need to tell the X server where to look for xfs, and thus fonts. The
FontPath in /etc/X11/XF86Config must include for Redhat 6.x:

     FontPath   "unix/:-1" 
This is changed for Redhat 7.x to:

     FontPath   "unix/:7100" 
At least for a default configurations. This is a reference to the socket
where xfs is listening. You may include additional FontPaths, but these will
be handled by the X server, and not xfs. A clean install of Redhat 6/7 should
have this already set up, but if you are upgrading from an older version, you
may have to change this yourself!  

xfs then has its own, separate FontPath stored in /etc/X11/fs/config. This is
where it will look to find fonts. This is over and above the X server's
FontPath in XF86Config. You can either add the new path(s) with a text
editor, or use the chkfontpath command:  

# chkfontpath --add /new/font/path

The FontPath must exist before running chkfontpath. The relevant section of /
etc/X11/fs/config should now look something like this:

    catalogue = /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/misc:unscaled,
When adding a new FontPath for TrueType fonts, you will want to do this step
after installing and preparing the fonts. See the next section.
----------------------------------------------------------------------------- Getting the Fonts Ready

We still have a bit of work to do before we can actually use any TrueType
fonts. xfs requires a few things to be in order. First, all font files must
have lower case names for xfs. Secondly, they shouldn't have embedded spaces.
And then, we will need to create a couple of files to make things go.

Su to root, and change to the directory where the TrueType fonts are.

 # su -
 # cd /usr/local/share/fonts/ttfonts

If there are any upper case font names, you can use the following script to
convert all names to lower case:


 ## -------- convert upper to lower case ---------
 ls * | while read f
    if [ -f $f ]; then
      if [ "$f" != "`echo \"$f\" | tr A-Z a-z`" ]; then
       #Note that 'This' will overwrite 'this'!
       mv -iv "$f" "`echo \"$f\" | tr A-Z a-z`"

 ## eof

Note the punctuation -- the backquotes are important! Remove any spaces from
font names too. Once the TrueType fonts are properly installed, you must
create both fonts.dir and fonts.scale files. The following commands do this:

 # ttmkfdir -o fonts.scale
 # mkfontdir

You should now have fonts.dir and fonts.scale files in your TrueType font
directory. ttmkfdir is in the Freetype RPM, and must be run before mkfontdir.
With Debian based distros, there is a similar utility called mkttfdir, and is
in the fttools Deb package. Though this apparently does not generate as many
encodings as ttmkfdir. These commands may not always report errors, so verify
that they were created and are not empty files: 

 $ ls -l fonts.*
  -rw-r--r--  1 root   root    11657 Aug 17 10:31 fonts.dir
  -rw-r--r--  1 root   root    11657 Aug 17 10:31 fonts.scale

If you encounter any problems, try ttmkfdir with the - m switch. This will
discard bad characters from the font file. Specify a number such as 50 or l00
(ttmkfdir -m 50). The files themselves are text files. Have a look: 

 $ less  fonts.dir
  webdings.ttf  -microsoft-Webdings-medium-r-normal--0-0-0-0-p-0-microsoft-symbol
  verdanaz.ttf  -microsoft-Verdana-bold-i-normal--0-0-0-0-p-0-ascii-0
  verdanaz.ttf  -microsoft-Verdana-bold-i-normal--0-0-0-0-p-0-fcd8859-15
  verdanaz.ttf  -microsoft-Verdana-bold-i-normal--0-0-0-0-p-0-iso8859-15
  verdanaz.ttf  -microsoft-Verdana-bold-i-normal--0-0-0-0-p-0-iso8859-9
  verdanaz.ttf  -microsoft-Verdana-bold-i-normal--0-0-0-0-p-0-iso8859-1

Next, update the FontPath and xfs:

 # chkfontpath --add /usr/local/share/fonts/ttfonts
 # /etc/rc.d/init.d/xfs restart

You should now be in business. You can check which fonts are available to X:

$ xlsfonts | less

or check them out further with xfontsel, or gfontsel. If they are visible to 
xlsfonts, then they are available to X and vice versa. If they are not there,
try restarting X with Ctrl-Alt-BS.

3.3. xfsft

[http://www.dcs.ed.ac.uk/home/jec/programs/xfsft/] xfsft is a TrueType
solution from Juliusz Chroboczek. xfsft is based on the FreeType font library
as developed by Mark Leisher and others. It is essentially is a patch for
XFree86's xfs and related libraries -- xfs + ft. Redhat's xfs is essentially
xfsft with a few minor modifications. Also, XFree86 4.x includes the freetype
font module which is also the result of Juliusz's work, and is one of the
TrueType solutions available for XFree86 4.x. 

Building xfsft requires having at least some of the XFree86 source available,
in addition to xfsft itself, so this is not for the faint of heart.
Instructions for building and configuring xfsft are in the tarball, so I
won't go into details here. They are pretty straight forward. There are links
to binaries available at the xfsft home page (see above).

Note that you must also create fonts.scale and fonts.dir files for xfsft.
fonts.scale can be created manually (ugh!), or with the ttmkfdir utility.
This is not included with xfsft but you can get it here: [http://
www.joerg-pommnitz.de/TrueType/ttmkfdir.tar.gz] http://www.joerg-pommnitz.de/
TrueType/ttmkfdir.tar.gz, or probably on many Linux archives sites too.
Redhat has this as part of the Freetype RPM. And for Debian it is called 
mkttfdir and is in the fttools package.  

You will also need a configuration file. Here is a sample: 

    clone-self = off
    use-syslog = off
    client-limit = 20
    catalogue = /usr/local/share/font/ttfonts
    error-file = /home/jec/fonts/xfs.errors
    # in decipoints
    default-point-size = 120
    # x,y
    default-resolutions = 100,100,75,75
You can then run start xfsft: 

# xfs -port 7100 -config /path/to/your/config/file &

You can then add xfsft to the X server's FontPath: 

$ xset +fp tcp/localhost:7100

If all goes well, you could then add this FontPath to XF86Config.

3.4. The fonts.alias File

fonts.alias is yet another font configuration file that can be used to tweak
how fonts are handled. Like fonts.scale and fonts.dir, fonts.alias must be in
the same directory as the fonts you are aliasing. It is not mandatory
however, but does solve certain potential problems.Here is an example from
the first line of/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/misc/fonts.alias on a Redhat

 fixed    -misc-fixed-medium-r-semicondensed--13-120-75-75-c-60-iso8859-1

fixed is the 'alias' here. Any time this is requested, we actually get the
font definition from the second column. Font too small? Just change the
definition. (Warning: this is a critical file, at least on Redhat.) The same
principle applies to all fonts, including TrueType. In fact, if you don't
have TrueType, you could conceivably use this trick to have a comparable Type
1, or other, font aliased as a TrueType.

fonts.alias is important for some applications that don't handle the data
provided by fonts.scale well. Most notably here is Netscape. Without a
fonts.alias you will find that Netscape will only show point sizes of 0 and
12 available. fonts.alias fixes this. You might also find that if you a
specify another size with the scalable font option under Preferences,
Netscape will not remember this setting. Annoying! This is also fixed. So we
really need this file. Sample excerpt from a fonts.scale: 

 arial.ttf   -monotype-Arial-medium-r-normal--0-0-0-0-p-0-ascii-0
 arial.ttf   -monotype-Arial-medium-r-normal--0-0-0-0-p-0-fcd8859-15
 arial.ttf   -monotype-Arial-medium-r-normal--0-0-0-0-p-0-iso8859-15
 arial.ttf   -monotype-Arial-medium-r-normal--0-0-0-0-p-0-iso8859-1

These are scalable so we don't get any predefined point sizes. We will need
to create our fonts.alias something like this excerpt for Arial:

 -monotype-Arial-medium-r-normal--6-60-0-0-p-0-iso8859-1 \

 -monotype-Arial-medium-r-normal--7-70-0-0-p-0-iso8859-1 \

 -monotype-Arial-medium-r-normal--8-80-0-0-p-0-iso8859-1 \

 -monotype-Arial-medium-r-normal--9-90-0-0-p-0-iso8859-1 \

 -monotype-Arial-medium-r-normal--10-100-0-0-p-0-iso8859-1 \

 -monotype-Arial-medium-r-normal--11-110-0-0-p-0-iso8859-1 \

 -monotype-Arial-medium-r-normal--12-120-0-0-p-0-iso8859-1 \

 -monotype-Arial-medium-r-normal--13-130-0-0-p-0-iso8859-1 \

 -monotype-Arial-medium-r-normal--14-140-0-0-p-0-iso8859-1 \

 -monotype-Arial-medium-r-normal--15-150-0-0-p-0-iso8859-1 \

 -monotype-Arial-medium-r-normal--18-180-0-0-p-0-iso8859-1 \

 -monotype-Arial-medium-r-normal--24-240-0-0-p-0-iso8859-1 \


(Please note that I have split each line for readability. There should be two
columns all on one line, without the "\", and separated by at least one
space.) This will keep Netscape happy. Also, if font names should have
embedded spaces, then you should enclose the filename in quotes. You might
also note the pointsize discrepancy between the first and second columns of
the first few rows. The first column of the first entry has a '6', whereas
this is aliased to a '9' in the second column, and thus '9' point. This is by
design and is an excellent way to overcome the Netscape 'damn tiny fonts'
syndrome. Adjust to suit your tastes, resolution, and eyesight.  

This file can be created manually with a text editor, or conceivably with
some fancy sed or awk scripting. There is an excellent discussion of this
file, and other font related topics at Kristin Aanestad's site at [http://
home.c2i.net/dark/linux.html#ttf] http://home.c2i.net/dark/linux.html. There
is also a link to a python script which can reportedly automatically generate
a fonts.alias file at this same site. Thanks to Kristin whose work and
insight was the inspiration for this section! 

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