Font stuff: Linux Font Management

Linux doesn't have good font management tools, unfortunately, but people using Linux still need to manage fonts. This page combines two things: a list of things people need to do with fonts, together with ways to do them on Linux today, and also notes on what we need in terms of font software on Linux

What is Font Management?

By Font Management I mean choosing fonts from a long list, activating and deactivating groups of fonts, installing and uninstalling fonts, checking that the same font is used on a printer and on the screen, finding which fonts were used by a particular job and storing them with it for archival purposes, and much more: in other words, everything to do with working with the fonts themselves rather than actually letting the system use fonts to render text for you.

Common Font Tasks

Preview a set of font files

You have a CD or directory containing lots of fonts files, and you need to see what the fonts look like.

You can use nautilus to go to he folder and generate thumbnails for each of them. You can double-click on most font to open them in gnome-font-viewer, although this doesn't let you set the sample text and does not show the full character set.

If you do this often or need more detaila, you can use gfontview to see all the fonts in a directory; this program can also show you the full set of glyphs in the font, which gives you an idea of what character sets are handled.

Which font is used for a particular Unicode character?

Use gucharmap (gnome-unicode-map) and right-click on the character.

Enable or Disable a group of fonts

To do this, put each group of fonts in a directory and then use a text editor (or an XML editor) and edit your ~/.fonts.conf file to include or not include that directory.

You may need to restart applications.

An alternative is to keep a folder ~/.fonts and another one, e.g. ~/.fonts-inactive, and use the file manager to drag and drop fonts from one place to the other.

Where did I get this font?

A common problem is that you have a font and want to get the companion italic, or the Expert Set, or an OpenType version, or small caps, or whatever.

gfontview will display the font's copyright information if you right-click on the font and choose Properties. gnome-font-viewer also shows it.

If it's not there, try searching for the font by name at myfonts.com.

How do I bundle my fonts to give them to someone else?

First, remember that most fonts of any quality are licensed to you, and you don't necessarily have permission to give them away to someone. They should buy their own copies.

If you are sure you have permission, make a tar or zip archive of the folder.

How do I print a font catalogue?

No idea. For PostScript fonts I have a shell script I use. I haven't tried it with other fonts.