Toxic Elephant

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We don't need another Arial

Posted by matijs 16/09/2007 at 13h00

Some time ago, RedHat released the Liberation set of fonts. They are intended as metrically identical replacements for Microsoft’s Arial, Times New Roman and Courier New fonts.

Sounds great, doesn’t it?

Well, apart from the license issues, there’s another problem: Metric equivalence isn’t everything. Arial is already the metrically equivalent substitute for Helvetica, and look at it: Arial is basically Helvetica’s ugly twin sister. So, will Liberation be any better?

Linux already has a set of fonts that are not only metrically equivalent to, but actually look like Helvetica, Times Roman and Courier: The URW
. To see them on the screen, instead of the ugly jagged bitmap versions, you’ll need to make them available to X, and turn off bitmap fonts in fontconfig1.

But the URW fonts themselves look ugly too, because their hinting is bad. Liberation would solve that, wouldn’t it? No it wouldn’t, because
Liberation’s hinting isn’t done yet:

The first release is a set of fully usable fonts, but they will lack the fully [sic] hinting capability […] provided by TrueType/FreeType technology.

So why not spend the effort on providing good hinting for the URW fonts, so we can have actual nice looking real Helvetica on our Linux screens?

1 On Debian, and probably Ubuntu, that’s

sudo aptitude install gsfonts-x11


sudo dpkg-reconfigure fontconfig-config

respectively. Answer no to using bitmapped fonts.

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