Managing Fonts in Office Tools

In most OSs, including Windows and Mac OS, font management is fairly straightforward—you install a font by putting it in a special font folder, and the OS makes it available to all your applications. Unfortunately, font management under Linux is much more complex. Some aspects of this configuration are described in Chapter 16, "Optimizing X Configuration." Word processors are particularly picky about their fonts, though, so word processor font management requires some elaboration.

Bitmap versus Outline Fonts

Two types of fonts are common: bitmap fonts and outline fonts. The former are defined as bitmaps, much like bitmap graphics files; each character occupies a matrix of a particular size, with individual bits set on or off. Designers can fine-tune bitmap fonts to look good at a particular resolution, using human aesthetic judgments. Bitmap fonts are also quick to display; a character's bitmap can be copied to the screen or a printer file very speedily. On the downside, bitmap fonts require distinct font files for each resolution and size. For instance, a 12-pointfont displays only at 12 points; if you want a 10-point font, you need another font file. (It is technically possible to scale these fonts, but the results usually look very bad.)

Outline fonts, by contrast, use mathematical descriptions of the fonts' outlines, in terms of lines and curves. The computer can map these outlines onto a matrix of a given resolution to create a bitmap for display. This characteristic means that one outline font file can serve many different resolutions, vastly simplifying font administration. On the downside, outline fonts require more CPU power to display, and computers tend to do a poor job of creating good-looking results at low resolutions.

Most fonts you buy on font CDs or download from the Internet today are outline fonts, usually in Apple's TrueType or Adobe's PostScript Type 1 (aka Adobe Type Manager, or ATM) format. Linux can handle both font formats, although XFree86 4.0, a special

TrueType-enabled font server, or the new Xft library, is required for TrueType fonts. All Linux distributions ship with collections of fonts in these formats, as well as in various bitmap formats. These fonts are usually stored in subdirectories of /usr/X11 R6/lib/X11 /fonts.

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