Freetype 2.7.0: major Linux font improvements

tux_compAnnouncing a huge improvement to the current status of font-rendering on Linux, developer Nikolaus Waxweiler has posted Freetype v2.7.0 will ship the new v40 TrueType instructions interpreter enabled by default. Linux users have long been barred from the best rendering available, thanks to some patents from Microsoft. However, the patents have expired now and this very very commonplace complaint is going to be addressed. Continue reading Freetype 2.7.0: major Linux font improvements

Font rendering on Ubuntu. Infinality!

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This is the follow-up article to my earlier article on font rendering on Ubuntu. While the previous one explains tweaks on default Ubuntu, this article will add to that using infinality patches.

Infinality adds many improvements to font rendering by patching fontconfig and freetype libraries:

  • Emboldening Enhancement: Disables Y emboldening, producing a much nicer result on fonts without bold versions. Works on native TT hinter and autohinter.
  • Auto-Autohint: Automatically forces autohint on fonts that contain no TT instructions.
  • Autohint Enhancement: Makes autohint snap horizontal stems to pixels. Gives a result that appears like a well-hinted truetype font, but is 100% patent-free (as per the dev).
  • Customized FIR Filter: Select your own filter values at run-time. Works on native TT hinter and autohinter.
  • Stem Alignment: Aligns bitmap glyphs to optimized pixel boundaries. Works on native TT hinter and autohinter.
  • Pseudo Gamma Correction: Lighten and darken glyphs at a given value, below a given size. Works on native TT hinter and autohinter.
  • Embolden Thin Fonts: Embolden thin or light fonts so that they are more visible. Works on autohinter.
  • Force Slight Hinting: Force slight hinting even when programs want full hinting. The local.conf provided (included in infinality-settings fedora package) adds nice improvements on @font-face fonts.
  • ChromeOS Style Sharpening: ChromeOS uses a patch to sharpen the look of fonts. Included in the infinality patchset.

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Infinality comes with various configuration options:

  • DEFAULT – Default settings. A compromise that should please most people
  • OSX – Simulate OSX rendering
  • IPAD – Simulate iPad rendering
  • UBUNTU – Simulate Ubuntu rendering
  • LINUX – Generic “Linux” style – no snapping or certain other tweaks
  • WINDOWS – Simulate Windows rendering
  • WINDOWS7 – Simulate Windows rendering with normal glyphs
  • WINDOWS7LIGHT – Simulate Windows 7 rendering with lighter glyphs
  • VANILLA – Just subpixel hinting
  • CUSTOM – Your own preferences. Tweak stuff if you know what you are doing
  • Infinality styles:
    • CLASSIC – Infinality rendering circa 2010. No snapping
    • NUDGE – CLASSIC with lightly stem snapping and tweaks
    • PUSH – CLASSIC with medium stem snapping and tweaks
    • SHOVE – Full stem snapping and tweaks without sharpening
    • SHARPENED – Full stem snapping, tweaks, and Windows-style sharpening
    • INFINALITY – Settings used by the Infinality developer
    • DISABLED – Act as though running without the extra infinality enhancements (just subpixel hinting)

However, regular users don’t really need to understand the details of the improvements. Applying and testing the different font settings are easy. Follow the steps below:

  1. To install on Ubuntu:
    $ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:no1wantdthisname/ppa
    $ sudo apt-get update
    $ sudo apt-get install  fontconfig-infinality freetype
  2. Run the following commands to choose and apply a font configuration:
    $ sudo /etc/fonts/infinality/ setstyle

    However, the command doesn’t show all configuration options.

  3. To take full control, open /etc/profile.d/ and search for the string USE_STYLE. You can set it to any of the configuration options listed above. For example, I use “WINDOWS7LIGHT” with my own customization for extra sharpness. Get it here.
  4. Remember that you need to logout and login back for the settings to take effect correctly.

At this point, I also set my dots per inch to 128:

$ xrandr --dpi 128

and added the command to a startup script.

bohoomil’s patch

To push things further, you can try out the infinality-ultimate patches from bohoomil. However, I faced issues with my Firefox fonts with this patch (this might not happen on all hardware) though the system fonts looked great. In addition, there might be issues downgrading all the packages again. If you still want to go for it:

$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:rjvbertin/infinaltimate
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get upgrade

Webpage: Infinality

Font rendering on Ubuntu. My way!

ubuntu_logo_81x81Default fonts on Ubuntu are not everyone’s cup of tea. While there may be many reasons behind that like patent violation issues, user choices and the OS philosophy, I just wanted my fonts to look sharp and crispier like that in Windows. The default slightly blurred over-hinted fonts on Ubuntu didn’t work for me. So here’s everything I did to make the fonts look like I want them to. I am using the LXDE desktop environment on Saucy. My system font size is 9. My laptop is a Sony VAIO SVS13112ENB.

How to get the best sharp font rendering on Ubuntu?

  • I set the system font to Ubuntu everywhere with variations like Bold, Regular etc. It does look good and using the same font across the system reduces memory and CPU usage. The package is ttf-ubuntu-font-family.
  • The next thing I did was install the Microsoft core fonts package. There might be controversies about using those etc. but they look better. Hands down! Many websites use these fonts as default which helps during browsing. Having them installed also enables me to use the same fonts in Google Docs across different systems. The package to install is ttf-mscorefonts-installer.
  • My font dpi is set to 96. To check yours, use:
    $ xdpyinfo | grep inch
    resolution: 96x96 dots per inch
  • In order to change the dpi at login, run the following in a startup script:
    $ xrandr --dpi 96
  • Created a new font configuration file to override almost all other font rendering settings through fontconfig:
    File: /etc/fonts/conf.d/99-sharp-fonts.conf

    <!--?xml version="1.0"?>-->
    <!--DOCTYPE fontconfig SYSTEM "fonts.dtd">-->
      <match target="font">
        <edit name="antialias" mode="assign"><bool>true</bool></edit>
        <edit name="hinting" mode="assign"><bool>true</bool></edit>
        <edit name="hintstyle" mode="assign"><const>hintfull</const></edit>
        <edit name="lcdfilter" mode="assign"><const>lcddefault</const></edit>
        <edit name="rgba" mode="assign"><const>rgb</const></edit>
  • Made the same changes in a new file for Cairo applications which do not obey fontconfig settings.
    File: /etc/X11/Xresources/sharp-fonts

    Xft.antialias: true
    Xft.hinting:   true
    Xft.hintstyle: hintfull
    Xft.lcdfilter: lcddefault
    Xft.rgba:      rgb
  • Settings in LXDE Start Menu ▸ Preferences ▸ Customize Look and Feel ▸ Font:
    //Google Chrome seems to follow this
    Enable antialiasing: Enabled
    Enable hinting     : Enabled
    Hinting style      : Full
    Sub-pixel geometry : RGB
  • Besides the high quality Ubuntu font family, two other fonts which look stunningly beautiful on Ubuntu are Noto Sans, Open Sans, Arimo and Istok. My personal choice for the desktop is Noto Sans and Terminus for the terminal.
  • Logged out and in for the new settings to take effect. Finally I managed to make the fonts look beautiful… my way.
  • To verify the system settings, run:
    $ xrdb -query | grep Xft

Firefox fonts

To get the best possible rendering from Firefox, go to about:config and set the following

browser.display.auto_quality_min_font_size > 0