Font Handling

A perennial thorn in the side of Linux desktop use is font handling. In the past, X programs relied exclusively on X’s font features (the X core fonts, as they’re now known), which were primitive compared to those of Windows or Mac OS. Since 2000, new font tools have appeared (namely, Xft fonts), and they are now used by many of the most popular X-based Linux programs. Although the new systems are easier to use and present fonts that most users find more visually appealing, they add complexity to the overall Linux font-handling system. Thus, you must understand both these font systems. Many programs also provide their own font-handling tools, although most are converging on Xft. Of those that have not yet adopted Xft, OpenOffice.org (and its commercial twin, StarOffice) is the most important.

Linux Font-Handling Systems

Linux provides two major GUI font-handling systems: X core fonts and Xft fonts. In addition, individual X-based programs sometimes employ their own font-handling systems. This profusion of font-rendering tools can lead to some confusion if you’re not aware of the differences between these systems, each of which has its own unique quirks.

The oldest X font-handling system is the X core fonts system. X core fonts are server-side fonts, meaning that the X server (the system at which the user sits, in most cases) handles the fonts. X clients (that is, X programs) tell the X server what font to display and at what size, and the X server does the rest. ...

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