Does anybody take font testing on Linux or Solaris seriously?

ebensorkin's picture

Does anybody take font testing on Linux or Solaris seriously? I mean apart from maybe Ascender... The thing is my PB died; may it be resurected soon! knock knock... And I got an Intel MBPro which I can install Ubuntu & windows etc on. The impression I have is that Font rendering in Linux is like video driverds and printer drivers - a matter of which bit of thing you have installed. Meaning it might be almost as good as windows anti-aliasing & b&w in some cases but in general it's utterly unpredictable and on top of that it's a nearly non-existent market too. Is that right? Wrong? What do you think? Why? What about Solaris? Another non-market for indie font makers - right?

And as a side issue. What Windows OS ( via parallels) would you put on this PB replacement? 98. Right? Maybe Vista too?

All of this seems obvious, but then again...

blank's picture

Solaris has no font market because only sysadmins use it as a desktop anymore. Almost every Solaris box out there is either a server or a sandbox in some hobbyists collection. If there are leftover desktop Solaris users, they're doing scientific/medical work where fonts aren't especially important.

As for Linux... does anyone still take any part of the Linux desktop market seriously? In 2000 the Linux crowd couldn't shut up about how close they were to world domination, they're no closer now than they were then, and most people using desktop Linux are doing it for nerd cred, not because they care about fonts. I could see this being important if a few of the governments that keep threatening to move to Linux do so, or if the One-Laptop-Per-Child orders actually get filled (and don't end up running a stripped version of XP), but right now there's no point.

Regarding what Linux to use on a new Macbook, I'd go with XP unless you have some compelling reason to start running an OS that's widely regarded as needing more time in beta.

Grot Esqué's picture

I think Microsoft doesn’t support 98 in any way anymore. So maybe for starters it’s enough to infect your computer with just XP.

aluminum's picture

"As for Linux… does anyone still take any part of the Linux desktop market seriously?"

Those that use Linux do. Ubuntu has made a lot of headway this past year on pushing the linux desktop forward.

A recent survey (I wish I could find the source) stated that 30% of the corporations they interviewed are considering a switch to linux instead of upgrading to Vista. (for all I know, that might have been a survey sponsored by Ubuntu, I dunno. ;0)

"In 2000 the Linux crowd couldn’t shut up about how close they were to world domination, they’re no closer now than they were then"

Well, their market has grown. No idea how close they are to to completing their world domination plot.

"I could see this being important if a few of the governments that keep threatening to move to Linux do so"

Many have already made the declaration. Last week France just said parliament will be switching.

"Regarding what Linux to use on a new Macbook, I’d go with XP"


"unless you have some compelling reason to start running an OS that’s widely regarded as needing more time in beta."

I have yet to meet an OS that doesn't need more time in Beta, no matter if the logo is a penguin, and apple, or a rainbow window.

dezcom's picture

There was a thread up on Typophile within the past few months discussing font rendering on Linux and aother OS. I can't find it right now but I'll keep looking.


ebensorkin's picture

Chris, thanks!

BTW: What's your policy?

Lauri, Darrel, and James: Thanks!

I imagine that a Gov bodies using Linux are not going to be big opportunities for Indie designers - unless one of them commissions something specific. I wonder if Suse is getting any fonts out of their deal with Microsquish...

dezcom's picture

I don't see it worth my while to test in Linux until it becomes more of a visual/publishing platform (if that ever happens).


twardoch's picture

Most modern Linux systems use FreeType to render OpenType and TrueType fonts. Depending on the graphic desktop (KDE, Gnome etc.) various other libraries are involved in the rendering text, especially in doing the line layout.

FreeType recently made major changes in the code that resulted in big differences in the screen rendering. Apparently, this is still not sorted out. Depending on the version of the system used, you may find large differences, and this is likely to continue in future versions of Linux systems.


canderson's picture

As we all know, OpenType wasn't developed to please the few Typophiles; it's chief purpose was to extend language support. I suspect that within the Linux community, those who are "serious" about type on Linux are those who are involved with the same task. There is very little Linux software that would be useful to today's designers.

Personally, I only use Debian/Ubuntu for server-related tasks where it excels. Ubuntu does have a preference pane for Font Rendering, and ClearType it is not. However, it is probably sufficient 99.9% percent of users who can't tell the difference. On my system, the type looks just fine to me.

snivitz's picture

There is very little Linux software that would be useful to today’s designers.
The real problem IMO is the absence of a decent font manager for Linux. "Font Manager" is at version 0.0.1. And it's only a viewer at this point, not a manager. Hamster Font Manager appears to be abandoned. There's a hack that involves using's spadmin as a font manager.

Evidently, none of them cut it. So even if you manage to run most Adobe and formerly Macromedia apps over WINE, the lack of a font manager will be the eventual showstopper.

aluminum's picture

"There is very little Linux software that would be useful to today’s designers."

The Gimp
Open Office

Do any of those compare to Adobe's line? Not yet. But they are all quite promising and a graphic design who really wanted to could get by with those on his or her linux machine.

*Not* that I recommend that, but Linux isn't necessarily this software wasteland that some folks think it is. ;o)

Yep, linux has a way to go, I just don't like it seeing written off before it even gets a chance.

canderson's picture

I've also used UFRaw, Dia, and of course FontForge. It's fun to try to "switch" for a little while. I find Scribus to be very frustrating, though.

On Ubuntu it is a bit of a pain to install new fonts. One has to either logout/login or run fc-cache.

twardoch's picture

The excellent Xara Extreme ( ) for Linux probably beats Inkscape.

aluminum's picture

"Xara Extreme"

Damn. No OSX version yet. I'm looking for a replacement for Freehand now that it's dead and I really don't want to deal with Illustrator. I'm warming up to Inkscape, though it's obviously not ready for print/prepress work yet.

Scott Thatcher's picture

Evidently, none of them cut it. So even if you manage to run most Adobe and formerly Macromedia apps over WINE, the lack of a font manager will be the eventual showstopper.

From what I understand, KDE 4.0 will offer more font management capability. Probably not as much as serious users would expect on other platforms, but at least a font manager that allows installation, hiding/unhiding, preview and grouping for fonts.

KDE used to offer font hiding/unhiding, but it was removed in later versions. I filed a wishlist bug saying that I missed that feature, and the information about KDE 4.0 comes from developer responses to that bug report.

elliot100's picture

Might be of interest: you can painlessly play around with KDE on a Windows machine using a free virtual machine and disk image available from here:

No installation, dual boot or CD required.

Grot Esqué's picture

> Lauri

?! Eben, do you have finnish friends?

Thomas Phinney's picture

In answer to the original question, Adobe does zero font testing on any flavor of Linux. The reality today is that there are multiple Linux environments that differ widely from each other in font handling. Then add in the low market share of Linux in general, particularly among creative professionals. Net result: I think it means that if a font works on Mac and Windows as well as passing spec-based tests that suggest it's well-formed, then it's up to your favorite flavor of Linux to handle the font.



ebensorkin's picture

Lari, not yet, sadly enough. Why?

Thomas, thanks for the confirmation!


ebensorkin's picture

Lauri, got your instant message. Did you know your Profile says 'Lari'?

'Lari Elovainio'

If you prefer for people to write back to you as something else you had better change your profile!


Pierre-Luc Auclair's picture

Canderson said:
I find Scribus to be very frustrating, though.

It is indeed somewhat different from InDesign or Quark, but we are doing a lot of work on it.

Also, I invite you to report bugs and feature requests on

Version 1.3.4 (the upcoming one, still in development) has undergone heavy changes. The devs has completely rewritten the underlying text code, incorporated a new style manager, added support for spot colors, and much more. Not quite InDesign yet, but it's not that far.

Didn't have enough time to put OpenType features in it yet, but it's due for 1.3.5 if I'm not mistaken.


The thing is, complaining about Linux (rather Open-Source Software) doesn't really make things evolve. Get involved there's a lot of job for anyone and it'll make it production-ready sooner.

And it's not just for nerds, if my mom and dad can use it, you can too.

Grot Esqué's picture

Yes Eben, Lari is my name. People sometimes mistakenly think my name is Lauri, which is quite a usual name here in Finland. Since you haven’t got finnish friends, I was wondering where you got that ‘U’ from.

ebensorkin's picture

Lari, okay. I see now. I think there must have been another person on typophile named Lauri. My mistake.

Pierre, how would you characterize type handeling in Scribus? Is it handeled through the OS / dependent on KDE, Gnome etc? Does Scribus/ KDE or Gnome deal with Opentype yet? If so, both flavors?

Pierre-Luc Auclair's picture

Font system in Scribus has its own way to handle the way fonts are loaded.

It uses some libraries such as Freetype and Fontconfig but it's not similar to the rest of the system.

Scribus can use OTF fonts TTF or PS based, TTF, PS and I think MultipleMasters but I'm rather unsure. The only thing is: it does not natively embed/subsed OTF, but will convert text to path automatically with this kind of fonts (which is not that bad really). We unfortunately do not support advanced OpenType features as of yet, but as I told previously, it's planned for the next release, plus really cool stuff like customizable kerning tables and much more.

There is no native use of real OpenType features in KDE yet (I mean advanced tags). These days they are trying to get font loading fixed once and for all, IIRC the latest release breaks some stuff, but as everything in Linux, bugs don't tend to last long.

Again, the best way to see it fixed is report the shortcomings/bugs and/or fix it yourself (you can always get help), even though this requires programming skills.

Here's a recent discussion as to how Linux deals with fonts, pretty interesting read to anyone interested.

ebensorkin's picture

it’s not similar to the rest of the system.

So you are saying it has it's own rendering enegine for fonts. Yes? What do you mean by 'customizable kerning tables' Do you mean H&J settings? Are you trying to do something like the adobe 'Optical' kerning? BTW, Thanks for your thoughtful answers.

Pierre-Luc Auclair's picture

By customizable kerning tables I mean you will be able to correct the kerning of your fonts inside the program itself. Just like you would edit metrics but within Scribus.

Scribus' rendering is built on Cairo, I'm not 100% sure how it renders the text. I've already talked about it with the devs but I don't remember the details (I'm not a programmer but I do some design stuff).

By the way Scribus' devs are very easy to reach, they hang on all day on their IRC channel #scribus on Freenode the network.

antiphrasis's picture

<-- Lauri :)

ebensorkin's picture

Lauri! There you are! Do you have a Finnish background?

Scribus’ devs are easy to reach


dezcom's picture

Larry, Lore, Lari, Lauri, Laurel--just finnishing out the comedy of errors and hoping for a hardy laugh:-)


antiphrasis's picture


Yep, I've got a Finnish background. My mom'a from Finland and I was named after her father.

Grot Esqué's picture

Lauri is a fine name. Just a bit excessive on the vowels.

So how do people pronounce it? Lawry? :·P

dezcom's picture



typequake's picture


LaTeX + native OpenType on a Linux platform.
And it's free.

Scott Thatcher's picture

Thanks--I hadn't yet seen the Linux version of XeTeX.

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