Beautiful New Fonts

Wednesday, March 06th, 2013 | Author:

In this short rant, I want to convince you to try out some new beautiful fonts for your editor, terminal, wiki or website. In particular, I want you to take a look at Adobe's Source Pro Fonts. I'll explain where you can preview fonts online and how to employ them in various settings.

Adobe released two fonts under a open license (free to use, open source: SIL OpenFont OFL 1.1), in the Open@Adobe project (hosted at SourceForge). I give you some more links to follow, then I tell you how to employ them.

Getting the Fonts

Source Sans Pro is a sans-serif font suitable for screen reading and printing. If you use a modern browser, you might read it right now.

Source Code Pro is a monospace font suitable for coding (and any other kind of text editing, if you ask me) and terminal emulators.

So many other fonts are available, too. Not all of them are as high-quality as Adobe's, not all of them are free, but take a look yourself, at Google Web Fonts, for example. Other popular fonts on the web are the Droid fonts from Android or Neue Frutiger or Yanone Kaffeesatz, etc.

Using the Fonts

To use these fonts on your Ubuntu Linux (and probably many other Linux Distros), download the FontsOnly files from Adobe, unzip them, copy the OTF files to ~/.fonts/ and run fc-cache -f -v. The process is also explained and packaged into a ready-to-use script at this answer from AskUbuntu, where you have to make the obvious changes for Source Sans Pro instead of Source Code Pro (and similarly for other fonts).

Once you have the fonts installed, you can tell some applications to use them, for example the gnome-terminal has a profile-system, which you can access by the menu entry Edit->Profiles, then select your profile (most likely "Default", the only one) and Edit again, where you can now choose to either use the system fixed width font or some other font. Try the newly installed Source Code Pro!
In Emacs, the menu entry Options directly offers "Use System Font" versus "Set Default Font" (at least emacs24, I don't know about xemacs and the like).

If you want to change your system font easily under Ubuntu, you can install gnome-tweak-tool, which allows you to set default font, document font, monospace font and window title font.

To use these fonts (or many others) on your website or blog or wiki, you just need to follow the steps at "Google Web Fonts". For WordPress instances, there is a plug-in to use Google Web Fonts which I haven't tried, since it is really easy to customize your CSS. I also customized the wiki I use for personal knowledge management, which is an Instiki instance; here one has to go to the main page and "Edit Web" to enter some custom CSS.

To use these fonts on Windows or Mac OSX, download the FontsOnly file and read the installation instructions from Adobe (I didn't).

Final Remarks

After using Ubuntu's default font settings (and the horrible Arial in the original theme of my blog) for years, I was surprised how beautiful new fonts can be, and how much more readable it feels. I urge you to at least try something different, since it's quite easy nowadays.

Nota bene: I read somewhere that someone found out that serif fonts are not more readable than sans-serif fonts. That's why you don't see so much serif around these days. You should try it, sans-serif looks just "clean".

I have skipped the aspect of using shiny new fonts in LaTeX, but then I'm not sure whether it's a good idea to use a text font that doesn't match the math symbol font... this will have to wait for a more thorough investigation at some other time.

Happy font switching!

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Category: English, Not Mathematics

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