Classify, package, test and integrate the various open fonts currently available into the Ubuntu desktop.

By "open fonts" we mean fonts released under the Open Font License (or similarly free community-approved licenses) listed on which any designer/graphic artist/linguist/whoever can use, study, copy, merge, embed, modify(branch/merge) and redistribute/bundle.

Some font designers are making their font sources available and we need to take advantage of this.


The free desktop should not have to depend on restricted fonts or older font technologies but provide free/libre/open latest generation opentype smart fonts.

Languages lacking font support are now starting to be supported. The font design toolkit is getting mature and collaboration methodologies specifically adapted to font design are being worked out. We need to make sure the growing body of non-restricted fonts is well-tested, well-integrated in the free desktop in order to make the i18n and L10n support stellar for as many languages as possible. Proprietary OSes are refreshing their font offerings and Ubuntu (and the free desktop at large) needs to offer similar if not better support for high-quality fonts and languages using complex scripts. Think Gutenberg and his "movable type" in the context of Free Software: font sources we can re-arrange freely in a more flexible way to produce better results for everyone.

Use cases

Tim wants high-quality fonts to use the free desktop in his mother tongue and native script and would love something better than the dilemna between illegaly copying over restricted fonts shipped with other OSes or searching for low-quality freeware fonts picked on large collections on the Net. He would like to just go to synaptic and search for font families already neatly packaged and ready to use.

Anna runs a literacy project on a very limited budget, all the software used is free/libre/open but she is limited since the only appropriate fonts she has managed to find in a low bandwith environment are fonts she's not allowed to embed, can't use for derived graphics and much less distribute with documents sent to local printshops around the country. She need decent implementation for her development and education initiative but can't afford the price and inconvenience of restricted fonts.

Paulo is a graphic designer and has good experience in font design. He would like to extend an existing font to include better support for a language he's interested in and so have a font which does not limit his creativty. He needs a font family granting him the freedom to modify and make a derivative through a license he can understand and use without getting a headache.

Mikael is learning font design and he tries out Ubuntu. After seeing the various open fonts and their corresponding source available with Ubuntu, he reads up on what the font license allows him to do and then considers doing more than creating yet another freeware font but contributing to an existing font project instead.


A survey of the fonts currently shipping, their coverage, the quality of their glyphs, in what languages and locales these glyphs are used, what is the ideal fontconfig configuration, what extra smart features are needed, what dependencies on other writing systems components exist, what relationship with the language packs is best, etc.

This should be done through a process involving i18n, l10n and type experts as well as Loco communities to evaluate the appropriateness of particular font for each language supported by Ubuntu.

The recent LSB summit report mentions the need for a common set of fonts for better interoperability of document rendering. We need fonts with appropriate licensing respecting the basic four FSF freedoms for that.

Localization and font availability is also very important in the context of the OLPC project with the deployments planned in areas where many speakers of minority languages live and corresponding writing systems are not implemented yet.

Sharing packaging best practises for fonts will make it easier for fonts to get disseminated, tested and validated.


The cross-distro review will happen via

The packaging will be done via an Alioth project called pkg-ofl-fonts. The plan is to maintain the same packages for both Debian and Ubuntu.


Data preservation and migration

Outstanding issues

Font installation needs to be language specific. The current Ubuntu install loads lots of fonts for languages which may never be used by an individual user (especially arabic fonts). This means that font dialogs are cluttered with many fonts that a user is unlikely ever to want. It would be better to have one or two unicode fonts that cover all possible languages, and make the installation of other fonts dependent on the user's language settings. Of course, this presents some issues, as it suggests that it would be better to make different fonts available for different users, instead of making all fonts available system-wide.

  • - This may not be a problem if programs sort fonts when listing them. Abiword for example puts at the end of the list every font that is not designed for the current character set, and this they don't bother you. (and others) should do the same. User-specific fonts would be really complex to implement, I guess, and for a very little improvement. Milan71

BoF agenda and discussion

OpenFonts (last edited 2008-08-06 16:37:20 by localhost)