Ubuntu Font Family History

This covers a brief history of development of the Ubuntu Font Family.

Original Development

The development was funded by Canonical on behalf the wider Free Software community and the Ubuntu project. The technical font design work and implementation was undertaken by Dalton Maag and released for Ubuntu 10.10.


As they were developed, snapshots were being gradually rolled out on a phased basis, to wider circles of people, and in larger snapshots as the opportunity of each six-monthly Ubuntu release approached:

  • Ubuntu 10.04: very early snapshot used for the 2010 X/K/Ubuntu re-branding exercise

  • Ubuntu 10.10: Should have four fonts in sans-serif style: Regular, Italic, Bold, Bold Italic

  • Ubuntu 11.04: Additional fonts, and expanded language coverage, including Monospace for terminal use

Phased beta

The initial Alpha and Beta testing of the Ubuntu Font Family has been rolled out in phases under progressively more open distribution conditions:

  • Canonical design team ("DX"), proprietary, NDAed, Sup3r S3cr3t (later 2009)
  • Canonical employees, proprietary, NDAed (early 2010)
  • Ubuntu members + web-preview, proprietary (July 2010)
  • more to come!...

The font family is a long-term project and the phased feedback process is not something that everyone has immediately embraced! It is however a historical development: Dave Crossland (of the Open Font Library) notes on the LWN article that this the first time that a traditional proprietary font foundry company has been prepared to release any beta test versions of their in-development fonts. Non-profit foundries have released design reviews and public betas. Hopefully in the future the Ubuntu Font Family can be held up as an example of success and open up the possibilities to go even further. Lets make this work!

From a font-designer's point-of-view, half-finished fonts have had the unfortunate habit of getting distributed and spreading the wild ("like viruses"). Mainstream use of incompatible revisions of a typeface cause issues such people's documents re-flowing where characters or metrics are refined between the earlier and the final versions.


Ubuntu Developer Summit-M:

Design team

Dalton Maag



  • OpenType-based TTF (TrueType)

  • Alternative glyphs (e.g. proportional/non-proportional/superscript/subscript numerals)
  • Debugging glyphs (U+EFFD, U+EFFE, U+EFFF, U+F000) giving face, version, grayscale level and pixels-per-em digit display)

The pixels-per-em 7-segment digits are driven by the hint engine (substituted from the Deja fonts), so if hinting is by default off (eg. Firefox) then the output will show as a pair of '88' numerals.

For some idea of what OpenType alternatives allows, see the following video of Firefox developments in progress:

Design process

The four Latin characters, 'n o H O' helped to define a guide for around 80-percent of the remaining characters.

Extensive manual hinting has been performed for rendered sizes below 60 pixels-per-em.

Software tools

Dalton Maag are using the following tools:

  • Fontlab Studio

  • Microsoft Visual Truetype (VTT)
  • In-house Python-based accent placement scripts

In Ubuntu:

  • Gucharmap (Applications ▸ Accessories ▸ Character Map)
  • fontmatrix (apt-get install fontmatrix)

  • FontForge (apt-get install fontforge)

  • open font design toolkit (apt-get install open-font-design-toolkit)

UbuntuFontFamily/History (last edited 2016-01-05 20:21:59 by nskaggs)