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Re: [XForms] Font issues

From: oleuthold
Subject: Re: [XForms] Font issues
Date: Wed, 28 May 2014 16:50:33 -0700
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; Linux i686; rv:24.0) Gecko/20100101 Thunderbird/24.4.0

Hi Jens,
thanks for your kind words. There are actually several application available on Sourceforge, which I built using Xforms: Lxoskope,Lxascope, Lxardoscope, Lxiggen and Lxsndtest, some of them waiting for an upgrade after this font issue is laid to rest. And yes, you can use any of the screenshots for your advertisement. Regarding the "spirit of Linux", my concern is that Helvetica is a proprietary font owned by Linotype. What we get in xfonts-100dpi is probably an illegal knockoff, thus not really free. I guess this is the reason it is not installed in recent Ubunto distros and derivatives (like Mint). Arial is another knockoff; I think we should not use Microsoft or Apple proprietary fonts, and we should not ask the users to rip these fonts from commercial software installations. My understanding of what is happening behind the scenes is extremely limited. There seem to be two systems for dealing with fonts, Xforms is using the older one. Maybe by renaming an existing, decent looking, free font to something like xforms-font we can avoid issues with name clashes. Hopefully somebody else in the xforms community has some good ideas how to deal with this issue...

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Today's Topics:

    1. Re: Font issues (Jens Thoms Toerring)


Message: 1
Date: Tue, 27 May 2014 21:29:30 +0200
From: Jens Thoms Toerring <address@hidden>
To: Development with and of XForms <address@hidden>
Subject: Re: [XForms] Font issues
Message-ID: <address@hidden>
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=us-ascii

Hi Oskar,

On Mon, May 26, 2014 at 07:49:40PM -0700, address@hidden wrote:
      after upgrading from Mint9 to Mint13, I noticed that fontsize
and fontstyle in my GUIs were ignored. Finally I took some time to
get to the bottom of the problem. My observations:
1. Mint9 has the Xforms default font Helvetica installed, whereas it
is missing in Mint 13.
Oh, that's not good! Helvetica was a bitmap font that was
always available until now, as far as I know;-)

2. When the default font is missing, another one is substituted
(which one? by xforms? by X11?)
That's a bit of a mixture. The requested fonts are as "loosely"
specified as possible, e.g., for normal Helvetica the library
asks for


with just the '?' replaced by the size. So X11 has a lot of
leeway in selecting something. If Xlib still can't find any-
thing fitting XForms switches to "emergency mode" and tries
to use an already loaded font font with the nearest size to
what the caller requested. And if even that fails it finally
tries the rather ugly "fixed" and "6x13" fonts, which should
always available.

3. The fonts available to Xforms can be found using the xlsfonts
command or the xfontsel graphic utility.
4. The Xforms demo fonts.c can be used to view the different fonts
with different sizes.
5. Some of the fonts do not scale properly (for example 10 and 12
are same size, 11 smaller than 10).
I guess that's some effect of using more or less randomly
picked replacement fonts when the requestd font isn't avai-
lable. But I haven't experienced that yet, on all machines
I've used the default fonts of XForms existed. Could be that
this is because I tend to install a lot of fonts when setting
up a new machine;-)

6. I can install xfonts-100dpi, which contains the Helvetica font.
However this is really against the spirit of Linux; I guess that's
why the font was removed in later versions of the Mint distro.
What do you consider to be against the "spirit of Linux"? As far
as I can tell I've never seen a machine with X11, be it Linux or
other types of UNIX, that hadn't had a 100dpi (and 75dpi) font
directory (some without too many others;-). My silent assump-
tion until today has been that these are an integral part of
an X11 installation. My Xlib programming manual lists '100dpi',
'75dpi' and 'misc' as *the* directories where fonts are to be
found (ok, the precise location has changed a bit over the
years). So I would consider it a mistake by Mint to not in-
stall these fonts by default - who knows how many programs
they're breaking for saving a measly 13MB?

Here comes my question: would it be possible to include a free
default font with Xforms, such that GUIs look the same on all
distros? Some designers spend a lot of time arranging the widgets to
produce something nice, but if the particular font is missing, then
this effort can be wasted, and the GUI may look terrible. Any other
ideas how to deal with font issues?
I can fully understand your point if view when I see how nice
your Lxardoscope looks like (for those not having seen it have
a look at <http://www.elecfreaks.com/2042.html>). As an aside,
would you allow me to use it for the screenshot page on

What I would be most concerned about here is that I have no good
idea what the consequences of something like that would be. As far
as I can see We would have to do at least

a) copy the fonts to some place, perhaps /usr/local/fonts/XForms?
b) modify the font path. Were do I set it? It could be in lots
    of different places and I have no idea of any reliable way to
    find it out. 'xset +fb path' won't do since, as far as I know,
    it stays only that way for the duration of an Xsession. I'm also
    not sure if modifying the font path behind the users back is the
    right thing to do...
c) run font configure, i.e., 'fc-cache -f'. But do all systems do
    it that way?

As you can see this seems to me to be rather complicatd to do cor-
rectly for all possible systems. I'm also not convinced that it's
fitting for a library that just uses fonts to mess around with the
font settings, which could affect other applications unless done
100% right.

I would tend to prefer to restrict XForms to clearly mention in the
documentation that some additional font packages might be required
and perhaps try to convince distributors to automatically install
them with XForms (I've got to find out if this can be done via some
entries in the libforms.spec file).

What do you think?
                                Best regards, Jens

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