;

7.4 Linux Fonts

Although this section is entitled “Linux Fonts”, it could just as easily be called “Free Fonts” because all the fonts we discuss are distributed without charge and are readily available in formats that are amenable to any major operating system. However, various combinations of these fonts are often preinstalled by Linux distributions.

The default font set of a modern Linux distribution (if there is such a thing) provides sufficient mathematical notation and symbol support to provide a decent mathematics viewing experience “out of the box”. Furthermore, virtually all of the fonts distributed with Linux provide their own glyphs for Greek characters.

Font usage statistics cited in this section were as of April 2012. They were compiled by code style.

7.4.1 DejaVu Fonts

The most common Linux fonts containing significant math coverage are the DejaVu fonts. The DejaVu font family consists of three typefaces: DejaVu Sans, DejaVu Serif, and DejaVu Mono. Both the DejaVu Sans and DejaVu Serif fonts are encountered on 97 percent of Linux desktops. The accompanying tables (Table 9 and Table 10 respectively) summarize their coverage of mathematical notation.

Table 9: DejaVu Sans’ Math Coverage
Unicode Block Description Coverage
U+0370–U+03FF Greek and Coptic 134 glyphs
U+1F00–U+1FFF Greek Extended 223 glyphs
U+2070–U+209F Superscripts and Subscripts 42 glyphs
U+2200–U+22FF Mathematical Operators 256 glyphs
U+2300–U+23FF Miscellaneous Technical 65 glyphs
U+27C0–U+27EF Miscellaneous Mathematical Symbols-A 9 glyphs
U+2980–U+29FF Miscellaneous Mathematical Symbols-B 13 glyphs
U+2A00–U+2AFF Supplemental Mathematical Operators 72 glyphs
Table 10: DejaVu Serif’s Math Coverage
Unicode Block Description Coverage
U+0370–U+03FF Greek and Coptic 120 glyphs
U+1F00–U+1FFF Greek Extended 244 glyphs
U+2070–U+209F Superscripts and Subscripts 42 glyphs
U+2100–U+214F Letterlike Symbols 32 glyphs
U+2200–U+22FF Mathematical Operators 100 glyphs
U+2300–U+23FF Miscellaneous Technical 35 glyphs
U+27C0–U+27EF Miscellaneous Mathematical Symbols-A 5 glyphs
U+2980–U+29FF Miscellaneous Mathematical Symbols-B 1 glyph
U+2A00–U+2AFF Supplemental Mathematical Operators 4 glyphs
U+1D400–U+1D7FF Mathematical Alphanumeric Symbols 55 glyphs

It is also worth noting that the DejaVu fonts (like the STIX fonts) have bold, italic, and bold italic variants which also provide significant math coverage. For the sake of brevity, we will spare you the details. Suffice it to say, the math coverage in these variants is less extensive than their upright counterparts, and roughly equivalent to their STIX counterparts.

7.4.2 GNU Free Fonts

The GNU FreeFont family consists of three typefaces: FreeSans, FreeSerif, and FreeMono. The fonts contain extensive math coverage and are found on approximately 85 percent of Linux desktop installations. Table 11 summarizes the mathematical coverage of one of the fonts, FreeSerif. The other faces have similar coverage. Most of the glyphs used by LaTeX are available in the GNU FreeFonts.

Table 11: GNU FreeSerif’s Math Coverage
Unicode Block Description Coverage
U+0370–U+03FF Greek and Coptic 134 glyphs
U+1F00–U+1FFF Greek Extended 233 glyphs
U+2070–U+209F Superscripts and Subscripts 34 glyphs
U+2100–U+214F Letterlike Symbols 77 glyphs
U+2200–U+22FF Mathematical Operators 256 glyphs
U+2300–U+23FF Miscellaneous Technical 113 glyphs
U+27C0–U+27EF Miscellaneous Mathematical Symbols-A 40 glyphs
U+2980–U+29FF Miscellaneous Mathematical Symbols-B 68 glyphs
U+2A00–U+2AFF Supplemental Mathematical Operators 27 glyphs
U+1D400–U+1D7FF Mathematical Alphanumeric Symbols 996 glyphs

The GNU FreeFonts, like the STIX fonts, have bold, italic, and bold italic variants which also provide significant math coverage. As is typically the case, the math character set of these variants is less extensive than their upright counterparts.

7.4.3 Liberation fonts

In 2007, Red Hat commissioned the Ascender Corp font foundry to create a set of fonts, dubbed the Liberation fonts – Liberation Sans, Liberation Serif, and Liberation Mono – that are metric equivalents of the common Microsoft fonts: Times New Roman, Arial, and Courier New. Metric equivalence implies that the Liberation fonts have identical horizontal spacing to the Microsoft fonts. When Liberation fonts are substituted for the Microsoft fonts, a line of text is laid out in an identical manner. Red Hat’s motivation for this “act of generosity” was Microsoft’s refusal to license its popular fonts on the Linux platform, which caused inconsistent cross platform display of office documents.

The Liberation fonts have recently (July 2012) received a facelift by the Fedora Project. The revised fonts, dubbed Liberation 2.0, are based on Google’s Chrome OS Croscore fonts (which were, in turn, based on the original Liberation fonts). The main impetus for this change was to resolve issues with the licensing terms of the original Liberation fonts, which impeded “community based” font enhancements.

In any event, both flavors of the Liberation fonts provide poor mathematical symbol coverage. Table 12 summarizes the coverage of the Liberation 2.0 Serif font, which is known as Tinos in the Chrome OS/Crosscore world. Mathematical coverage is equally spotty in the Liberation Sans (Armino) and Liberation Mono (Cousine) typefaces.

Table 12: Liberation Serif’s Math Coverage
Unicode Block Description Coverage
U+0374–U+03F3 Greek and Coptic 127 glyphs
U+1F00–U+1FFE Greek Extended 233 glyphs
U+2200–U+22FF Mathematical Operators 17 glyphs

For the record, the Liberation fonts (first version) are installed on 89 percent of Linux desktops.

7.4.4 Ubuntu Fonts

In 2010, the Dalton Maag type foundry delivered new sans serif typefaces to Canonical for use as the signature font for its Ubuntu Linux distribution. These fonts – called simply the Ubuntu Font Family - have limited math symbol coverage. As with most Linux fonts, Ubuntu has significant coverage of Greek characters. In math coverage, these fonts are similar to the Liberation fonts or the Postscript fonts. Table 13 summarizes the coverage of the Ubuntu Regular font.

Table 13: Ubuntu Font’s Math Coverage
Unicode Block Description Coverage
U+0374–U+03F3 Greek and Coptic 71 glyphs
U+1F00–U+1FFE Greek Extended 233 glyphs
U+2200–U+22FF Mathematical Operators 14 glyphs
Private Area (several math related) 49 glyphs
Glyph Variants (most not math related) 72 glyphs

The Ubuntu fonts are installed on 63 percent of Linux desktops.

7.4.5 PostScript Fonts

When Adobe introduced Postscript in 1984, they defined 35 core fonts (in 10 typefaces) that must be present in all Postscript interpreters. The Ghostscript fonts are commercial quality implementations of the Postscript core fonts that were donated to the Ghostscript project in 1996 by the URW++ Design & Development type foundry of Hamburg. The Tex Gyre fonts are a recent incarnation of the “Ghostscript” fonts that are packaged and extended by the Polish type foundry GUST e-font. They are discussed in Section 7.5.3.

The relationship between the original Postscript core fonts, their Ghostscript counterparts, and their more recent Tex Gyre implementation is described in Table 14.

Table 14: PostScript Core Font Mapping
Postscript Core Font Ghostscript Font Open Type Font
ITC Bookman 1 URW Bookman L Tex Gyre Bonum
New Century Schoolbook 2 URW Century Schoolbook L Tex Gyre Schola
ITC Avant Garde Gothic 3 URW Gothic L Tex Gyre Adventor
Courier 4 URW Nimbus Mono L Tex Gyre Cursor
Times 5 URW Nimbus Roman No9 L Tex Gyre Termes
Helvetica 6 URW Nimbus Sans L Tex Gyre Heros
Palatino 7 URW Palladio L Tex Gyre Pagella
n/a n/a Tex Gyre Pagella Math
Symbol Standard Symbol L n/a
Zapf Chancery URW Chancery L n/a
Zapf Dingbats Dingbats n/a

  • 1 Designed by Alexander Phemister in 1860. (Miller & Richard)
    2 Designed by Morris Fuller Benton in 1919. (ATF)
    3 Designed by Herb Lubalin and Tom Carnase in 1970. (ITC)
    4 Designed by Howard G. (Bud) Kettler in 1955. (IBM)
    5 Designed by Starling Burgess and Victor Lardent in 1932. (Monotype)
    6 Designed by Max Miedinger and Eduard Hoffman in 1957. (Haas)
    7 Designed by Hermann Zapf in the 1940’s. (Stempel

  • In general, these fonts alone do not provide adequate coverage for mathematical publication. They were not designed for publishing advanced mathematics and must be augmented by one of the more comprehensive math fonts. However, it should be noted that the Ghostscript “Standard Symbol L” (Table 15) does provide basic math coverage. Furthermore, the recent “Tex Gyre Pagella Math” extension (Table 18) provides comprehensive math support for Tex Gyre’s Paagella (Palatino) font.

    Table 15: Standard Symbol L’s Math Coverage
    Unicode Block Description Coverage
    U+0370–U+03FF Greek and Coptic 48 glyphs
    U+2000–U+206F General Punctuation 3 glyphs
    U+2200–U+22FF Mathematical Operators 39 glyphs
    U+2300–U+23FF Miscellaneous Technical 4 glyphs
    U+27C0–U+27EF Miscellaneous Mathematical Symbols-A 20 glyphs
    U+2A00–U+2AFF Supplemental Mathematical Operators 26 glyphs
    Private Area (most math related) 37 glyphs
    Glyph Variants (most not math related) 4 glyphs

    The Ghostscript fonts are among the most universal of the Linux fonts. In a recent survey – URW Chancery L, Century Schoolbook L, URW Gothic L, Nimbus Sans L, URW Bookman L, URW Palladio L, Nimbus Mono L, Nimbus Roman No9 L – i.e. the Ghostscript fonts, were installed on more than 98% of the monitored Linux desktops.

    7.4.6 Font Sources

    The fonts discussed in this section are packaged by virtually all Linux distributions, even if they are not loaded onto the system during a distribution’s default installation procedure. Hence, most Linux users can, and probably should, install these fonts through their distribution’s package management system.

    We referenced the upstream source of each font during our discussion. The upstream font publishers package their fonts in an operating system neutral manner. If the proper procedures are followed, fonts obtained from these sources can be installed on any desktop platform.

    Various commercial sites also provide access to common Linux fonts packaged in a platform independent manner. One such site, Font Squirrel, provides vendor neutral access to many common free fonts.