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X Fonts Fixit Page


I like to run my X server at 1024 x 768 resolution on a 14" screen, but found that the fonts were generally too small. Netscape seemed to suffer the most from this tiny font syndrome, especially in menus and headings for mail and news.

I don't claim to be any X font guru, but I will share a few of my experiences with the world in a hope to make it a better place. :-)

Dirty Fix #1 -- Re-ordering the font list

The X server as a couple of directories that it reads the fonts from. You can see these by looking on your /etc/XF86Config file at the lines labeled FontPath. By default the 75 dpi fonts are listed before the 100dpi ones. By reversing the order of these two you will find that many of the Netscape fonts used in headings, etc. will be enlarged. Your X server will have to be restarted to see this change take effect.
Section "Files"
   RgbPath    "/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/rgb"
   FontPath   "/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/Type1"
   FontPath   "/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/Speedo"
   FontPath   "/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/misc"
   FontPath   "/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/100dpi"
   FontPath   "/usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/75dpi"

Dirty Fix #2 -- Changing the default font for xterm

xterm and many other text based X programs use a font called fixed for their default font. Again; I found this a little bit too small. With a little trial and error I found I liked a font called 9x15. (Look in the file /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/misc/fonts.alias for a list of font names.) You can test them by calling xterm with the font passed as a parameter. e.g.
xterm -fn 9x15
Once you have found a suitable font, it's time to hack into the /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/misc/fonts.alias file a bit. Basically you can change the font that is set for fixed to be the same as that for your newly chosen replacement. e.g.
! $XConsortium: fonts.alias,v 1.31 94/04/11 12:28:00 gildea Exp $
! replaced the 'fixed' font
! fixed        -misc-fixed-medium-r-semicondensed--13-120-75-75-c-60-iso8859-1
fixed        -misc-fixed-medium-r-normal--15-140-75-75-c-90-iso8859-1
variable     -*-helvetica-bold-r-normal-*-*-120-*-*-*-*-iso8859-1
5x7          -misc-fixed-medium-r-normal--7-70-75-75-c-50-iso8859-1
5x8          -misc-fixed-medium-r-normal--8-80-75-75-c-50-iso646.1991-irv
6x9          -misc-fixed-medium-r-normal--9-90-75-75-c-60-iso646.1991-irv
6x10         -misc-fixed-medium-r-normal--10-100-75-75-c-60-iso8859-1
6x12         -misc-fixed-medium-r-semicondensed--12-110-75-75-c-60-iso646.1991-i
6x13         -misc-fixed-medium-r-semicondensed--13-120-75-75-c-60-iso8859-1
6x13bold     -misc-fixed-bold-r-semicondensed--13-120-75-75-c-60-iso8859-1
7x13         -misc-fixed-medium-r-normal--13-120-75-75-c-70-iso8859-1
7x13bold     -misc-fixed-bold-r-normal--13-120-75-75-c-70-iso8859-1
7x14         -misc-fixed-medium-r-normal--14-130-75-75-c-70-iso8859-1
7x14bold     -misc-fixed-bold-r-normal--14-130-75-75-c-70-iso8859-1
8x13         -misc-fixed-medium-r-normal--13-120-75-75-c-80-iso8859-1
8x13bold     -misc-fixed-bold-r-normal--13-120-75-75-c-80-iso8859-1
8x16         -sony-fixed-medium-r-normal--16-120-100-100-c-80-iso8859-1
9x15         -misc-fixed-medium-r-normal--15-140-75-75-c-90-iso8859-1
9x15bold     -misc-fixed-bold-r-normal--15-140-75-75-c-90-iso8859-1


Nice Fix #1 -- Supporting True Type Fonts

Out of the box, X on Linux generally doesn't support True Type fonts. Unfortunately, lots of them are used on web pages, and when Netscape comes to display them it does so wth some tiny font.

There is a True Type Font server called xfstt and is available from sunsite. Make sure that you grab the latest version.

Follow the installation instrictions and then you will be looking at True Type fonts in Netscape in no time.

The only addition I have to make to this is I still found the fonts a little small. There is a --res option that can be used to increase the fonts that are served. By default the True Type fonts are served at 96 dpi, but I fould that going up to 120 dpi improved things. e.g.

if [ -x /usr/X11R6/bin/xfstt ]; then echo "Starting TrueType font server for X..." /usr/X11R6/bin/xfstt --sync /usr/X11R6/bin/xfstt --res 120 & fi

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