Metric equivalent of Microsoft fonts for Linux

May 13, 2007
Visit any random website and chances are the website expects your machine to have a set of fonts which have become the de-facto standard on the Internet. The fonts being Arial, Times New Roman, Courier New and so on. While it may not be illegal to install these fonts on a Linux machine, they are propritery and are owned by Microsoft. And Microsoft does not licence third parties to redistribute these fonts - a reason why you don't find these commonly used popular fonts installed in Linux by default.

This is going to change once and for all. Red Hat in association with Ascender Corp has developed a set of fonts which are the metric equivalent of the most popular Microsoft fonts, and they have released it under the GPL+exception license. Three sets of fonts have been released, them being:
  1. Sans - a substitute for Arial, Albany, Helvetica, Nimbus Sans L, and Bitstream Vera Sans
  2. Serif - a substitute for Times New Roman, Thorndale, Nimbus Roman, and Bitstream Vera Serif and
  3. Mono - a substitute for Courier New, Cumberland, Courier, Nimbus Mono L, and Bitstream Vera Sans Mono.
The advantage for Linux users is that now you don't have to explicitly install Microsoft fonts anymore as the web sites or documents which use Microsoft fonts will display flawlessly using the metric equivalent fonts which can be included in all Linux distributions by default.

The work on the fonts is yet to be completed and so will be released in two stages. In the first stage, all the fonts are released as fully usable but will lack the full hinting capability provided by True Type/Free Type technology. In the second phase of the release which will happen some time in later half of 2007, the fonts will have full hinting capability and will be at par with or excel the Microsoft fonts in quality. For now Red Hat has made available all the fonts for download so that you can test it on your machine.

Creating good quality fonts - ie. fonts which retain its quality even in smaller sizes is a very tedious and time consuming process. And buying good quality fonts is a very costly affair with each set of fonts costing anything upwards of $100 . By taking the initiative to develop good quality fonts which are the metric equivalent of Microsoft fonts, and releasing them under a Free licence, Red Hat has done a very good deed for the Free Software and Open Source cause.

3 comments:

  • rooy

    Great!

    I hope they would include the works of DejaVu fonts, or we would have to switch around to have multilanguage capability.

  • Sorry, most of your take on this is wrong.

    1) The Bitsteam Vera fonts are already available under a free licence. See http://www.gnome.org/fonts/

    2) Microsoft DOES licence third parties to redistribute their fonts. See http://corefonts.sourceforge.net/

    3) These three font families are far from enough to replace the full set of "standard" MS fonts used on web pages. There's no "Georgia", no "Verdana", "Trebuchet", etc. They'll work after a fashion, but it will look different.

  • 1) The Bitstream Vera fonts are not the metric equivalents of the three most widely used Microsoft fonts - Times New Roman, Arial, and Courier New. That doesn't mean the Bitstream fonts aren't good fonts, but they don't serve the same purpose.

    2) Microsoft no longer licenses third parties for Times New Roman, Arial, and Courier New (the core fonts). They did at one time, but the link cited is to a party redistributing those Microsoft fonts under the old license.

    3) These fonts are only intended to replace the three Microsoft fonts most widely used in documents, presentations, and spreadsheets. Clearly they do not replace all of the various styled fonts that Microsoft makes available.