Font libre!

GCN Insider | Red Hat and font developer Ascender team up to create an open-source set of fonts

As anyone who has recently seen the documentary '/Helvetica/' can attest, designers who work with fonts take them seriously. A font is a complete set of characters rendered in a certain style, or typeface. For instance, the font you're reading now is Miller Text Roman. Easy on the eyes, yes? And just as typography has its underground sense of aesthetics, so, too, does it have its own world of licensing.

The Times New Roman font, for example, a variant of Times Roman tweaked for computer viewing, is owned by Microsoft. Microsoft also owns Arial and Courier New, both also used in Microsoft Office.

Most of us use Microsoft Office, so font licensing isn't really an issue. But what if you want to run text within your own program, on your own non-Microsoft platform?

Now, Red Hat, which offers a commercial version of the Linux operating system, has contracted with a commercial font developer, Ascender, to create an open-source set of fonts, including a replacement for Times New Roman and other Microsoft fonts. The project is called Liberation Fonts.

The idea behind the project is to produce a set of fonts that are almost identical to Microsoft fonts yet fall under the open-source Gnu Public License, said Red Hat legal counsel Mark Webbink.

'It's always nagged at us that we didn't have a set of high-quality, open-source fonts that were the metric equivalent to Microsoft fonts,' Webbink said. 'Some open-source fonts were quite good, but they weren't the metric equivalent.' In other words, if you opened a Microsoft Word document in Open Office, the appearance of the document could be radically changed from the original.

The company released the first batch of these fonts earlier this year, though work still needs to be done to render them in very large or very small sizes, Webbink said.

To download the fonts, see GCN.com/838.

About the Author

Joab Jackson is the senior technology editor for Government Computer News.

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