Where Did the Courier and Helvetica Fonts Go?

Posted by caitlyn on Feb 11, 2008 10:37 PM EDT
O'Reilly Linux Dev Center; By Caitlyn Martin
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I’ve been running Vector Linux 5.9 Standard since it was released about six weeks ago. I’ve mostly been satisfied with it. I ran into a problem, though, when I first tried to install the Culmus fonts, a popular font set for the Hebrew character set.

The fonts installed correctly and were where they were supposed to be but none of my applications could see them. It turns out the same was true of Courier, Helvetica, Biitstream Charter, and a host of other fonts traditionally included with X.org and XFree86. All were installed on my system but none were available.

The problem originated upstream from Vector Linux. I still don’t know whether or not this is a Slackware issue or an X.org issue in release 7.3. I do know that some other popular distros don’t have the problem. However, since it’s easy to fix and undoubtedly affects other distros, not just Vector Linux, I thought I’d share what the source ot the problem is and how to solve it.

It turns out that by default only TTF and OTF fonts are enabled. This is actually determined by the default /etc/fonts/fonts.conf file which is part of the fontconfig package. This makes installing a font package containing another type of fonts, for example the Adobe Type 1 fonts in the Culmus package, pointless. For Russian and other Slavic language speakers it also disables most of the Cyrillic fonts that are included with X.

The solution is to edit /etc/fonts/conf.avail/51-local.conf file to re-enable any installed fonts that interest you. The net result is that fonts like Courier, Bitstream Charter, and a few URW fonts also magically appear in applications. All the traditional X fonts, the ones that have been around since I was knee high to a grasshopper, can be re-enabled this way, etc/fonts/conf.avail/51-local.conf is an xml file but thankfully you need to add only one line of code for each directory of fonts you want to enable. For example, to add the Type1 and misc font directories you add:

You could easily add cimilar lines for cyrillic or 75dpi or 100dpi if you want those fonts. Once you’re done editing the file you need to execute two commands as root:
xset fp rehash
The fonts should then be available. That’s it!

For Vector Linux users: I am submitting revised fontconfig packages for both 32-bit and 64-bit VL that will resolve this issue.

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