Canonical Voices

Posts tagged with 'font'

Dustin Kirkland

As announced last week, Microsoft and Canonical have worked together to bring Ubuntu's userspace natively into Windows 10.

As of today, Windows 10 Insiders can now take Ubuntu on Windows for a test drive!  Here's how...

1) You need to have a system running today's 64-bit build of Windows 10 (Build 14316).

2) To do so, you may need to enroll into the Windows Insider program here,

3) You need to notify your Windows desktop that you're a Windows Insider, under "System Settings --> Advanced Windows Update options"

4) You need to set your update ambition to the far right, also known as "the fast ring".

5) You need to enable "developer mode", as this new feature is very pointedly directed specifically at developers.

6) You need to check for updates, apply all updates, and restart.

7) You need to turn on the new Windows feature, "Windows Subsystem for Linux (Beta)".  Note (again) that you need a 64-bit version of Windows!  Without that, you won't see the new option.

8) You need to reboot again.  (Windows sure has a fetish for rebooting!)

9) You press the start button and type "bash".

10) The first time you run "bash.exe", you'll accept the terms of service, download Ubuntu, and then you're off and running!

If you screw something up, and you want to start over, simply open a Windows command shell, and run: lxrun /uninstall /full and then just run bash again.

For bonus points, you might also like to enable the Ubuntu monospace font in your console.  Here's how!

a) Download the Ubuntu monospace font, from

b) Install the Ubuntu monospace font, by opening the zip file you downloaded, finding UbuntuMono-R.ttf, double clicking on it, and then clicking Install.

c) Enable the Ubuntu monospace font for the command console in the Windows registry.  Open regedit and find this key: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Console\TrueTypeFont and add a new string value name "000" with value data "Ubuntu Mono"

d) Edit your command console preferences to enable the Ubuntu monospace font.


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Paul Sladen

Some of original sketches for Ubuntu Arabic are about to go on display in Berlin! We’ve talked before about the work done by Rayan Abdullah on drawing and designing the original calligraphy behind the Ubuntu Arabic for the Ubuntu Font Family and from tomorrow you will be able to see that work for yourself.

Until 27 May 2012 you can see some of those original sketches and designs featuring in the Typobau exhbition at the Körnerpark Gallery in Neukölln, Berlin,

It includes many of Rayan’s design projects from the last decade, including the Bundesadler (the Federal Eagle of Germany) and his many Arabic graphic design and typography projects including the logos and typefaces for Burberry, McDonalds, Nokia Pure Arabic and the Ubuntu Font Family Arabic script coverage.

For keen visitors, the grand opening is this week, at 19:00 on Friday 20 April 2012. Or for anyone visiting Messe Berlin in May 2012 for Linuxtag 2012 you will still be able to catch the exhibition. Just take the S-Bahn ring anti-clockwise to S-Neukölln and see Ubuntu and Rayan’s exhibition at the same time as Linuxtag!

The “Typobau” exhibition runs between 21 April 2012 and 27 May 2012, 10:00–20:00, Tuesday—Sunday, at Körnerpark Galerie, Schierker Strasse 8, Berlin-Neukölln

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Inayaili León

If you’ve ever had to create Ubuntu or Canonical related design materials, chances are you had a look at the Brand Guidelines, which, until now, have only existed in the form of bulky PDFs. Those days are over, as we happily introduce the brand new Ubuntu Brand Guidelines site, where you can read the guidelines and download the assets necessary to create your projects.

Ubuntu Brand Guidelines homepage
Ubuntu Brand Guidelines homepage

You can learn more about the Ubuntu brand values and the brand assets, such as our logos, colour palette and pictograms, and how to use them. You can also consult some of our Web-specific guidelines, look at examples of design work that has been done, and download assets like the logos and pictograms.

Ubuntu Brand Guidelines - Brand assets section
Brand assets section on the Brand Guidelines site

This is the first iteration of the site: lots of content is being prepared and will be added later on, and we will also work on some refinements to the asset download process, as well as adding many more useful downloads, such as templates and photography.

Among the more frequently requested assets are HTML and CSS snippets and templates that can simply be copied and pasted on internal and external projects, so the designer or developer can be certain everything looks as it should. This is in the works, but it’s something that takes a little bit more time to get just right, so please bear with us.

For now, we’d be delighted to get your feedback on this first version: have you found anything particularly useful on the site? What would you like to see there that you think it’s missing? How do you think it can be improved?

We hope we enjoy the online Ubuntu Brand Guidelines!

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Paul Sladen

Ispravka ?irili?nog fonta «?» «? ? ? ?» «? ? ? ?»!
????? ?????? ??? «?»:

Amélie Bonet at Dalton Maag has drawn up redesigns for a number of the Cyrillic and Serbian/Balkans characters that weren’t as clear, or ideal as they could have been. If you use these characters, please help give feedback about whether the suggested improvements are sufficient, or whether they could be improved further. For Greek, there is also a proposed fix to monospace Gamma:

Many appreciations to those who reported the original bugs about the Ubuntu Font Family. We have tried to follow up to the original reports at Blog Russia and at (thank you to ????????? ???????? and also all those on the #ubuntu-rs IRC channel.

Please comment directly on the bug reports. You can use your own language if it is easier (eg. Russian, Serbian, English, Greek…). ??????? ???????!

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Paul Sladen

Kudos to everyone using the Ubuntu Font Family on their websites as a web font! This week the total to date reached over one billion requests—and it’ll go up even faster if you add Ubuntu Mono and Ubuntu Condensed to your sites too.

Shortly after the Ubuntu Font Family was added to Google Webfonts directory, Bruno and Dalton Maag team noticed that there had been 12 million API requests in the first month. I think you’ll agree that the current figure dwarfs that! Here’s the announcement from back then, now blown away:

Only added recently into Google’s font directory, the Ubuntu font family has already been viewed over 12 Million times around the world.

We expect the fonts to become even more popular once the font family is available in all its weights, and the core set is extended with Arabic and Hebrew, too.

Bruno and Dalton Maag, just a few months ago

I had a feeling that the usage might ramp up and now the those API requests to the Google Webfonts have reached one billion (109) or as David Wurtz, product manager for Google Webfonts put it:

…A big milestone!

David Wurtz, Product Manager, Google Web Fonts Team

Version 0.80 expansion

The statistics are not the only big milestone recently. Ubuntu Font Family 0.80 was released at the end of September 2011. In the release announcement it introduces the five additional .ttf files:

Hinting work continues on the Ubuntu Mono with Vincent Connare at Dalton Maag working to perfect the distortions to improve the rendering at low resolutions.

Mark Shuttleworth (who along with other people has been testing the Ubuntu Mono for nearly a year) is so happy with the Ubnutu Mono that in bug #865013 “Ubuntu Mono” has been made the default system monospace font in Ubuntu 11.10. For Kubuntu, Xubuntu and friends the monospace fonts are also shipped in release 11.10, but are not yet set as default.

Get them now!

I’ll hand it over to Dave Crossland to do the summing up. Dave is an independent font consultant working with the Google Web Fonts team who’s been heavily involved with building up the number of libre and open fonts available in the directory and knows intimately what works and what doesn’t:

The Ubuntu Font Family is one of the most popular fonts available in Google Web Fonts, …thanks to its excellent quality in design and technical engineering, and also its extensive character set that supports many languages. As more and more people learn about why web fonts are important, it’s great that the Ubuntu project has shared this high quality typeface and font family with the world!

Dave Crossland, independent consultant to Google Web Fonts team

To view and use the Ubuntu Font Family via Google Web Fonts; there’s a choice of Ubuntu (proportional ×8), Ubuntu Mono (monospace ×4) and Ubuntu Condensed (condensed ×1). You are expressly welcome and encouraged to share and use the webfonts on your own sites!

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Paul Sladen

To celebrate Software Freedom Day 2011 we got sent one of the banners showing the new SFD logo. The logo design is based around a custom-modified version of the Ubuntu Font Family (the fonts come with source code, and modification is allowed as long as you follow the rules).

There are some photographs showing the development of the logo components, and how it even includes the subtle outline of Tux the penguin, the mascot of the Linux kernel that forms the base layer of the Ubuntu operating system and other Free Software distributions.

Frederic Muller has added more details are on bug #838287, and there’s a case study of the modifications changed from Ubuntu Bold Italic when making the Software Freedom Day logo. Photos from SFD2011 events around the world are starting to appear on Flickr.

Marcus Haslam, brand lead for the Ubuntu project reminds everyone that if you’re representing the Ubuntu brand itself, you must only use an unmodified version of the Ubuntu typeface. This is to keep consistency across the brand.

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Dustin Kirkland

Ubuntu Monospace Font

At long last, we have a Beta of the Ubuntu Monospace font available!  (Request membership to the  ubuntu-typeface-interest team in Launchpad for access.)

Here's a screenshot of some code open in Byobu in the new font!

It really has a light, modern feel to it.  I like the distinct differences between "0" and "O", and "1" and "l", which are often tricky with monospace fonts.  Cheers to the team working on this -- I really appreciate the efforts, and hope these land on the console/tty at some point too!

I've only encountered one bug so far, which looks to have been filed already, so I added a comment to:  I think the "i" and "l" are a little too similar.  if-fi statements in shell are kind of hard to read.

Anyway, nice job -- looking forward to using this font more in the future!


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Paul Sladen

To join the Ubuntu Monospace beta and give feedback, apply to the ubuntu-typeface-interest team on Launchpad and follow the PPA instructions after being accepted.


Hardly a day has gone by in the last six-months without the design team being asking when the Ubuntu Mono monospace is going to be available. Like all of the work on the Ubuntu Font Family, the monospace has been working its way through the phased testing process, gradually being made available to more users, as issues are improved and developed. It’s now at the state where it’s ready to share with the early-access beta team. Depending on how many issues are found it can then proceed to being released via and then finally into a future version of the Ubuntu operating system.

Development on the Ubuntu Mono started back in August/September 2010 with Amélie Bonet at Dalton Maag taking the lead. The Ubuntu Mono consists of four fonts: regular, bold, italic and bold-italic. The full set are true monospace fonts, each character being exactly 0.5em wide and 1.0em high, regardless of the weight. Just like a typewriter there are 12 characters per inch at 12 point. On a typewriter or line-printer, creating “bold” is a matter of printing over the top, building up the ink but keeping the same spacing. The Ubuntu Mono Bold follows this principle.

What took so long?

Making a font takes a really long time, for Ubuntu Mono it has also been necessary to re-learn and re-discover much of a lost-art behind monospace font design; hopefully the experiences from the development (recorded in the bug tracker and design blog) will help others working on monospace development in the future.

In a variable-width font, the letters ‘m’ and ‘w’ are much wider than the letters ‘i’ or ‘l’ leading to two problems. The wider characters must be squeezed to fit, and the narrow characters bulked-out to fill the space. Out of all of these, the Latin ‘i’ and ‘m’ have taken the most time, with many experiments run over several months to try and discern a solution (a compromise is going to be necessary somewhere).

To serif or not to serif?

  • Ubuntu Regular (proportional) on the top line, notice the ‘m’ and ‘@’, both much wider than the versions below. In a proportionally-spaced font the designer has a wide array of options in terms of setting the advance-width of a character, or optimising the kerning by setting customised spacing for certain pairs of letters next to each other (‘AV’, ‘Te’)
  • Ubuntu Mono Regular (fixed-width) in the middle, making characters work is not just a case of squeezing harder! One needs to find a designed alternative: the ‘m’ has a raised middle stem helping to keep the sensation of lightness and space, and for the at-sign (‘@’) the surrounding circle does half a revolution less, leaving the ‘a’ at the top instead of the bottom.
  • Ubuntu Mono Italic (fixed-width) at the bottom, is not just a slanted version of the monospace. The ‘a’ becomes single-storey matching the proportional italic and the letters ‘a’ ‘d’ ‘u’ gain tails in Latin. In Cyrillic Kursive (italic) the character forms often change completely.

The main Latin-based characters that vary are "j1flirt". In the end the ‘r’ was finalised without needing a serif, but the other glyphs have been provided with serifs of some form in order to “fill out” the whole of the cell in which they sit: the numeral ’1′ has a slab serif across the bottom, and for ‘f’ and ‘t’ the cross-bar goes the full width across instead of just the right-hand side. The commas and quotes also gain “typewriter” serif tails.

For more details (along with experimental the PDF diagrams) see bug #677134 (“Style: Mono: discern shape of serifs for i l t “). (Please try to have used the font by testing for one week in your normal use to help filter out knee-jerk reactions).

Where we are now

We need to test the readability of the font, particular the Cyrillic and Greek which have had less testing. We also need to test the technical aspects of the monospace font in as many terminals as possible, including the line-spacing. For this, a set of box-drawing and solid-fill characters have been included in the UbuntuBeta Mono. If working correctly when these are tiled side-by-side each should exactly touch, leaving no overlap and no gap.

This exact 2:1 ratio between height and width means that it can hopefully also be used as an 8×16 bitmap console font. Perhaps in a future version of Ubuntu you’ll be able to see Ubuntu Mono right from the moment the bootloader or CD menu appears! In order to do that, the fonts are being “hinted” to force optimised bitmap forms without “drop-outs” or gaps that appear from the fitting of the complex curve onto a low-resolution grid of pixels. As of this week Jason Campbell at Dalton Maag has handed over his hinted versions of Ubuntu Mono to Vincent Connare for tweaking. The most recent update from Vincent earlier today was “I am reviewing the Monospaced now!”, so hopefully that will reassure everyone that things are a-happening in the background!

Finally, remember that the Ubuntu Font Family is about quality, it’s better that we all get a high-quality monospace font in the long-run than to rush something out of the door too soon. Good things are worth waiting for!

Thank you to a commenter in a previous blog post for inspiring the title.

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Paul Sladen

The BBC just put up a five-minute audio slideshow “The story of how we got our alphabets” about the development of western writing, starting in 3,000 BC in Mesopotamia with various attempts at proto-writing systems and then Cuneiform script.

It shows the history of the alphabet, stemming from the Phoenician alphabet and continuing to the Semitic alphabets based around consonants (Arabic and Hebrew) and those derived further via Greek and its addition of vowel sounds (Latin and Cyrillic).

With the development of the Ubuntu Font Family we’re getting to the stage where it’s possible to demonstrate some the similarity using the font itself. The diagram on the right shows Hebrew on the left, Arabic on the right and Greek, Cyrillic and Latin in the centre columns. As Dr James Clackson notes in the slideshow, things are fairly consistent up until T/?/?, after which the additions and expansions of letters diverge in each alphabet system.

The term Alphabet comes from the first two letters in the Greek—and other similar—alphabets: ??, ??, AB, ??, ??.

The diagram in this first cut can likely be improved with input from a knowledgeable linguist/palaeolinguist. Please get in contact, or leave suggestions and corrections below if you know how to improve it!

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Paul Sladen

UbuntuBetaArabicF in print,

A beta of Ubuntu Font Family Arabic, in print as part of the testing and debugging process for the Arabic coverage. The Arabic script support will cover Arabic, Urdu, Pashto, Kashmiri and other written languages using the base Arabic script.

The magazine is an intriguing tri-lingual production published by the Cultural Office of Saudi Arabia in Germany with the layout prepared by Professor Rayan Abdullah’s team at Markenbau. The magazine starts with German and English articles using Latin script at one cover (reading left-to-right) and articles written in Arabic from the other cover (reading right-to-left).

Ubuntu Arabic, now has horizontal, instead of diagonal dots

Following on from the recent posts about adding Kashmiri/Pashto ringed characters and the Arabic update from the start of 2011, the most significant change to highlight is the that the diagonal dots (?i???m / ??????) have been changed to a horizontal layout.

The resulting arrangement is now closer to an equilateral triangle, and the dots closer to a circle.

(Thank you to Abdallah, Björn Ali Göransson, Chamfay, Masoud, Muhammad Negm, Nizarus, Reda Lazr and others who each took the time to comment and give feedback about the earlier diagonal dot angle).

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Bruno Maag

We are in the final stages of completing the Ubuntu font suite. Unhinted monospace fonts were revealed at UDS in Budapest and seem to have gone down quite well from what I can gather. We currently furiously hinting the fonts to make sure that their appearance on screen is meeting expectations.

We are now putting the two complex scripts Hebrew and Arabic together. Although the basic design of the Arabic was finalised some months ago we have been doing a lot of background work investigating language support, and thus defining a glyph set. This work has led us to have aprox. another 1,000 glyphs in the font supporting languages such as Kashmiri. Our designer Jonathan Pierini currently has the task (some would say unfortunate) of compiling the various glyphs and their diacritics. Whilst doing this we have come across a few situations which we hope someone from the Ubuntu community can help us with.

In Kashmiri the glyph ‘waw with ring’ is used. In the Naskh, Nasdaliq and similar scripts the tail of the ‘waw’ often stretches out downwards which gives the designer the opportunity to attach the ring to the tail on the inside of the character. However, Kufic style fonts like Ubuntu tend to have a more closed ‘waw’ tail shape making it difficult to place the ring on the inside of the character. We have now created a versions that has the ring on the outside of the glyph but are uncertain if that creates a legibility issue. I am of course aware that experience of Latin design cannot be directly transferred to non-Latin design but looking at the Danish a-ring for example, I know that there is some room for interpretation. Normally, the ring is placed above the lowercase glyph, as a separate element to the ‘a’. But where space is tight the ring can be part of the ‘a’ as long as a ring shape is visible and the character can be correctly identified.

A Naskh style ‘wawring’ on the left, Ubuntu ‘wawring’ on the right

Kashmiri (and possibly other languages) also use a wavy hamza. Again, we’re uncertain if this is a distinctly different character to the Arabic hamza or is it a stylistic variation that is script dependent meaning that a standard hamza is acceptable.

We would love to hear from you on this as these are very detailed questions yet there is little information to be found. We want to make sure we can provide as comprehensive and high quality a font suite as we possibly can within the limits of our current remit.

Bruno Maag

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Bruno Maag

Hebrew and Arabic on track

Although I haven’t posted much recently we have still been working away. Besides the latest update to Version 0.7 of the core fonts, which posed some technical challenges, we have now finalised the Hebrew Regular and are making good tracks with the Arabic.

You may remember the earlier post on the subject of the Hebrew where we pondered the height of the Hebrew letters in relation to the Latin. Initially, we favoured a smaller Hebrew design that was more akin to small caps but we then found, upon further reflection, that this was wrong. Eventually, we decided on a height that is just short of the Latin caps. These proportions now sit very comfortably with the Latin and, more importantly, the Hebrew feels right on its own accord. Pilar Cano, one of the designers in the Dalton Maag team, worked closely with a native Hebrew speaking typographer to ensure that the letters have coherence, are legible and maintain the clean and modern expression that is Ubuntu.

The Hebrew Regular is now completed and Pilar is proceeding with designing the Italic style. Some studies suggest that if the Italic is leaning in the same direction as the Latin it should be a simple slanted. We will, however, inject some cursive elements into the Italic to maintain stylistic coherence with the Latin.

UbuntuHeb_all glyphs

The last two months we have also worked on the Arabic design. As with many complex and exotic scripts the challenge is to translate the look and feel of the Latin to the non-Latin script. Our design team, lead by Ron Carpenter, developed a wide range of initial concept trials to define the design features and texture of the Arabic and presented these to our consultant Prof Rayan Abdullah. Together we discussed and refined the trials until we arrived at the design that we are now all happy with: a primarily Kufic design that is tempered with some Naskh elements to make it suitable for text size reading. The strong Kufic influence makes this font particularly suitable for short entries in UI design for future Ubuntu Arabic localisations.

Refining the design concept

Rayan and Ron discussing design details

As with the Latin, the Arabic runs slightly more narrow that one would normally expect, to facilitate the use in UI. This presents a challenge in regards to the dot positioning above and below base characters. The dots are crucial to clearly identify the character, and a misinterpretation can easily lead to a word having a completely different meaning. We have placed the double dot on a diagonal line which allows for two double-dot characters to be set next to each other without causing any interpretation, aesthetic or legibility issues. A further feature of the Arabic design is that the baseline has a soft, rounded appearance, as is the case with the x-height and in some cases the cap height in the Latin. This, combined with the overall texture creates a tight harmony between the two scripts.

Studying dot placement and shape

Ubuntu Arabic

As Italics as such do not exist in Arabic we will simply add the standard Regular and Bold versions to the Ubuntu Italic and Bold Italic fonts ensuring that all fonts have identical charactersets. We are working hard to complete all the design and engineering work for these fonts for the next big Ubuntu release in the coming Spring.

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Now that the Ubuntu font is available via the Google Font thing I took a few minutes to add it to my blog.

Here are the instructions, it’s just a few lines of HTML. You can find more information about using the font on the web here.

Thanks to Paul Sladen for the tip.

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Marcus Haslam

Something exciting next year
Bruno Maag from Dalton Maag has been asked by the Design Museum London to put on an exhibition of his work. This is a collaboration between ourselves and DM,
the exhibition will be in two parts a substantial part of which will be featuring the Ubuntu font.

Exhibition from 28th January for a month

more details to follow in the new year

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Bruno Maag

The monospace is coming

In contrast to a proportionally spaced font a the characters in a monospace occupy all exactly the same width. In the past monospace type was used on typewriters, and more recently in some specialised printing environments such as Credit Card embossing, or ticketing. Today, monospace fonts are primarily used within a programming environment working on terminal windows. The monospace font answers the need for clear code structuring and predictable line lengths. Using monospace fonts allows the programmer to immediately spot a mis-typed character or double space, any of which would prevent the code from compiling as expected.

The new Ubuntu Mono in a code enironment.

Courier is probably one of the most widely recognised monospace fonts, available on many computers. Its pitch sits at 12 glyphs per inch, set at 12 point. Based on an em-square of 1,000 units this is equal to 600 font units. As Courier is widely used it must be considered as a baseline for new monospace designs.

When starting the work on Ubuntu Mono we soon felt that we could narrow the pitch and thus increase the character count per line without compromising legibility. Only a few other monospace fonts have departed from the Courier pitch, amongst them Consolas available in the latest Clear Type collection from Microsoft. We carried out numerous trials to establish the right pitch width for Ubuntu Mono and arrived at 560 unit width. The narrower pitch also helped with spacing of the font as many characters tend to have too much space on the left and right, locking the lowercases together for enhanced legibility. Naturally, the narrower width does create a conundrum on some wide characters such as ‘m’ and ‘w’ but we are confident to have found an acceptable compromise.

Comparing Ubuntu Mono Regular with Courier

Of course, as the font weight gets bolder the narrower width does create a number of design challanges, even more so with the critical characters mentioned above. But the tighter density of the type allows the type designer to compensate by reducing the stroke width of the characters compared to the proportionally spaced font, without deacreasing colour texture, or contrast against the Regular. The biggest difference between creating a proportional font and a monospace is that a proportional design allows the designer to draw the glyph in harmony within itself and agains the other glyphs. A monospace design is dictated by the width and side-bearings (space to left and right of glyph) leaving the designer challanged to find creative solutions to maintain harmony.

A number of alternative designs to solve the problem of the ‘m’-density. Sometimes we just have to live with a compromise.

The monospaced fonts are planned to be part of the next Ubuntu release in Spring 2011 after being exposed to extensive testing. This is to ensure that they meet as many needs as possible, and being aware that it will be used primarily within a coding environment our emphasis will be to create it with this user group in mind.

The challanges of placing the bold style onto the fixed narrow pitch

The dot within the zero helps to distinguish this glyph agains both the O and Danish Oslash.

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Bruno Maag

Of hinting and tables

I hope regular readers of the design blogs don’t think that we have abandoned our programme of telling you all about the font development – I know it’s been a while since the last post. The 10.10 launch and UDS are over and it’s been great to get some feedback from people about how much they like the fonts. That is really appreciated by the entire team here.

In the below contribution Vincent Connare, one of our senior font engineers, explains a little about hinting and some engineering stuff. It’s all good and well designing pretty shapes but if you can’t type them on your computer they’re not much good. Vincent only just scrapes the surface of his vast knowledge of digital type and I am sure we can one day convince him to give a great presentation all about font technology at a future UDS. But enough of me. Here is Vincent…

Hinting is a word taken from Adobe PostScript fonts. In the Adobe PostScript font format there is a ‘smart’ rasterizer which uses the font’s ‘hints’ or general values to control how the font is rendered on the device.

In TrueType, hinting is more accurately called ‘instructions’. The TrueType font has specific code that controls the majority of the font’s rendering. The TrueType rasterizer makes very few assumptions and takes the font’s ‘hints’ or instructions as they are presented from the font file and renders the image as it has been instructed. Newer versions of font rasterizers have added functionality, such as the ClearType mode in Microsoft’s TrueType rasterizer. It uses less of the font’s instructions and is a much smarter mode rendering the type on screen. Adobe and Apple also have used ‘smarter’ rasterizers with anti-aliasing display that use some or none of the code in the fonts. In general hints are present in fonts to correct low resolution rendering and are not needed at high resolution or with sophisticated rendering. The Ubuntu font family uses the TrueType method of hinting via Microsofts Visual TrueType (VTT) hinting too.

It is also worth noting that whilst fonts are hinted to a very high specifications we cannot always guarantee the quality of the display as systems and applications often apply some of their own algorhythms. A very good example is the comparison of the screen display between Mozilla Firefox and OpenOffice where one tends to display the type slightly heavier than the other.

Low level TrueType instructions for the character UC H

/* TT glyph 43, char 0×48 (H) */
/* VTT 4.2 compiler Thu Oct 14 11:40:02 2010 */
MIAP[R], 0, 2
MIAP[R], 3, 8
MIAP[R], 6, 8
MIAP[R], 9, 2
SRP2[], 3
IP[], 4
MDAP[R], 4
MIRP[m>RBl], 10, 72
SRP0[], 12
MDRP[MRBl], 10, 68
MDRP[mRWh], 1
MIRP[M>RBl], 11, 68
MDRP[m<rGr], 4

Image 1: the above low level code is visualised in Microsoft VTT as graphical links in the X and Y direction. The values are global control values used to make similar glyphs identical at low resolution.

Image 2 : Uppercase H rasterized at 15 pixel per em (15pt at 72 dpi) in binary mode.

Image 3 : a rasterized Uppercase H at 15 pixel per em (15pt at 72 dpi) in ClearType horizontal RGB (notice the underling outline in the X direction is not on a grid boundary and the Y direction is on a grid boundary).

see also:

Basic hinting philosophies and TrueType instructions

Truetype font file tables
A TrueType font contains many different parts and tables that are compiled by our main design and production tool, Fontlab. However, the values in the tables often are filled in incorrectly and at Dalton Maag we use our own development tool for editing the tables in the font files to ensure the fonts work seamlessly with the software of different developers.

One of the most commonly used and valuable tables, OS/2, still carries its historical name. Originally, the TrueType format, first introduced by Apple and then expanded by Microsoft, was going to be part of the new Presentation Manager in the operating system OS/2 by IBM. The OS/2 table contains values for Microsoft, Apple, IBM and Hewlett Packard and some of these go as far back as the original bitmap format for Windows 1.0! Incorrect values may result in the font not loading correctly or being displayed in the wrong submenu; or a wrong AverageWidth value calculation may lead to the cursor not being placed at the correct position in the line when setting the type. Accordingly, great attention has to be paid to ensure all these values are accurate and our own development tool validates these entries upon opening the font.

Image 4: Dalton Maag tool for table editing

Font Validation and Testing
Validation of the fonts is absolutely crucial and for this purpose we, at Dalton Maag, use Microsoft’s Font Validator to ensure the font conforms with Microsoft’s TrueType specifications, and hence with other systems and applications as long as they follow the specifications, too. Whilst a font may contain a warning flag, it must never contain an error. An error will inevitably lead to someone not being able to use the font correctly. A warning is acceptable in some circumstances, for example where some of the data has been customised to meet a client’s very specific needs, for a very narrowly defined system environment.

Once the fonts have passed the validator we test them in our standard environment: Windows, Mac and Ubuntu, in a number of different applications to assure ourselves the fonts behave exactly as we expect.

Vincent Connare

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Bruno Maag

A space odyssey

Time flies and it’s already time for our next blog entry on the design of the Ubuntu font suite. Below my colleague Fabio Haag explains the joys of spacing and kerning.

Type designer from past to present all agree on one thing: the spacing between the letters is as important as the letters themselves, if not more so. The careful balance between black and white, form and counter form, is vital for creating a homogeneous texture which assists a pleasant reading experience.

Many font users today don’t realise that the spacing of a font is optimized for its primary usage.
In the days of hot metal the design of a typeface, and its spacing, differed depending on size meaning that the letters would be more tightly spaced at larger sizes whilst being set looser at small sizes. Today, a font normally has a single master design in a vector format that is scaled up and down in a linear fashion. Like the designers of old we, too, are aware of the problems this causes but have to rely on users to make the right call in regards to spacing.

The Ubuntu fonts are spaced for text sizes, their optimal range being between 9 and 14 point. If they are used at display sizes applying minus tracking is necessary to lock the characters together as shown below. There are no hard and fast rules about how much to track for display sizes. That again depends very much on how large the type is set – 24pt requires different values to 240pt – and what exactly the typography is trying to achieve within the context of a design project.

Since we are talking about spacing it is also important to mention kerning. Firstly, they are not the same thing: Spacing refers to the general space between characters, the left and right sidebearing, the white space that each character to the left and right. Spacing can be adjusted using tracking options in most applications. Kerning refers to adjusting the white space between specific character pair combinations as illustrated below.

Our design team spends considerable time spacing and kerning the fonts as we strongly believe that a poorly spaced font is unusable however beautiful the individual letters, and to keep kerning pairs to a minimum without compromising an even texture. This ensures that the Ubuntu font suite can be used successfully in office applications that may not necessarily support kerning, as much as in professional design programs which make full use of all the features that the fonts present.

Currently, the Ubuntu font suite supports two kerning schemes: a flat kern table that lists every pair combination in the font, and class kerning using the ‘kern’ OpenType feature. Programs accessing the flat kern table will find that accented pair combinations such as ‘VÃ’ are not supported. Unfortunately, flat kern tables do not support the sheer number of pair combinations, over 50,000, in the current Ubuntu font suite. Therefore only the base combinations are supported. However, this is not an issue with the ‘kern’ feature that supports all combinations and applicatinos supporting OpenType will enjoy all the kerning benefits.

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Bruno Maag

Below, Amelie Bonet from the Dalton Maag design team shares her thoughts:

Latin Extended B is a block (0180-024F) within the Unicode standard. With its utterly mundane name no-one would guess the wealth of shapes and glyphs. This specific and somehow obscure character set gathers 195 glyphs supporting a good mix of languages from Romania to Africa, via Runic.

Vew the complete Latin Extended B range in this PDF.

The letterforms included in Latin Extended B reflect the variety of the languages they support. There seems no logic behind the shapes when you compare simple glyphs, such as the Serbian diagraphs with those that have dangerously tricky loops and crossbars. Many of these more tricky glyphs were created on the fly by linguists simply to be able to transliterate the language using the Latin script. Occasionally, the structure of some of these glyphs seems a bit odd.

Mostly the glyphs in Latin Extended B are rooted within the Latin script but there many have strong Greek or Cyrillic influence; and there are the plain exotic shapes, too. It’s the blended designs, and those who are made up from scratch, that make it difficult to assess whether they are designed correctly or not. In-depth research helped us to be confident that the Latin Extended B glyphs not only fit with the rest of the font design but is also legible and usable within those language environments.

Let’s have a closer look at few glyphs of the Latin Extended B: The lower case b with a cross bar is a phonetic representation of ‘beta’; the lowercase crossed lambda is an Americanist phonetic notation, and the semi uppercase B with crossbar stands for a minority language in the former Soviet Union. The lowercase ‘esh’ is a glyph for an African archaic phonetic phoneme.

The loop is a favourite design feature of the Latin Extended B and appears as an addition to Latin glyphs. The letterforms below are used in Sinology. The design challange with the loop is to prevent it from becoming overbearing and distracting the reader from processing the information read whilst at the same time make it an integral element of the glyph. In fact, much of the work in Latin Extended B is a question of adapting and blending existing shapes and create a believable new form.

Although much in Latin Extended B can be regarded as a minority concern it is still important that it is done, and done at the highest quality. Because every language deserves good typography!

Amelie Bonet

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Iain Farrell

It’s _almost_ there. Happy “so close to release I can almost taste the Ubuntinis” Day everyone! And if you’ve not tried an Ubuntini, well you should. The next release of Ubuntu releases on the 10th October but the release candidate is out there now and as I write this the final release meeting of the cycle is happening on Freenode in #ubuntu-meeting.

It’s been two weeks since your last update from the design team, so what have we been up to?

smiley face emoticon

Well, for one thing the smiley fella above was born and has started appearing on the design blog. More on him and his siblings from Otto in a later post ;)

Probably the biggest news is that the new Ubuntu font family have made their first appearance in our desktop release and those of you running Maverick will now also notice that the Ubuntu and Canonical websites make use of the regular font as well as this very blog.

The new type face at work in the desktop

You can also read some more thoughts on the type face in Mark’s Blog.

It’s very exciting to see this in the wild and it seems like a good time to say thanks to the people who’ve helped us get here. Thanks to Bruno, Lukas, Amelie, Malcolm and Shiraaz at Dalton Maag who’ve designed the font, Paul Sladen for managing the bugs and liaising with the community and also Ken Vandine and Dan Holbach for helping us package the files, Robbie Williamson for approving exceptions that meant we could get it in after deadlines had passed and finally Scott Kitterman for finally hitting the approval button.

We hope you like it, it’s part of your desktop so get involved over on the project launchpad page. More enhancements are coming so stay tuned for more in the coming months.

So now that our Meerkat is grown up our attention turns to a particularly Natty Narwhal that will need our love and attention before they’re released into the wild about 7 months from now. That’s what we’ll be focusing on and we’ll be sharing more of our ideas in the coming weeks as we prepare for UDS.

And finally, a video treat for you to the end the week with. Those lovely people over at OMG! Ubuntu! reminded me that the Blender Foundation have been working on a new short film called Sintel and they’ve released it online for you to enjoy.

A scene from Sintel

The particularly exciting thing about the work they’re doing is that once it’s finished they’ll share their output with the world not only as a video but also all the source files will be released under a creative commons license meaning that they can be used by others to learn from. You can find out more about the project and the Blender Foundation on their website.

Have a fantastic weekend and here’s to our launch parties in the next week or so!

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Lukas Paltram

It’s all about Greek

We are familiar with the Latin alphabet; we are used to seeing it’s forms and shapes and we read it without thinking. When we design Latin fonts, we can rely on our intuition and experience to create the letter shapes; we feel when a character is right or wrong. When designing a non-Latin typeface we can draw on our experience of drawing letterforms but it is important that we research and explore the calligraphic history of the relevant script to ensure our interpretation of the script is correct. In addition we work with a design professional native to the respective script, someone who has affinity for type, understands legibility, and also is able to see the design in the context of its need to match Latin as well as maintaining cultural integrity.


When we design non-Latin scripts we know that each has different structural and textural characteristics. The Cyrillic alphabet for example has a more static and square appearance, and because of the number of complex shapes the overall texture tends to look darker and closed. The lowercase Greek glyphs, on the other hand, contain many open and round shapes, have descenders and some are terminated with tail like features giving the script a less static appearance, as if the characters were dancing over the baseline thereby creating a lively texture.

going through different options

The principle of the Ubuntu typeface is simplicity and clarity which at the same time carries a certain recognisable distinctiveness. As in Latin, some Greek characters can be interpreted in different ways in regards to shaping and structure, all accepted and legible. Especially in modern Greek fonts we tend to see more progressive interpretations of some character forms. Whilst designing Ubuntu Greek we were keen to respect the Greek script traditions but take a contemporary and thoughtful approach.


The Greek ‘phi’ is a good example of different design interpretations. Whilst the the far left version is the usual suspect, the middle variant has a calligraphic influence. With the interpretation on the far right we found a design that is just right for the Ubuntu approach – simple, crisp and perfectly balanced with the other characters.


The lowercase ‘pi’ is reduced to its simplest form. In its simplicity it retains its legibility and its construction has a logic that carries across other scripts, too. Other shapes, like ‘tau’, emphasise features. Its terminal follows the movement of ‘iota’ and is closely related to the Latin ‘t’ and ‘f’, and in some way ‘l’. Together with our external consultant we examined every character, and how the interact together, eventually leading us to the final Greek Poytonic character set.

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