Linux: OpenType Font Challenge

Edit Mon Jun 20 12:19:54 CDT 2011: This is meant to be a semi-humorous, “newbie” tutorial in response to an apparent challenge. My goal is to show how easy installing fonts could be for a non-geek newbie that is “scared” of the command-line. Based on some feedback I have seen, that was not clear originally.

So I am reading this article about the big Apple malware fail and see this challenge in the comments:

# redofromstart posted Fri Jun 17 12:56:48 PDT 2011

Hey, Linux luvvers: tell me how to install OpenType fonts so they’re available to all apps and all users. Go ahead, I have pretty much the whole weekend…

I am always up for a challenge. Especially if I get to learn something new. Since I really have no clue what defines an “OpenType font”, this will obviously teach me something. My goal? To see if this is truly a difficult task, or if the challenger is just another anti-Linux FUDster that is too ignorant to know how easy it can be to administer a Linux PC. This person does not really explain what is meant by “all apps”, so I am guessing that to mean usable in Office suites and programs like The GIMP by any user on the PC to set the font for creating documents and text in graphics.

My system is a Mandriva Linux 2010.2 PC. As far as I know I have never installed an “OpenType font”. If there are any on this PC, they came with the distribution. My first challenge is to find out, “What the heck is an OpenType font?” A quick Startpage search finds me this page: where I learn that OpenType fonts are based on some beastly font rules created in a joint effort of Adobe and Microsoft. I am feeling squeamish already. This paragraph gives me the gist of the information:

The OpenType format is an extension of the TrueType SFNT format that also can support Adobe® PostScript® font data and new typographic features. OpenType fonts containing PostScript data, such as those in the Adobe Type Library, have an .otf suffix in the font file name, while TrueType-based OpenType fonts have a .ttf file name suffix.

Uhm, okay, sounds proprietary and thus “icky”. I know generally what TrueType fonts are but I have never seen an .otf suffix in my life. I have seen the .ttf suffix. This OpenType cruft is supposedly an “embrace and exten(guish)d” version of TrueType and Type 1 fonts rolled into one file. But okay, I decided to take this challenge, so I need to see if I can find some free, as in gratis, OpenType fonts to try to install. I need some unencumbered .otf and .ttf OpenType fonts it seems. I plan to just try to install them with the font installer in the Mandriva Control Center (aka MCC). What do I have to lose? Well, other than some time and a lame challenge about fonts for which I probably have no need.

However, before I go looking for fonts I believe I should do some more reading. This article at gave me more than enough information: A font primer for Linux So, after reading that, I go font hunting. Another quick search finds this site which appears to be a cornucopia of OpenType fonts:

I decide to download four fonts and attempt to install them with the MCC font installer. Hmmm, the first one I click is not free and is listed as Price: $99.00 USD. Right, I am going to spend $100 on a font. Not. Next try … Price: $29.00 USD. I am beginning to smell a dead rat, or at least a site that is just a front for a commercial venture. Yup, each URL I check at goes to a site that sells fonts. Granted, I did not check every URL at the site. But all the URLs I checked point to the same web shop. I need “free as in gratis” stuff for testing this OpenType font thingie. I do not have money to waste on fonts that I do not really need to just meet some silly challenge from a probable anti-Linux dink. If you want gratis fonts for Linux do not go to Back to the searches.

My next search leads me to some sites that do have gratis fonts. This one,, appears to be run by the same folks that run the site. However, if the fonts are truly gratis, who cares? Certainly I do not. I now select four fonts I want to download and try. I know someone who just adores all things Angelic. So my first pick is Gabriels Angels off of the Christmas Fonts page. As a US citizen I find myself drawn to the United font in the U section. As a fan of the comic Calvin and Hobbes I just have to get the Calvin and Hobbes font from the first C page. I need one more font and settle on the Miss Brooks font from page 12 of the M section, in honor of a close friend of mine who listens to Old Time Radio shows on the internet. One of his favorites is Our Miss Brooks starring Eve Arden.

All these fonts are zipped. Once I have them downloaded to a new directory on a NFS share, appropriately labeled “fonts”, I unzip them. Hmmm, every one of these is a .ttf type font. Not a .otf in the bunch. I am not sure if this is a true test of The Challenge since I know for certain my Linux system already has some .ttf fonts installed and I use them regularly. They are available to all the user accounts on the PC too. Regardless of these facts, I decide to go ahead and see just how difficult it is to install these new fonts on my Mandriva Linux 2010.2 system. So I start MCC and go to the “Manage, add and remove fonts. Import Windows(TM) fonts” page:

Mandriva Linux Control Center 2010.2 Font Manager

Then I run the Import Fonts tool:

Import fonts

After that finishes I do not see the fonts in the font list. But once I close and reopen the font manager, there they are. Here is the Calvin and Hobbes font highlighted:

Mandriva Linux Control Center 2010.2 Font Manager - Calvin and Hobbes

I am wondering, “What was so hard about that?” Now I open a word processor to see if the fonts show up in the word processor:

Abiword - The Fonts Have Landed

There they are. I wonder what I am missing. Did the fellow mean actual .otf fonts? If so, I need to find some that are gratis and try those. I discover finding gratis .otf fonts is as easy as searching for ‘ “.otf” fonts ” free ” ‘. The first site I pull up,, looks very promising. Since I have already installed four .ttf fonts I decide to just look for two .otf fonts to install. I am always needing a good monospaced font, so I pick two of the .otf files from the Monospaced Fonts page. I choose Aurulent Sans Mono and NotCourierSans. Again these are zipped. I download and unzip the files, then run the Import Fonts tool again. And …

Mandriva Linux Control Center 2010.2 Font Manager - Aurulent Sans Mono Mandriva Linux Control Center 2010.2 Font Manager - NotCourierSans

… there they are. Okay, one more thing to try. I will open The GIMP as a different user from an xterm and see if these .otf fonts show up in The GIMP. I create a brand new user named testuser. Unique eh? Then I run su – testuser to switch to the new user:

su - testuser

Then of course I run The GIMP as that user:

Workspace 2 with testuser running The GIMP and showing the new fonts

There are the fonts I just installed. Oh, my. That was so freaking hard … No, wait. It was not hard. Eat crow, dear redofromstart and all you other Linux nay-sayers who have not a clue when you spout your Fear, Uncertainty and Disinformation about Linux. Try a modern, user friendly, Linux distribution for a full year before you try to tell people something is “too hard to do on Linux”. No, I do not mean Ubuntu. You may not convert to Linux as a result, but at least you can avoid keeping your feet in your mouths. Frankly I do not care if you do or do not convert to Linux. Just stop catapulting the FUD from your medieval bastions of ignorance. :)

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Gene A.

Gene is a "Unix Guy", network technologist, system trouble-shooter and IT generalist with over 20 years experience in the SOHO and SMB markets. He is familiar with and conversant in eComStation (a.k.a. OS/2), DOS (PC, MS and Free), Unix, Linux and those GUI based systems from Microsoft. Gene is also a follower of Jesus (forgiven, not perfect), and this does inform his world view.

13 thoughts on “Linux: OpenType Font Challenge”

  1. Just to be clear. The total time from start to finish with new fonts installed was roughly 3 hours. That included writing the article at the same time I was doing the challenge. If I just wanted to install a font, I would spend more time finding a font than I would spend installing it. Installing new fonts on Mandriva is just that easy.

    Added later: I have gotten some critiques of my writing style in this article. The wonderful thing about critics is critics are wonderful things. Apparently, if you prefer stilted, clinical, “professional”, step one, step two, step three, etcetera writing you will hate this article. If you like anecdotal writing from a personal perspective that shows how to get a task accomplished you will like this article. Obviously, I cannot please both crowds. Since the majority of people I know are not professional geeks that enjoy reading dry, technical material I am going to write for the consumption of the majority. Thanks for the critiques anyway. At least you paid attention. :)

    1. Hi folks. Those of you posting a comment without a real, verifiable e-mail address included perhaps have not read the line of text directly above the comment box that states:

      By posting you agree you have read and will abide by our comment policy.

      If you did read it, then you agreed to our comment policy by posting your comment. You also know why your comments are deleted and not shown here. :)

  2. I’ve just tried this on Ubuntu.

    I downloaded the files and typed Alt+F2 (because I haven’t manually installed fonts on Ubuntu before, I don’t know what the installer is called). It showed “Font Manager” which looked good, so I started that.

    There was a button “Manage fonts”, so I pressed that and selected “Install Fonts”. In the file dialog I selected the font files and was prompted with a “Reload Now” dialog. I reloaded and the fonts are available to all my apps.

    So it took me less than a minute never having done it before (including downloading the fonts – thanks for the links!).

    +1 Linux. -1 to redofromstart and the naysayers…

  3. Wow, just tested on my openmamba installation  (KDE 4.5): click on the archive, click on the font file inside the archive, click install. Done! Total time (using the link to the fonts you kindly put in the article) less than 3 minutes. 
    Really hard :-)

    1. nico, thanks. I am aware of the command-line method. This is meant to be a newbie tutorial in response to an apparent challenge. My goal was to show how easy this could be for a non-geek newbie that is scared of the command-line. In retrospect, I probably should have stated that in the article.

      Added later: It appears some of the HTML tags are not working … again. I apologize for that. I fixed the code block for you.

  4. I was also wondering the same when I read that comment. I didn't have to search for the fonts since all I had to do was go to fontsquirrel, download fonts and install them. So, in Opensuse 11.3 it took me about 2 minutes, and I could use the fonts in libreoffice, so what's the big deal? Thanks for the post.

  5. I have found that in the Linux systems that I use [ Fedora and Ubuntu ], placing .OTF fonts in the /usr/share/fonts/ directory avails them to all users and all applications. How you acquire the OTF fonts is up to you but as you pointed out, there are plenty of free otf fonts out there for download

  6. Thanks for the article that clearly demonstrates that Linux is NOT difficult, it just requires the patience to learn something new.  I use a program called “FontMatrix” which is a very powerful font manager but is user specific (meaning that each user has their own settings and activated fonts).  This can be good and bad depending on your environment.  FontMatrix is in my opinion better than commercial and very expensive font managers available for Windoze, and best of all it’s free just like every other piece of software included with GNU/Linux distributions.

  7. Frankly I never understood why should the need to install fonts be associated with user friendliness.. I mean all it takes is getting the otf / ttf file and putting them in the fonts directory (just open the window manager from terminal if you are so inclined). The real question is of course why you want to install fonts in the first place?? For most work the normal complement available in most systems is more than adequate.

  8. @Santam:

    Why would you want to install fonts? What kind of question is that? If you’re a graphic/web designer, a typographer, an artist, or a similarly-minded creative, the handful of decent fonts sprinkled throughout the 8 million Asian fonts with sans-serif Latin characters included in most Linux installs are NOT ‘more than adequate’. Visually-disinclined people are not the only ones who use Linux.

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