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From Wikipedia:

A computer font (or font) is an electronic data file containing a set of glyphs, characters, or symbols such as dingbats.
Summary help replacing me
Covers the selection and installation of fonts on Arch Linux
Certain font licenses may impose some legal limitations
Font Configuration: Font setup and beautification
Java Runtime Environment Fonts: Fonts specific to Sun's Java machine
MS Fonts: Adding Microsoft fonts and mimicking Windows' font settings
KEYMAP: Information on keyboard layouts

Font formats

Most computer fonts used today are in either bitmap or outline data formats.

Bitmap fonts
Consist of a matrix of dots or pixels representing the image of each glyph in each face and size.
Outline or vector fonts
Use Bézier curves, drawing instructions and mathematical formulae to describe each glyph, which make the character outlines scalable to any size.

Common extensions

  • bdf and bdf.gz – bitmap fonts, bitmap distribution format and gzip compressed bdf
  • pcf and pcf.gz – bitmaps, portable compiled font and gzip compressed pcf
  • psf, psfu, psf.gz and psfu.gz – bitmaps, PC screen font, PC screen font Unicode and the gzipped versions (not compatible with X.Org)
  • pfa and pfb – outline fonts, PostScript font ASCII and PostScript font binary. PostScript fonts carry built-in printer instructions.
  • ttf – outline, TrueType font. Originally designed as a replacement for the PostScript fonts.
  • otf – outline, OpenType font. TrueType with PostScript typographic instructions.

For most purposes, the technical differences between TrueType and OpenType can be ignored, some fonts with a ttf extension are actually OpenType fonts.

Other formats

The typesetting application, TeX, and its companion font software, Metafont, render characters using their own methods. Some of the file extensions used for fonts by these two programs are *pk, *gf, mf and vf.

FontForge, a font editing application, can store fonts in its native text-based format, sfd, spline font database.

The SVG format also has its own font description method.


There are various methods for installing fonts.


Fonts and font collections in the enabled repositories can be installed using pacman. Available fonts may be found by using:

$ pacman -Ss font

Or to search for ttf fonts only:

$ pacman -Ss ttf

Some fonts like terminus-font are installed in /usr/share/fonts/local, which is not added to the font path by default. By adding the following lines to ~/.xinitrc, the fonts can be used in X11:

xset +fp /usr/share/fonts/local
xset fp rehash

Creating a package

You should give pacman the ability to manage your fonts, which is done by creating an Arch package. These can also be shared with the community in the AUR. Here is an example of how to create a basic package. To learn more about building packages, read PKGBUILD.

depends=('fontconfig' 'xorg-font-utils')
pkgdesc="custom fonts"

package() {
  install -d "$pkgdir/usr/share/fonts/TTF"
  cp -dpr --no-preserve=ownership "$srcdir/$pkgname/"*.ttf "$pkgdir/usr/share/fonts/TTF/"

This PKGBUILD assumes the fonts are TrueType. An install file (ttf-fontname.install) will also need to be created to update the font cache:

post_install() {
  echo -n "Updating font cache... "
  fc-cache -fs >/dev/null
  mkfontscale /usr/share/fonts/TTF /usr/share/fonts/Type1
  mkfontdir /usr/share/fonts/TTF /usr/share/fonts/Type1
  echo "done"

post_upgrade() {

post_remove() {

Manual installation

The recommended way of adding fonts that are not in the repositories to your system is described in #Creating a package. This gives pacman the ability to remove or update them at a later time. Fonts can alternately be installed manually as well.

To install fonts system-wide (available for all users), move the folder to the /usr/share/fonts/ directory. To install fonts for only a single user, use ~/.fonts/ instead.

Also you may need to update /etc/X11/xorg.conf or /etc/xorg.conf with the new directory. Search for FontPath to find the correct location within the file to add your new path. See #Fonts with X.Org for more detail.

Then update the fontconfig font cache:

$ fc-cache -vf

Older applications

With older applications that do not support fontconfig (e.g. GTK+ 1.x applications, and xfontsel) the index will need to be created in the font directory:

$ mkfontscale
$ mkfontdir

Or to include more than one folder with one command:

$ for dir in /font/dir1/ /font/dir2/; do xset +fp $dir; done && xset fp rehash

At times the X server may fail to load the fonts directory and you will need to rescan all the fonts.dir files:

# xset +fp /usr/share/fonts/misc # Inform the X server of new directories
# xset fp rehash                # Forces a new rescan

To check that the font(s) is included:

$ xlsfonts | grep fontname

Pango Warnings

When Pango is in use on your system it will read from fontconfig to sort out where to source fonts.

(process:5741): Pango-WARNING **: failed to choose a font, expect ugly output. engine-type='PangoRenderFc', script='common'
(process:5741): Pango-WARNING **: failed to choose a font, expect ugly output. engine-type='PangoRenderFc', script='latin'

If you are seeing errors similar to this and/or seeing blocks instead of characters in your application then you need to add fonts and update the font cache. This example uses the ttf-liberation fonts to illustrate the solution and runs as root to enable them system-wide.

# pacman -S ttf-liberation
  -- output abbreviated, assumes installation succeeded -- 

# fc-cache -vfs
/usr/share/fonts: caching, new cache contents: 0 fonts, 3 dirs
/usr/share/fonts/TTF: caching, new cache contents: 16 fonts, 0 dirs
/usr/share/fonts/encodings: caching, new cache contents: 0 fonts, 1 dirs
/usr/share/fonts/encodings/large: caching, new cache contents: 0 fonts, 0 dirs
/usr/share/fonts/util: caching, new cache contents: 0 fonts, 0 dirs
/var/cache/fontconfig: cleaning cache directory   
fc-cache: succeeded

You can test for a default font being set like so:

# fc-match
LiberationMono-Regular.ttf: "Liberation Mono" "Regular"

Fonts with X.Org

In order for Xorg to find and use your newly installed fonts, you must add the font paths to /etc/X11/xorg.conf (another X.Org configuration file may work too).

Here is an example of the section that must be added to /etc/X11/xorg.conf. Add or remove paths based on your particular font requirements.

# Let X.Org know about the custom font directories
Section "Files"
    FontPath    "/usr/share/fonts/100dpi"
    FontPath    "/usr/share/fonts/75dpi"
    FontPath    "/usr/share/fonts/cantarell"
    FontPath    "/usr/share/fonts/cyrillic"
    FontPath    "/usr/share/fonts/encodings"
    FontPath    "/usr/share/fonts/local"
    FontPath    "/usr/share/fonts/misc"
    FontPath    "/usr/share/fonts/truetype"
    FontPath    "/usr/share/fonts/TTF"
    FontPath    "/usr/share/fonts/util"

Font packages

This is a selective list that includes many font packages from the AUR along with those in the official repositories. Fonts are tagged "Unicode" if they have wide Unicode support, see the project or Wikipedia pages for detail.

Github user Ternstor has created a python script that generates PNG images of all fonts in extra, community and the AUR so you can preview all the fonts below.


International users



Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Vietnamese

(Mainly) Chinese
  • ttf-twAUR - Kai and Song traditional Chinese font from the Ministry of Education of Taiwan (AUR).
  • wqy-microhei - A Sans-Serif style high quality CJKV outline font.
  • wqy-zenhei - Hei Ti Style (sans-serif) Chinese Outline font embedded with bitmapped Song Ti (also supporting Japanese (partial) and Korean characters).
  • ttf-arphic-ukai - Kaiti (brush stroke) Unicode font (enabling anti-aliasing is suggested)
  • ttf-arphic-uming - Mingti (printed) Unicode font
  • opendesktop-fonts - New Sung font, previously is ttf-fireflysung package
  • wqy-bitmapfont - Bitmapped Song Ti (serif) Chinese font
  • ttf-hannom - Chinese and Vietnamese TrueType font
  • otf-ipafontAUR - Formal style Japanese Gothic (sans-serif) and Mincho (serif) fonts set; one of the highest quality open source font. Default of openSUSE-ja. (AUR)
  • ttf-vlgothicAUR - Japanese Gothic fonts. Default of Debian/Fedora/Vine Linux (AUR)
  • ttf-mplusAUR - Modern Gothic style Japanese outline fonts. It includes all of Japanese Hiragana/Katakana, Basic Latin, Latin-1 Supplement, Latin Extended-A, IPA Extensions and most of Japanese Kanji, Greek, Cyrillic, Vietnamese with 7 weights (proportional) or 5 weights (monospace). (AUR)
  • ttf-ipa-monaAUR, ttf-monapoAUR - Japanese fonts to show 2channel Shift JIS art properly. (AUR)
  • ttf-sazanami - Japanese free TrueType font. This is outdated and not maintained any more, but may be defined as a fallback font on several environments.


Also see #Monospace, #Sans and #Serif


Almost all Unicode fonts contain the Greek character set (polytonic included). Some additional font packages, which might not contain the complete Unicode set but utilize high quality Greek (and Latin, of course) typefaces are:

  • otf-gfsAUR - Selection of OpenType fonts from the Greek Font Society (AUR)
  • ttf-mgopenAUR - Professional TrueType fonts from Magenta (AUR)


  • culmusAUR - Nice collection of free Hebrew fonts (AUR)


(This one contains a "look of disapproval" that might be more to your liking than the bdf-unifont one mentioned elsewhere in this document)
  • lohit-font - Indic TrueType fonts from Fedora Project (containing Oriya Fonts and more) (AUR)






Microsoft fonts

See MS Fonts.

Apple Mac OS X fonts

  • ttf-mac-fontsAUR - Mac OS X TrueType fonts
  • ttf-macAUR - Mac OS X TrueType fonts (This package does not come with the ttf fonts (only the otf fonts), they have to be provided on their own.


Here are some suggestions. Every user has their own favorite, so experiment to find yours. If you're in a hurry, you read Dan Benjamin's blog post: Top 10 Programming Fonts.

Here's a long list of fonts by Trevor Lowing:







Fallback font order with X11

Fontconfig automatically chooses a font that matches the current requirement. That is to say, if one is looking at a window containing English and Chinese for example, it will switch to another font for the Chinese text if the default one doesn't support it.

Fontconfig lets every user configure the order they want via $XDG_CONFIG_HOME/fontconfig/fonts.conf. If you want a particular Chinese font to be selected after your favorite Serif font, your file would look like this:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<!DOCTYPE fontconfig SYSTEM "fonts.dtd">
     <family>Your favorite Latin Serif font name</family>
     <family>Your Chinese font name</family>

You can add a section for Sans-serif and monospaced as well. For more informations, have a look at the fontconfig manual.

Font alias

In Linux there are several font aliases which represent other fonts in order that applications may use similar fonts. The most common aliases are: serif for a font of the serif type (e.g. DejaVu Serif); sans-serif for a font of the sans-serif type (e.g. DejaVu Sans); and monospace for a monospaced font (e.g. DejaVu Sans Mono). However, the fonts which these aliases represent may vary and the relationship is often not shown in font management tools such as those found in KDE and other desktop environments.

To reverse an alias and find which font it is representing, run:

$ fc-match monospace
DejaVuSansMono.ttf: "DejaVu Sans Mono" "Book"

In this case DejaVuSansMono.ttf is the font represented by the monospace alias.