The argument for free fonts

Summary:Bring up free fonts around typeface designers, and you'll probably get an earful about the relative quality of free and open source designs against the professionally designed fonts. Mark Pilgrim, over on Dive into Mark gives an earful back.

Bring up free fonts around typeface designers, and you'll probably get an earful about the relative quality of free and open source designs against the professionally designed fonts. Mark Pilgrim, over on Dive into Mark gives an earful back.

The context here is a discussion of using dynamic Web fonts (a typeface, to be more accurate) in site design, where the publishers are insisting that applications (like the Web browser you're using right now) be upgraded to allow for a permission table that can allow (or deny) you to use a specific font.

Back to the quality issue. When you bring up open source fonts, professional designers will tell you how horrible they are, how they're not well-designed, they lack full support for all characters, etc. Much of this, unfortunately, is true. Pilgrim concedes the quality issue, but points out the major disadvantage to professionally designed (and proprietary) fonts -- because of licensing, we can't use them.

Dynamic web fonts are coming. Actually they’re already here, but most of Our People haven’t noticed yet. But they will, and that’s going to be a huge boon to somebody. I see you’ve decided that it won’t be you. Well, have fun shuffling your little bits of metal around. The rest of us will be over here, using the only fonts we’re allowed to use: Everything But Yours.

Pilgrim gets a wee bit worked up about this, but he's right: Proprietary fonts are a problem for designers as well as free software projects.

The openSUSE community has run into this on several fronts. We used to ship Agfa fonts with openSUSE, but they had a restrictive license and had to go out the door when we reworked our distribution license. Instead, we're using the Liberation fonts now for openSUSE.

Our "official" font for marketing materials and the like is Cholla, but that's a proprietary font as well -- meaning that if we want the community to be able to create artwork to promote the project, they have to have a copy of Cholla or they won't be able to replicate the "official" look and feel. (Which is why Jakub Steiner started the Fifth Leg font, which is meant to be a drop-in replacement at some point for Cholla.)

It's a roadblock, but one the community will eventually work around. As Pilgrim says, "Well, have fun shuffling your little bits of metal around. The rest of us will be over here, using the only fonts we’re allowed to use: Everything But Yours."

Topics: Operating Systems

About

Joe 'Zonker' Brockmeier is the community manager for openSUSE, a community Linux distro sponsored by Novell. Prior to joining Novell, Brockmeier worked as a technology journalist primarily covering the Linux and FOSS beat, and wrote for a number of publications, such as Linux Magazine, Linux.com, Sys Admin, UnixReview.com, IBM developer... Full Bio

Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.