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How to install free Google fonts on Linux (and why you should)

If you're a font geek, you'll find Google has plenty of free, open-source fonts to choose from. Here's how easy it is to install them on Linux.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
colorful letters falling
Catherine Falls Commercial/Getty Images

When I'm designing book covers and other digital assets, having the right font can really save the day. And although there are times when I've had to purchase a font or two (because I needed something very specific), most of the time free and/or open-source fonts will do the trick.

Also: Elive 3.8.34: A thing of beauty that any old-school Linux user would love

That's why, one of the first places I turn for fonts is Google. 

You might not know this, but Google has a pretty good collection of fonts that can be used for free. In fact, Google has a website specifically for fonts, called (aptly) Google Fonts. On that site, you'll find plenty of fonts to choose from. And given how few artistic fonts ship with most Linux distributions, Google's collection can mean the difference between a boring and exciting document. 

But how do you install those fonts on Linux? It's not nearly as hard as you might think. Let me walk you through the process. 

How to install Google fonts on any Linux distribution

What you'll need: The only things you'll need for this are a running instance of Linux and a user with sudo privileges. That's it. Let's get to work.

1. Download the fonts in question

The first thing you'll need to do is head over to the fonts.google.com site and download the font(s) you want to use. These files will be in zip format. Save them to your ~/Downloads directory and do not unzip them yet.

2. Create a new directory

Let's create a new directory to house the fonts with the command:

sudo mkdir -p /user/share/fonts/googlefonts

3. Change into the new directory

Change into the new directory with the command:

cd /usr/share/fonts/googlefonts

4. Extract the downloaded font

Let's say you've downloaded the Poiret One font. The filename for that font is, Poiret_One.zip. To extract that downloaded file into the googlefonts directory, the command will be:

sudo unzip -d . ~/Downloads/Poiret_One.zip

The -d option instructs unzip where the destination directory is and the . informs the command that the destination is the current directory (which is /usr/share/fonts/googlefonts). You'll be prompted for your sudo password. When the extraction completes, you'll find the PoiretOne-Regular.ttf font in the /usr/share/fonts/googlefonts directory.

5. Register the fonts with the system

Finally, you'll need to register the new font with the system. To do that, issue the command:

sudo fc-cache -fv

Once the new font is registered, you'll be able to use it with any app on your desktop. Continue downloading Google Fonts and add them to your system until you have everything you need to create the documents or images necessary to get the job done.

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