Too Many Fonts!
March 17, 2010 1:50 PM   Subscribe

Help me get myself down to 5-10 essential fonts I can put on my Ubuntu machine for free.

I'm overwhelmed by the number of font choices I have on my Ubuntu (10.04) machine. On the rare occasion I have to layout a flyer or a text document, it becomes nearly impossible to make up my mind about which fonts to use. I appreciate clean, clear styles, but I just can't spend my whole day picking between different fonts.

So, I want to gut all my fonts and start over. Please recommend 5-10 essential fonts: clear and readable, serif and sans serif, that I can use to perform basic design and text layout functions. They must be free and I have to be able to put them on my Ubuntu machine. Thanks!
posted by l33tpolicywonk to Computers & Internet (8 answers total) 32 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: I forgot to mention: it's fine if some or all of the fonts are in a package or on my machine already, just tell me what looks good enough that I should keep it.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 1:51 PM on March 17, 2010

Best answer: Two sets of fonts that I think are fantastic, and that are totally free:

The "Free" set of fonts, which comes with Ubuntu: FreeMono, FreeSans, and FreeSerif. These are nice, simple, clear fonts that I like laying out text with.

The "DejaVu" fonts, which are also free, and which I believe come free with Ubuntu: DejaVu Mono, DejaVu Sans, and DejaVu Serif.
posted by koeselitz at 2:26 PM on March 17, 2010

I'm not a fonts expert, so I'll just mention a few recent fonts I've heard about. Probably, these recommendations alone are not enough to serve you, but I think they're worth considering.

ttf-liberation is a pretty good font set to keep around. It's not exactly interesting, but that's kinda the point; it's a freely usable, high quality, boring font.

ttf-droid is another relatively good one. It also doesn't make typographers randy, but it's aimed at mobile phone legibility.

ttf-inconsolata is a decent monospaced console font. If you work with the Linux console it's a good option to have.

Probably you want to keep the ms core fonts, even though they're not as ... liberated.
posted by pwnguin at 2:35 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Gentium is an excellent free open-source typeface that contains pretty much every glyph known to man.

The League of Movable Type have a small but fantastic collection of free/open typefaces, although not all are suitable for everyday block text.

Web Design Ledger has a list of good, free serif fonts. Licensing issues may apply -- not all are open-source. (See also Heading Fonts, Minimalist Fonts, this list, and this list all from the same site. WDL loves lists.)

ThinkDesign has a list of good Sans Serif, and Serif fonts.

SixRevisions has a few lists.

Abduzeedo features a list of free design-oriented fonts every Friday (they're on #39 now. can you tell that lists are great for pageviews?)

Of course, these all look fantastic in their specimens, although I've found that the quality of free fonts varies wildly in practice. Typography is a subtle art, and literal *years* can be put into designing a single typeface for screen or print use (rumor goes that Microsoft had a guy whose sole job function was to make minor tweaks to Times New Roman to improve on-screen legibility). I always find myself going back to the "old standbys" such as Garamond, Helvetica, Futura, or Myriad (although none of those are free).
posted by schmod at 2:38 PM on March 17, 2010 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Terminus, as explained in the link, is the best monospaced bitmap font ever. A solid choice for xterms and the like, very easy on the eyes for long coding sessions.
posted by Dr Dracator at 2:55 PM on March 17, 2010

Best answer: fontmatrix is a font manager that should help you deal with being overwhemed. It's supposed to allow enabling/disabling fonts so that you can have lots installed but apps will only find the enabled ones, but I haven't used that feature. It is useful for browsing what you have.
posted by Zed at 3:10 PM on March 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

If you output to a PostScript device, such as a laser printer with a PostScript cartridge, or an image setter with PostScript, or any other device using PostScript, it pays to consider what fonts may be resident on your output devices, and make sure you have them installed on your computer, too. Then specify these fonts only, to avoid having to temporarily download fonts to your printer/imagesetter, thus speeding up printing, and avoiding hard-to-troubleshoot quality problems, due to font substitution on the output device, when available scalable fonts or bitmap versions are not available.
posted by paulsc at 3:40 PM on March 17, 2010

here is a list of fonts that are installed merely to cover some unicode ranges:

ttf-arabeyes - Arabeyes GPL TrueType Arabic fonts
ttf-indic-fonts-core - Core collection of free Indian language fo
ttf-kacst - KACST free TrueType Arabic fonts
ttf-kannada-fonts - Free TrueType fonts for the Kannada langua
ttf-lao - TrueType font for Lao language
ttf-sazanami-gothic - Sazanami Gothic Japanese TrueType font
ttf-sazanami-mincho - Sazanami Mincho Japanese TrueType font
ttf-thai-tlwg - Thai fonts in TrueType format
ttf-unfonts-core - Un series Korean TrueType fonts
ttf-vlgothic - Japanese TrueType font from Vine Linux
ttf-wqy-microhei - A droid derived Sans-Seri style CJK font

you can remove them but then you will get empty boxes as placeholders
on webpages that use these scripts.

the latin families that are installed are basically only dejavu and
the free* family. nothing more. you have to install some by yourself.
there are some nice packages families and a cornucopia of loose libre
fonts on the web.

here a list of packages you might want:

ttf-xfree86-nonfree (for b&h luxi)
posted by vostok at 8:18 AM on March 18, 2010 [2 favorites]

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