Scalable Font Options for TeX

Traditionally TeX has been used with Knuth's Computer Modern (CM) family of fonts --- and most users still select CM as their basic font set. However, it is now possible to choose amongst several different font sets. Alternatives to CM have some attractions:

If you are interested in text alone, you can, of course, use any of the 20,000 to 90,000 fonts in Adobe Type 1 format (called PostScript fonts in the TeX world and ATM fonts in the desktop publishing world), or any of several thousand fonts in TrueType format. That is, provided your previewer and printer driver support scalable outline fonts.

TeX itself only cares about metrics, not the actual character programs. You just need to create a TeX metric file (TFM) using some tool like AFM2TFM and PLtoTF, WriteTFM..., AFMtoTFM, fontinst etc (provided with your previewer and/or printer driver). For the previewer and printer driver, on the other hand, you need the actual outline font files themselves (PFA for Display PostScript, PFB for ATM on Windows/PC, Mac outline font files on Mac).

If in addition to text you also need math, then you are limited by the idiosyncratic demands that TeX makes on math fonts. See "Where Are The Math Fonts?" by Berthold K.P. Horn, TUGBOAT Vol. 14 (3), pp. 282284, July 1993 (TeX Users Group). See also Thierre Bouche's article "Diversity in Math Fonts" (1 Mb Acrobat PDF file) TUGboat Vol. 19 (2), pp. 121-135, June 1998.

Acrobat PDF
Computer Modern Sample

(File size: 99K)
Computer Modern (75 fonts --- optical scaling) by Donald E. Knuth. Note that CM fonts are available in scalable outline form. Use these in TeX just as you would the old-fashioned bitmapped PK fonts. There are commercial as well as freely available versions, both in Adobe Type 1 and in TrueType format.

One of these (from Y&Y and BSR) is commercial grade, with full hand-tuned hinting, while others do not render as well (all TrueType versions), some have incorrect metrics (some TrueType versions), or are incorrectly flagged as plain text fonts (some TrueType versions), while yet others are incompatible with Adobe Type Manager (BaKoMa version on CTAN).

There is also an extra LaTeX + SliTeX font set that adds a few special symbols and the line and circle fonts used in the picture environment in LaTeX, as well as the sans serif fonts used for making transparencies.

The American Mathematical Society (AMS) fonts complement CM with additional alphabets --- blackboard bold and Fraktur in particular. The AMS font set also includes the Euler fonts.

The Y&Y CM Complete TeX System includes the CM, extra LaTeX + SliTeX, AMS,and TeX Pi fonts.

Acrobat PDF
Lucida Bright Sample

(File size: 81K)
Lucida Bright + Lucida New Math (25 fonts) by Bigelow & Holmes, Inc. (Charles Bigelow & Kris Holmes). Not as spindly as Computer Modern, with a large x-height. A super family of related fonts including seriffed, sans serif, sans serif fixed-width, calligraphic, blackletter, fax, Kris Holmes's connected handwriting font, etc. Has a larger set of math symbols, operators, relations and delimiters than Computer Modern (over 800 instead of 384).

The Lucida Bright Expert (16 fonts) were adds to this seriffed fixed-width fonts, another handwriting font, small caps, bold math, upright math italic, etc.

Support in standard LaTeX's PSNFSS fashion thanks to Sebastian Rahtz and David Carlisle on CTAN (Support for use with plain TeX and LaTeX 2.09 also provided).

Acrobat PDF

(File size: 37K)

MathTime 1.1 (3 fonts) by Publish or Perish Inc. (Michael Spivak) This font set is no longer available for use with Y&Y systems, The set contained a math italic, a math symbol, and a math extension font, designed to work well with Times-Roman. Typically used with Times, Helvetica and Courier (which are printer resident on most PostScript printers). The Windows/PC version includes Times, Helvetica, and Courier. In addition one may have wanted to complement this basic set with Adobe's Times Smallcap, and perhaps the Adobe's Math Pi font set, which includes blackboard bold, blackletter, and script faces.

Acrobat PDF
MathTime Plus

(File size: 121K)

MathTime Plus (12 fonts) adds to MathTime 1.1 bold math, heavy math, upright Greek, regular and bold MathScript script fonts. (In LaTeX use the "bold math" (bm) package). Supported in standard LaTeX's PSNFSS fashion thanks to Frank Mittelbach and David Carlisle on CTAN. (Support for use with plain TeX and LaTeX 2.09 also provided - including code to link in Adobe Math Pi 2 and Math Pi 6).

Acrobat PDF
European Modern

(File size: 121K)

European Modern is based on Computer Modern, but adds all the glyphs in T1/Cork font encoding, as well as LY1/TeX 'n ANSI. This includes the accented and composite characters needed for proper hyphenation when using languages other than English. The European Modern font set also includes EM and CM math fonts needed for typesetting math.

Unnlike CM or EC fonts (which use hard-wried encoding), the EM fonts are standard text fonts that can be used with applications other than TeX as well.

The Y&Y EM Complete TeX System includes the European Modern font set.

  Adobe Lucida, LucidaSans and LucidaMath (12 fonts). Adobe's Lucida and LucidaMath are generally considered to be a bit heavy. The three math fonts contain only the glyphs in the CM math italic, math symbol, and math extension fonts. The support for using Adobe LucidaMath with TeX is not at all good --- you will need to so some work reencoding fonts (for example, the math fonts do not use the control character range), etc. (This set of math fonts is a precursor of the three basic math fonts in the Lucida Bright + Lucida New Math font set). The old Adobe Lucida, Adobe Lucida Sans, Adobe Lucida Sans Typewriter, and Adobe Lucida Math font sets are available from Adobe. not Y&Y.

Some additional notes on scalable fonts

The very limited selection of math font sets for use with TeX is a direct result of the fact that a math font has to be designed for use with TeX. A side effect of this is that the font then loses some of its appeal to other markets. The TeX market for commercial fonts is minute (in comparison, for example, to Microsoft TrueType font pack #1, which sold something like 10 million copies in a few weeks after release of Windows 3.1. Despite this, Microsoft dropped the product because it was "not a commercial success"!).

Text fonts in Type 1 format are available from many vendors, including Adobe, Monotype, Bitstream, AGFA, and URW. Avoid cheap rip-offs. You are not only rewarding unethical behaviour and destroying the cottage industry of innovative type design, but also very likely to get junk. The fonts may not render well (or render at all under ATM), may not have the standard complement of 228 glyphs, may not include metric files (needed to make TFM files), etc.

By the way, while you can print using fonts resident in your PS printer, for preview you need the actual font files. The standard 35 printer resident fonts are available in the Adobe Type Basics font set, which contains these and an additional 30 fonts (ordering info may be found at Adobe).

Although TrueType fonts are also scalable, you should perhaps avoid fonts of this type from all but major vendors. TrueType fonts are an order of magnitude harder to hint properly than Type 1 fonts hence TrueType fonts --- other than those that come with Windows or Macintosh OS, and those from major foundries --- often do not render well at medium (printer) and low (screen) resolution (For an excellent introduction to TrueType hinting, see TrueType Hinting).

Some people have been disappointed by the quality of scalable fonts. This happens only with inferior rasterizers and/or inferior fonts. Commercial grade fully hinted fonts rendered by Adobe Type Manager (ATM) are simply outstanding.

Unfortunately, poor quality fonts and poor quality rasterizers exists. Of course, quality is in the eye of the beholder and people disagree sometimes on what is better --- but in most cases there is no question! There are several factors that come into play. One is the quality of the font itself (you get what you pay for), and the other is the quality of the rasterizer (you get what you pay for).

Rendering under ATM of commercial grade fonts is outstanding. Rendering in Display PostScript is not as good. PostScript rasterizers in printers are not as good as ATM either (except for a few printers that appear to use the ATM rasterizer) --- but at 300 or 600 dpi you are dealing with a much more forgiving environment than on screen at 96 or 120 dpi (Windows) or 72 dpi (Mac).

Clone PS interpreters generally are not as good as true Adobe RIPs. In some cases the difference is not large, in other cases it is. Utilities for converting from PS to bitmapped format (such as PStoPK) do not produce results comparable to ATM (of course, at high enough resolution --- such as 1200 dpi or more, where grid-fitting is less important --- it hardly matters).

But to repeat the main point: commercial grade fully hinted fonts rendered by Adobe Type Manager (ATM) are simply outstanding. No longer does previewing have to necessarily merely be a precursor to printing. The preview can look good enough to be the final output! And with enough screen resolution you can see a whole page at once. Save those trees!

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