Font smoothing on minimal setups

If you build extremely light setups, you might think something is lacking in the font department. Chances are, you’re right.

Font smoothing isn’t activated by default under minimal setups in Ubuntu (or for that matter, in Arch, which means other distros might need it too) — that’s something you need to do manually.

How can you tell if you need it? It’s fairly easy: Set your GTK font (or even your Openbox menu, or something like that) to Dejavu Sans Condensed 9, and see if it looks a little smeared. If you get close to the screen and it looks like you’re looking at a font through a lattice … time for a change.

Font smoothing is set through the .fonts.conf file, and it’s a simple XML tweak that’s been around for years. Open a file in your home directory with that name, and paste this into it:

< ?xml version="1.0"?>
< !DOCTYPE fontconfig SYSTEM "fonts.dtd">
    <match target="font">
      <edit name="autohint" mode="assign">

Now change all the left brackets to less-than symbols, and the right brackets to greater-than symbols. (Sorry for the extra step. WordPress can’t handle XML markup inside its posting system, even if it is flagged with code tags. :roll: I guess I could upload it as a .doc file, but I have an aversion to proprietary document formats when it’s just a 202b text file.)

Save the file and restart X, and I think you’ll agree it’s an improvement. Chances are, I’m right.

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Some recent desktops

May 6, 2011
Musca 0.9.24 on Crux Linux
150Mhz Pentium 96Mb 8Gb CF

May 14, 2011
IceWM 1.2.37 and Arch Linux
L2300 core duo 3Gb 320Gb

Some recent games

Apr. 21, 2011
Oolite on Xubuntu 11.04
L2300 core duo 3Gb 320Gb

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