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The Importance of Installing Fonts in Linux

Posted on 03/30/2016

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Have you ever created a report that looks great in your template but the output formatting is disturbed because of the text size, or the output has a much different look and feel than you anticipated?

Problem: Unexpected Report Text Output

If you’ve installed the Windward Engine on a Linux server, you may find that the output looks significantly different from what you expected.

The reason why this happens lies in the font metrics, which are the numeric values relating to size and space in a particular font overall or in its individual glyphs (hieroglyphic characters).  Note that these two sentence are displayed in the same point size (12) but take up a different amount of space on the page:

lucinda sans unicode v times new roman

Windward uses the font metrics to determine how tall each line of text is, where to put in soft line breaks, where to put in soft page breaks, etc. The problem occurs when the fonts used in the template design tool are not available when the report is generated by the Engine.

In this case, the Engine will default to the closest matching font. But if the final document needs to use Lucida Sans Unicode and the output defaults to Times New Roman, that can create a very different feel as well as disturb the format due to the size of the text.

Solution: Install the Correct Fonts on the Linux Server

Where to install the correct fonts

So why would the fonts be available in the template design tool but not appear in the output?

AutoTag uses the fonts installed on the machine running the template design tool. But the Engine uses the fonts on the server to both perform page layout and to create PDF reports. Therefore, every font used in a template must be installed on the server in order for the finished report template to appear as you expect.

But often, Linux servers have just the fonts they need for what they are meant to do, which tend to be more technical tasks. How a document looks does not usually matter to someone using Linux, and therefore the server typically does not have the same range of fonts that a template designer might want to use.

(Contrast this with Windows, which is mostly visual. And Windows is where it makes sense that most users would be creating or editing something like an AutoTag template.)

How to install the correct fonts

So you can just copy the Windows fonts over to Linux right?

Unfortunately, the answer is no.

  1. That would be a violation of the license for the fonts as they are licensed for your Windows O/S only.
  2. While true type fonts can be used on any system, they generally look poor when used on a different O/S. Good true type fonts are tweaked for each O/S and you need the version designed for your O/S if you want the text to look right.
  3. Many fonts do not have the necessary glyphs for all characters.

But you can solve the problem by installing the desired fonts where you need them. I’ve written an article detailing the process for installing every font used in a template on a Linux server.

Head to our documentation wiki to read Installing Fonts in Linux.

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Author: Luis Hernandez

Luis is an honorably discharged US Army veteran with 15 years of IT experience and has filled engineering roles for companies including IBM, Hewlett-Packard and McGraw-Hill. When not researching/learning about the next big thing in technology, Luis enjoys making glass art, participating in IDPA competitive shooting events and exploring the Colorado Rockies in his Harley Davidson motorcycle.

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