Simplify font selection with Font Manager

Font Roundup

Article from Issue 245/2021
Author(s):

Font Manager makes it simpler to find the specific font you're looking for and to compare font options side by side.

There are a few things that you can rely on to accumulate on a computer like fluff under a living room couch, and fonts are one of them. If you do any kind of design work, you may be dealing with a huge number of different fonts. It's easy to lose track of the fonts installed on your system, especially since not all programs display a preview of the font in the selection dialog. If you're looking for a specific font but can't remember the name, or if you just want to test different fonts, you would normally have to try out the individual fonts one by one. Using the open source Font Manager [1] program can greatly simplify working with your font collection.

Installation

The current version 0.8.0 of Font Manager comes with numerous innovations, which I will discuss in the course of this article. The best approach is to install the latest version if possible. The developers offer pre-built package sources for Fedora and Ubuntu (Listing 1), as well as a cross-distribution Flatpak. Arch Linux users will find the program in the Arch User Repository. The project provides up-to-date information on the install on its GitHub page, as well as a build guide for users who want to compile the program themselves.

Listing 1

Installation

### Install current version on Fedora:
$ dnf copr enable jerrycasiano/FontManager
$ dnf install font-manager
### Install current version on Ubuntu:
$ sudo add-apt-repository ppa:font-manager/staging
$ sudo apt update
$ sudo apt install font-manager

When launched, Font Manager comes up with an easy to navigate window (Figure 1). At the top of the right column, the program shows you all the fonts installed on your system. You can use the down arrow to unfold the supported font styles (standard, italic, bold, etc.). Below that, Font Manager displays a preview of the currently selected font in different sizes, in what is known as a waterfall.

Figure 1: In Font Manager, unneeded fonts can be disabled at the push of a button without deleting them completely from the system.

In the left column, you can filter the selection by different criteria. Like with all modern Gnome applications, the most important switches and dialogs are found in the window's titlebar. You can access the settings via the wrench icon. From the drop-down dialog next to it, you can export all the settings in User Data and load them again later as needed.

Using the tabs in the preview area, Font Manager displays a Characters view with all the characters supported by the font, in addition to the Waterfall view. The Properties tab provides further details, such as copyright information or the size of the font file. The License tab displays the entire license text for this purpose and provides a link to further explanations. The icon with the three stacked dots lets you switch between the familiar waterfall, a freely editable preview, and a Lorem ipsum text, which is dummy text in pseudo-Latin used as a placeholder in layouts.

Running the Font Manager in Manage mode lets the user disable and enable fonts or install new ones. If you press the button in the top left corner, the program also gives you the option of displaying all the fonts in a kind of map or list mode via Browse. Compare mode lets you specifically select some fonts and then displays them in detail one below the other to help you find the most appropriate font for a document (Figure 2).

Figure 2: In Compare mode, you can identify the best font for the current project in no time at all.

Font Management

When installing fonts from the package sources, you may automatically download numerous font variations for specific languages. For example, the noto-fonts package in Arch Linux contains numerous language-specific font styles, including variants for common European languages, as well as for the West African Fula language and for Yi, a language spoken in China and Vietnam.

This flood of fonts unnecessarily complicates the selection of a font in programs such as LibreOffice Writer – even if you need to compose documents in multiple languages, you're unlikely to need all the available font variants. By clicking on the blue-colored check mark, unused fonts can be disabled for the current user. The program then colors the corresponding font gray and crosses out the entry, but does not delete the font. After restarting LibreOffice, the font is no longer displayed there.

If you only occasionally need some of the fonts, you can manage them by grouping them in collections. To do so, switch from Categories to Collections below the left column and press the plus button to create a new entry – for example, "Funny" for funny fonts suitable for designing an invitation to a children's birthday party. Then switch back to the Categories view and drag and drop the fonts you want into the appropriate collection. As soon as you "grab" a font, Font Manager automatically switches to the Collections view. You can now disable all of the "Funny" fonts with a single click and re-enable them for the system just as easily whenever required.

You also can add new fonts to the system in Font Manager by pressing the plus button in the titlebar. Then use a file manager to select the desired font files from the hard disk. Optionally, the program automatically extracts fonts stored in archives (such as in ZIP or GZ format). Font Manager automatically transfers the fonts to ~/.local/share/fonts/ making them available in all applications (see the "Fonts and Yet More Fonts" box). In Font Manager, the fonts installed in this way appear in the User category. A system global setup for all users is currently not supported in Font Manager. The minus button can be used to remove manually installed fonts.

Fonts and Yet More Fonts

Linux organizes fonts on the filesystem in /usr/share/fonts/ as a system global repository for all users and in ~/.local/share/fonts/ (formerly ~/.fonts/) specifically for each user. Font Manager displays all fonts, but only installs new fonts to ~/.local/share/fonts/ in the home directory of the active account. From there, the fonts can also be deleted from the program. However, the application ignores fonts that still exist in ~/.fonts/. If in doubt, it is recommended to move all font files to ~/.local/share/fonts/.

Latest Features

Font Manager v0.8.0 now integrates the Google Fonts library [2]. Most of the fonts in this collection are under the SIL Open Font License; some use the Apache license instead, while others use the Ubuntu Font License. But, as a rule, you can use the fonts freely. You can access the Google Fonts by pressing the button with the typical Google "G" in the titlebar (Figure 3). Font Manager then displays all the fonts registered with Google in a dialog and lets you download them to the system individually or as a font family.

Figure 3: Font Manager integrates locally stored fonts into the system and also offers a feature for setting up fonts from the Google Fonts library.

The latest version of Font Manager also tries to integrate more closely with the Gnome desktop. The program adds itself to the search function. If you press the Super key (also known as the Windows key) and then enter one of the installed fonts for the search, the system lists the matches (Figure 4). Pressing the Enter key then opens the font in Font Manager. If you do not need this feature, you can disable Font Manager integration in the Gnome settings below Search | Font Manager.

Figure 4: The Font Manager developers have taken great care to integrate the program into the Gnome desktop, including in the search function.

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