Sexy, smooth fonts on (K)Ubuntu
One of the things that we take for granted when we work on computers is the way text looks. Fonts are just “supposed” to look good, irrespective of what operating system you’re using. There’s been a lot of debate of late about Windows and OS X font rendering and which is better. There are some basic differences in the way fonts are rendered on both the platforms, and there isn’t really any ‘absolute’ better technique — it all comes down to personal preference. Some people prefer Microsoft’s ClearType font rendering (or no anti-aliasing at all), and others prefer OS X’s smoothly-rendered fonts.
A lot of people seem to think that font rendering on Linux is crappy. And judging from some of the screenshots you see online, I wouldn’t blame them. My first encounter with Linux was about three years ago, when I installed openSUSE. The way fonts were rendered on that was terrible, and that made for a really bad user experience. I hated opening Web sites or a text document on openSUSE. Needless to say, I got rid of it quite soon, and decided that I wasn’t going to touch Linux again for a long time, especially if the font rendering, something which is (and should be) taken for granted, was that bad.
After a while I started using Kubuntu. The installation was extremely painless (as opposed to the five-CD install of openSUSE), I was able to set up a dual-boot system within 15 minutes (I’m not kidding, and I usually manage to screw up these things). The default font rendering on Kubuntu wasn’t great either, but then I started looking for ways to make it better. That’s the thing about Linux — if you don’t like something, anything, you can change it. I was quickly able to find some tutorials online that helped me fine tune the font rendering, and now text looks excellent. Arial has never looked so good.
Here are some screenshots so you can see for yourself:
As you can see, the font rendering on OS X and Kubuntu is similar, but I prefer Kubuntu’s font rendering slightly more. But again, that depends on your personal preference. It was quite easy for me to tweak the settings and make fonts look that good.
If you’re using Kubuntu, or its GNOME counterpart Ubuntu, and if you want your fonts to look that good, I’m going to make it really simple for you. I am offering my font configuration file for you to use for free. You can download the text file by right-clicking on the image below (Save Link As, fontsconf.txt).
Once you’ve downloaded the file, do the following:
1. Move the file to your user home directory (/home/user/). For example, if your username is ‘joe’, copy or move the file to the /home/joe/ directory.
2. Rename the file (through the right click menu, or press F2) from ‘fontsconf.txt’ to ‘.fonts.conf’ (note the period at the beginning).
3. Restart X (press Ctrl + Alt + Backspace).
Now when you log in again, you should be looking at super-smooth, great-looking fonts. It’s that simple. If you do download the file and use it, please post a comment here and tell me what you think.
Edit: Alex has posted a Spanish version of this guide on his blog. You can find the translated guide here.
This technique should work on other Debian-based distributions as well, but I haven’t tested it properly. I have only tested it on Kubuntu and Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn). If you’d like to test it on other Debian-based systems, please go ahead and tell me whether it works.