Rethinking font packages—from the document level down

Speaker: Nathan Willis

Track: Packaging, policy, and Debian infrastructure

Type: Long talk (45 minutes)


Room: Xueshan (雪山) Live Stream

Time: Jul 31 (Tue), 17:30

Duration: 0:45

Now that libre fonts are widely available through projects like Google Fonts and Open Font Library, what’s next for free-software typography?

Font selection and access for users relies on support from the entire operating system stack. Our font packages, however, are still structured like command-line applications. Documentation and supplemental data are not integrated with system or application-layer help frameworks. Metadata is not tracked by the desktop environment as it is for other content types. The OS provides little to no help for users downloading fonts online or simply maintaining a large library.

We can make improvements to how fonts are packaged and how font metadata is handled throughout the OS that will make it easier for application developers to create font managers or to provide richer experiences for finding and choosing fonts in GUI applications—including those that use custom widgets, as design applications often do.

Designers and authors, who make the most use of fonts on a day-to-day basis, will gain from these improvements first. But the same changes that simplify life for users whose daily work involves their font library will benefit others. Enhancing font packaging will improve the experience for translators and internationalization projects, simplify the build process for Debian and downstream developers, and reduce the number of bugs caused by the peculiarities of font licensing.

This talk will cover proposed changes to the contents and policy of font packages as well as in-progress work on improving font support in AppStream and other metadata tools, software centers, and package managers. It will address upcoming changes to SPDX to better support font-licensing details like Reserved Font Names (RFNs) and how those changes will affect license-compliance work, and it will look at the possibilities of integrating a Debian desktop with online font libraries and services.