The LaTeX Font Catalogue

It’s a common misunderstanding that when you typeset something with [LaTeX][], then you have to use the Computer Modern typeface, a beautiful font covering tons of characters designed by Donald E. Knuth.

Okay, that’s probably not entirely true — you might know that \usepackage{pxfonts} will give you Palatino (Garamond) instead, or that \usepackage{times} does the same for the insanely popular Times New Roman.

But did you know that there’s many more available? Palle Jørgensen from the Danish TeX User Group has made a cool site called the LaTeX Font Catalogue where you can check no less than 94 freely available fonts for use with TeX and LaTeX!

A whopping 21 comes with support for typesetting math. Most fonts simply have the characters needed to typeset letters and numbers plus the common pecial characters, but some fonts also have the glyphs needed for stuff line integrals, arrows, greek letters, etc. Using two different fonts (one for the body text and one for the math) is normally a bad idea because the fonts might have different weights (different blackness) and different height. Still, people often mix, say, Helvetica (a sans serif font!) with Computer Modern (a very “seriffed” font!)… it do that, it looks icky.

Here’s an example of some math typesat with a font called Kurier Light Condensed:

Biot-Savarts Law typesat with Kurier Light Condensed

Even though I’ve used LaTeX for years now, and I’ve been interested in typography for some time, I was surpriced to see so many free fonts available for LaTeX. The problem is actually not the availability of fonts — I guess that most of us have a couple of hundred TrueType fonts on some CD somewhere, and TrueType fonts can be used with a modern version of (pdf)LaTeX. The problem is just that using an arbitrary TrueType font involves some converting and some configuring — it needs the right infrastructure.

But for those 94 fonts this has already been done by the nice people who make the TeX Live LaTeX distribution. I’m currently using the default LaTeX that comes with [Debian][], namely teTeX and it has always worked great for me. But now I’m looking forward to seeing TeX Live in Debian — the packages have now entered experimental, and that’s an important step on the way to be included with Etch, the next stable version of Debian.


  1. Sigurd:

    You can also use ttf and otf fonts directly with XeTeX: .

  2. Dave:

    Wow thats facinating stuff!

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