Using Sharp Fonts On A GNOME Desktop

Version 1.0
Author: Falko Timme

You might have noticed that fonts are quite fuzzy on Linux desktops which can make your eyes ache if you have to sit in front of your computer all day long. Font rendering is still a little bit awkward and one of the last weaknesses of Linux desktops. This tutorial shows how you can make GNOME and all GNOME applications (such as Evolution, the file browser Nautilus, etc.) use sharp fonts. In fact, we will use the Microsoft Windows standard font, Tahoma, as the standard font in GNOME, too, which will make the desktop look quite familiar if you are used to working with a Windows desktop.

This document comes without warranty of any kind! I want to say that this is not the only way of setting up such a system. There are many ways of achieving this goal but this is the way I take. I do not issue any guarantee that this will work for you!


1 Preliminary Note

I have tested this on Ubuntu 6.10 (Edgy Eft) and 7.04 (Feisty Fawn), but this should work for any GNOME desktop (except for the part where I install packages - installing packages is distribution-specific, and I don't cover the differences between the various distributions here).

It should be noted that these changes affect only GNOME and GNOME applications - unfortunately other applications such as Mozilla Firefox or OpenOffice will not benefit from them. (If you know how to change that with a simple configuration change, please tell me. But I'm not interested in changing the fonts configuration for every single application.)

I'm going to install the package msttcorefonts in this tutorial which contains most Windows fonts, but not all. Especially the Tahoma font is not included in this package; therefore you need a Windows system (and of course a valid Windows license) to copy Tahoma over to your GNOME desktop.

I've put this tutorial together from various sources I've found on the internet, especially:

I'd like to thank the authors of the above documents for their work! It's highly appreciated.


2 Comparison Before - After

To give you an impression of what you will get, I'm going to show you the differences with the help of some screenshots in their original size (I haven't resized them as that would distort your impression).

This is how the fonts in the menu look like now:

And this is how they will look after your changes. As you see, the fonts are much sharper which is better for your eyes. And as an additional benefit, if you've switched from a Windows desktop, you will feel right at home with the new font as it is the Windows font Tahoma:

Nautilus (File Browser) - Before

Nautilus (File Browser) - After

Tooltips - Before

Tooltips - After

Evolution - Before

Evolution - After

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9 Comment(s)

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Am I the only person that likes the "Before" images better than the "After" ones? I personally can't stand sharp, non-smoothed fonts  

I love the font smoothing in Linux, it's much better than Windows' ClearType :). Speaking of which, Debian's font smoothing 'out of the box' seems to be a lot better than Ubuntu's (I have no idea why this is...).


The Anti Aliased fonts offered by Ubuntu are much better than those displayed by Windows. Somehow I've never liked the way Fedora have done their font rendering - its too smooth. The major reason for shifting to Ubuntu (& Debian) was the way fonts were rendered on screen.

 In my opinion Anti Aliased fonts make for a rich & pleasant user experience.


I recently installed Ubuntu 7.04 and while I'm not totaly happy with the fonts atm the before pictures look better than the after pics.

By: Vexorian

You are not alone. I started having headaches after changing my CRT with a LCD, but the after shot fonts still look blurry to me, and even harder to read. ouch.

By: Zwopper

I can't stand MS crappy font rendering.

Whenever I stumble on them at work it makes me cringe (everyone here hasn't seen the light yet! - we have 50-50 Linux-Windows installation the atm).

Font smoothing FTW!




I found this guidesP>


This will dramatically improve the appearance of fonts with respect to the default Ubuntu install...


I definitely love the way the Microsoft fonts look. It gives a clean and professional look. Here's a side-by-side comparison of polished vs. sharp fonts:


I Cannot believe how many people think that these Antialiased fonts look good!!

15 minutes working on any machine with them and I have a stinking headache

I have Worked hard to figure out how to disable them  on my Work XP and Vista machines, including the separate setting withing the applications IE, and Office 2007. It sis set individually for the OS and Both IE and Office ovrride the OS's settings with their own. I have turned off them both and have just found another module in office that still has them on.

 I use computers all day ( HP Laptop ), and I have Very good eyesight,  and cannot understand why everyone puts up with this crap from the marketing people telling them that it is actually better.



By: Anonymous

Some of the characters in the Tahoma font dont seem to render properly.

Particularly, 8 and v. These are visible from closely looking at the screenshots. I believe this problem is documented elsewhere. Can you propose any solution?