Debian is finally transitioning from the unmaintained and Debian-specific font manager called defoma. The replacement is called fontconfig and it is maintained upstream and in Debian (by upstream) and is cross-distribution with wide support from our upstreams and other distributions. With the upload of libwmf (thanks Loïc!) the last package in Debian sid declaring a strict dependency on defoma has removed this dependency. There is still more to do, some more bugs to file and some lenny->squeeze->wheezy upgrade testing to do. Thanks go to Christian PERRIER for slogging through and providing encouragement, bug reports and NMUs. The transition is unfortunately not without loss of functionality;

  • Xorg does not yet support fontconfig so for now programs relying on server-side fonts will only be able to use the xfonts- packages shipping their fonts in the directories known by the X server. According to Keith Packard it isn't easy to add fontconfig support to Xorg, there are some ways to paper over this though. We could use the Xorg server's font catalogue system to link to a fontconfig provided symlink farm (similar to what is done with defoma & Xorg). We could adjust the Xorg fonts utils to recurse into subdirectories. As far as I can tell, other distributions have completely ignored this issue and not all fonts are available to the Xorg server there.
  • There are some issues with Ghostscript and CJK that I do not fully understand, I am hoping these can be resolved before the release of wheezy. We need people to restart work on this issue.

TeX uses a different directory for fonts to the rest of the system. Fonts used by TeX cannot be used by the rest of the system and vice versa. This issue has always existed in Debian and other distributions and is unrelated to the removal of defoma.

If your software doesn't use one of the text renderers (such as Pango, Qt or QuesoGLC) that find fonts on their own and fall back on other fonts where needed (due to missing fonts or glyphs), please switch text rendering systems. If you are unable to switch, please use fontconfig to search for font filenames rather than hard-coding them at build time.

This message brought to you by the Debian Fonts Task Force. We welcome people who want to help us maintain font packages or improve support and quality assurance for fonts and font related software.