Excessive fonts installed by default

Hi, I’m a long-time Ubuntu user and have been trying to find out how/where to suggest trimming the amount of fonts that are installed by default.

The last time I ran into this issue was with a fresh install of Kubuntu. The number of fonts installed by default was so ridiculous, that various applications would freeze while displaying the font picker.

Needless to say, 99% of the users won’t need both a Devangari and a Anatolian Hieroglyphs font (why the latter is even installed, ever, is quite puzzling to me). Selecting the desired font becomes a pain, with so many irrelevant fonts.

The issue is very common and annoying, with numerous questions online about removing fonts:

Installers already ask the user about the Regional settings. How about one checkbox, making it optional to “install fonts for other regions”? Who can help make this happen (or convince me it’s a stupid idea)?

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Hi @dandv!

I approach fonts from another angle: From time to time I have worked with modifying the default font for some non-latin scripts. That’s mostly about trying to find out a sensible default font configuration.

As regards the fonts installed by default, my understanding is that the goal is to provide a sufficient set of fonts so most users around the world won’t need to struggle with font installation themselves.

As regards your thought about letting the installer cherry pick fonts based on language and geographical location, personally I don’t believe in that approach. I’m convinced that it would result in many more users running into fonts related issues, i.e. other kind of issues than the one you mentioned.

We also need to keep in mind that the way fonts are packaged for Debian/Ubuntu is a restriction. You mentioned Kubuntu, and they install for instance fonts-noto-core by default. As you can see the list of fonts provided by that package is rather long. But without repackaging the Noto fonts, you can’t cherry pick only some of them. Either you install fonts-noto-core or you don’t.

Talking about fonts-noto-core it includes quite a few high quality and well maintained fonts for many non-latin scripts, and one of my ideas is to propose that also Ubuntu starts to install fonts-noto-core by default.

So personally, and in general, I don’t agree on the change you would like to see. I would of course be happy to reconsider the installation of particular fonts, but I believe the the current approach, i.e. installing a rich selection of fonts sufficient for most users, is the less inconvenient way to deal with it. For most users.

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This looks like a bug in the application. What if I choose to install a huge number of fonts? That shouldn’t cause applications to be slow or have large hard to navigate font selection dialogs. Feels to me like the application should be better at presenting the fonts available, rather than artificially limit the fonts installed to work around the issue.

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I have to agree that, even leaving aside the possible bug of slowing down applications, the excessive number of fonts by default isn’t really useful to the regular user. If at install I set my location to Argentina, and my language to English (both a language and location where the Latin alphabet is used), then why does Ubuntu install 15 Chinese fonts and 20 Arabic fonts (among many more) without asking? Again, leaving aside the slowdown, it makes looking for a font in LibreOffice (or any other application) a chore when you have to skim through literally more than a 100 fonts that you have no use for.

It seems like the current way it’s done is more of a patch than a solution. Wouldn’t it be better for the user experience to have the font packages separated by alphabet? That way you can choose to install (or the installer can smartly choose for you) each alphabet if you’re gonna need it (Latin, Cyrillic, Chinese, etc.).

Now going back to the slowdown and awkwardness on the applications, this is even an issue on default apps like LO, so I’d counter argue that it is an issue on user experience, and it doesn’t matter who’s “fault” it technically is, that’s not helpful to the user; what is helpful is to provide a solution so that the default programs work the best way possible with what’s available.

I’m not very technical about these things, so maybe this just isn’t possible, but this alphabet separation of fonts sounds like a perfect thing for Snaps. That way if you suddenly need to install a certain alphabet, it’s easy and painless to the user to just get that alphabet without getting into the command line or having to download a huge file with a ton other fonts which aren’t needed.

Just my two cents. :slight_smile:

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LibreOffice has a top-notch font selector. But why should I waste my time scrolling through 100+ languages I have zero interest in, every single time I want to select a font?

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I propose that the users’ time and choice should be respected. If a user doesn’t need a font, it should not be installed.

We might prevent a tiny minority of users from “running into fonts related issues”, while the vast majority has to sift through this crap (sorry) on a daily basis, when the simple installer checkbox I proposed, “install fonts for [all] other regions”, would solve the problem. As to its implementation, whether to repackage Noto, I have no input. Conceptually though, I believe this would be a really good solution.

In its simplest Pareto-style form, so that the installer doesn’t have to map locales to font packages, there could be a radio button choice:

  • Install all fonts
  • Install only Latin fonts

I’d be perfectly happy with Latin-only fonts.

I do not think that people being able to use local language by default is a bad thing. If that needs fonts pre-packed, that is a necessary act. Allowing people to add non-English / non-Latin characters can be messy. Nothing is as perfect as tuned by default.

No, not really. There can be a better solution than prepackaging HIEROGLYPH and CUNEIFORM fonts (seriously? who needs these?)

Sure. Hence my proposal to add that checkbox.

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The impression from the above posts is like all non-English fonts should be selectable and not be default. I don’t think the proposal was to remove these 2 sets.

I’ve thought more about this. How about:

  1. The installer presents a list of two radio buttons:
  • Install fonts for all alphabets
  • Install only Latin fonts
  1. “Install fonts for all alphabets” is selected by default.

This assures backward compatibility, enables choosy users to install only Latin fonts, and is a lot easier to implement than matching font alphabets with the selected locale (that could be the next step).

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I would rather leave what we have as it is and suggest to request an only-English version like the Minimal installer. Because what we have by default is serving a lot of users very well.

For example, India has a population of 140 crore ( 1.4 billion ) which is 1/6 of the world’s population and has 22 major languages, each might have lakhs/millions of users. Are we going to change the current Ubuntu that is working well and call 1/6 of the world’s population irrelevant ?

So does China which has more than 1/6 th of the world’s population, Russia, somewhere close. The countries like Bangladesh, Srilanka, Indonesia, Japan and many more who are very thankful for how their local languages work well in Ubuntu.

I have personally enjoyed regional languages working brilliantly inside GIMP, Inkscape, Blender, Scribus, Libre Office and so on when using Ubuntu. I once tried to use a local language inside Illustrator and it was a nightmare. I tried hours and it was not giving the intended result which could have worked fine in Ubuntu without doing anything at all.

We are talking about half of the world’s population who is reaping benefits of these pre-packed fonts. Let us not abandon them citing ease of use.

How did my proposal suggest abandoning anyone?

Also, let’s not hyperbolize. Half of the world’s population is not using Linux to begin with, let alone our particular distro. Not even in India does Linux altogether have a lead. We can’t even talk about “half of the user base” using exotic languages. Have a look at https://ubuntu.com/desktop/statistics:

Besides that, nobody is using all those fonts all at once. And let’s not even beging talking about cuneiform and hieroglyphic fonts.

Don’t you think this is true for the English users as well ?

I can read and write in 5 languages including English. That is nothing when compared to a lot of people who know so many more due to various circumstances.

Believe me, I understand what you are trying to say. But it would be unkind to make others suffer so that we can save a bit of trouble. You have no idea how many people are thankful because Ubuntu has these languages pre-installed.

It is nice to showcase statistics, but those are not accurate figures.

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I’m not following?

I’m not following again. I said “nobody is using all those fonts all at once”. You said you speak 5 languages including English. That doesn’t disprove my point. Let alone that those 5 languages could be using the Latin alphabet.

Anyway, there are HUNDREDS of languages in fonts-noto-core. Who speaks that many?

Again, how is my proposal making anyone suffer? Will you please stay on topic and answer precisely that? Along with “Why should the vast majority of users, who do not use any of those exotic fonts, have to suffer a few seconds every time they need to select a font?” That’s millions of person-hours per day which you seem to ignore. The global utility calculation just isn’t in your favor here, if you look at the facts objectively.

Great, they’ll still have them preinstalled by clicking “next” on the screen that shows (probably among other things) the two radio buttons I proposed, with the “All fonts” one checked by default.

?

Where are the accurate figures? At least I’m trying to show some statistics, as opposed to vague hyperbole like “a lot of people who know so many more due to various circumstances” without any backing. What does “a lot” mean? How many people know “so many more” than 5 languages?

Ok. Looks like we need to add a poll

Q. Should Ubuntu be English only ?

options

a. Yes
b. Yes

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No. Please stop.

This is a non-issue and you can just uninstall the noto package if it so disturbs you.

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  • Showing a long list is kind bad and time consuming. Specially that new apps try to show a rendered sample.
  • On other hand, I still remember the frustration of the encoding boxes of missing glyph. It was hard to find which fonts in packages that cover a range in Unicode without installing them.

It is not the user default display language or keyboard input languages that defines which scripts (so the fonts: Unicode range,embedded shaping/style rules beside typeface and family) the user wants to read.

There always a solution if many want that while keeping other side happy. Use same techniques of video/audio codec detection then install in GStream. But that need much changes and resources.

It is more convenient to make fonts selection dialogues in each GUI kits handle it. Using user/app custom filters or filters based on context.

As a user you could still make advanced override rules based on app name or query to skip fonts even without uninstalling them. Some thing similar to https://askubuntu.com/a/1286426/26246 Fontconfig Rule.

I’m not sure why anyone would get triggered by my proposal, when it respects the language of the majority of users, and preserves the existing default (all fonts installed).

While you think it’s a non-issues, thousands[*] of users do think the excessive fonts are an issue. Please see the links in my OP, plus two more (the most that Discourse lets me post):

I wish it were that simple. But if it were, those AskUbuntu questions I’ve cited, wouldn’t exist. The Noto package isn’t the only problem, though I’ve addressed it specifically on Launchpad.

[*] Look up the “1% Internet rule”. For every user who took the time and effort to register and post or upvote a question or answer about removing fonts, there are ~100 interested in that, who didn’t.

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[*] Look up the “1% Internet rule”. For every user who took the time and effort to register and post or upvote a question or answer about removing fonts, there are ~100 interested in that, who didn’t.

Your are so right … I wouldn’t mind the (for me) useless fonts, if there would be an easy way to hide them in various programs (like libre office). But there isn’t. So with every fresh ubuntu install I have to look up, how to remove or disable them. This is very annoying.