How to Manage Fonts in Linux with FontMatrix

I’ve written software on Linux, compiled kernels, set up servers, and a whole host of other pretty technical feats. Having been a die-hard Linux user for 10 years, I thought I had handled just about every situation a desktop user is likely to encounter. That is, until I installed Linux for a friend, who then said to me “Ok, so how do I add new fonts?”. Such a simple thing, yet I had absolutely no idea how to answer. It just never came up. To help restore my credibility, I did some research to find an easy way for a Linux newcomer to manage fonts, and came across FontMatrix. It’s a simple and powerful way to add, remove and configure your system fonts.

Technically, FontMatrix does run on Windows or OSX, but it does not contain the full feature set. We’ll be using the Linux version in this guide. Packages for all three platforms can be downloaded here, however most Linux users should be able to find a prebuilt package in their distro’s standard repositories. Ubuntu users, for example, can install through the Ubuntu Software Center or with

sudo apt-get install fontmatrix

In the default view, you can browse your currently installed fonts as well as the subtypes of each font.

fontmatrix-view1

There are two ways to better preview your font than shown in the above example. The first is to move the Previews tab instead of Name, which will make the font list show up with all the names written in the corresponding font.

The next, and most thorough preview method is by defining your own preview text. To do so, click on Edit -> Preferences -> Sample Collection. In here you can add your own blocks of text that can be used for previews, allowing you to scroll through the list of fonts and see exactly how each one would look using the text of your choice.

Once you’ve added your text, you can click the Sample Text tab near the top of the window, and it will use the text you added as a preview.

fontmatrix-view2

For starters, you’ll need a downloaded font. There are MANY places online to find free fonts, Google is your friend here, but one place that could get you stared is UrbanFonts.com.

Important: When importing, you’ll be selecting the directory containing fonts to import. If you were to download just mynewfont.ttf, you would want to create a mynewfont directory in which to store it before importing into FontMagic.

Once you’ve got your new font downloaded, go back to FontMatrix and click File -> Import. Select the directory with your font(s) and click Open.

fontmatrix-addnew

From now on, your font should be installed and ready to use in FontMatrix as well as other applications.

FontMatrix has been cleverly designed from the very beginning to provide a simple way to manage your fonts. The multiple methods of previewing font changes are each useful in a unique way. My only major complaint about FontMatrix is a common one in open source software – lack of documentation. FontMatrix provides several features, but with no clear descriptions about what many of them do. That aside, it clearly does a very good job of exactly what it’s supposed to do – manage your system fonts.