Configuring RHEL 5 Desktop Fonts

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Installing and Customizing RHEL 5 Desktop ThemesConfiguring the RHEL 5 GNOME Desktop Panels


The days of the green on black character based terminal with fixed type face and font size are, thankfully, a thing of the very distance past. These days we get to choose the font type, style and size of the words we view on our screens. This ability is of particular importance to those who may have difficulty reading smaller text on a screen.

The Red Hat Enterprise Linux GNOME desktop, just like other desktops, allows the user to select the font type and size used to display text. The objective of this chapter, therefore, is to provide a brief overview of configuring these settings on the RHEL 5 desktop.


Font Options on RHEL

The RHEL 5 GNOME desktop allows fonts to be specified for a number of different display categories:

  • Application font - The font used to display text in application windows. This also changes the font used to display items such as the menus in the desktop panel.
  • Document font - Specifies the font that is to be used when displaying document text in an application.
  • Desktop font - The font used to display text under the icons on the desktop (such as folder names).
  • Window title font - The font used on the text in window titles.
  • Fixed width font - Specifies the font to be used when the system needs to display fixed width font. A prime example of this is the text that is rendered in a Terminal window.

In terms of font selection options, fonts may be specified by type (Utopia, Serif, Monospace etc), style (Regular, Bold, Italic) and size (10pt, 11pt etc).

Changing Font Settings

Font settings are controlled via the Font Preferences dialog which is accessed via the System -> Preferences -> Fonts menu option. When invoked, the Font Preferences page should appear as follows:

The RHEL 5 GNOME desktop Font preferences dialog

Click on the button next to the font category you wish to change to invoke the Pick a Font dialog. This dialog allows the selection of a font based on family, point size and style. The Preview area allows you to see how the font looks before applying it to the desktop:

the RHEL font preview tool

Once you have selected a suitable font, click on the OK button to apply the selection to the desktop settings.

Font Rendering Settings

The Font settings page provides four font rendering options:

  • Monochrome - Displays text in black and white. This invariably results in characters having jagged edges.
  • Best Shapes - Uses antialiasing to smooth the edges of the characters where possible. This is typically the preferred option when using a CRT based monitor.
  • Best Contrast - The preferred option for visually impaired users. Uses antialiasing combined with adjustments to maximize the contrasts between the characters and the background.
  • Subpixel Smoothing - Uses the shape of LCD pixels to render the smoothest possible fonts on LCD screens.

RHEL Advanced Font Rendering

For more advanced font rendering options, click on the Details button in the lower right hand corner of the Font dialog:

The RHEL GNOME Font Rendering dialog

Each of the categories shown in the dialog provides a more detailed level of control over the rendering of fonts on the CentOS desktop:

  • Resolution - Allows the resolution at which fonts are rendered to be defined in dots per inch.
  • Smoothing - Defines how fonts are rendered when antialiasing is used. Available options are None, Subpixel and Grayscale.
  • Hinting - A form of font rendering designed to improve the appearance of small sizes and low screen resolutions. Options available are None, Slight, Medium and Full.
  • Subpixel Order - Specifies the pixel order for fonts. Meaningful only on LCD displays. Options are RGB, VRGB, BGR and VBGR.

Fortunately, the settings panels ease the decision making process by showing you what text will look like base done each setting. The right setting is subjective and is really a matter of choosing what looks most pleasing to your eyes.

Accessing the System Font Folder

Located at the bottom of the Font Rendering Details dialog is a button labeled Go to font folder. When selected, this button displays file browser window containing the contents of the font folder located on the system. If you have additional fonts that need to be added to the system, simply drag and drop them into this folder.

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Installing and Customizing RHEL 5 Desktop ThemesConfiguring the RHEL 5 GNOME Desktop Panels