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Science

New Royalty-Free Fonts for Scientific Writing/Publishing 33

Posted by timothy
from the conveying-meaning-through-shape dept.
stotterj writes: "Writing anything up in science almost always means changing fonts a lot to use all the characters necessary for formulas and units (times, symbol, arial). This is annoying. People at STIX Fonts are putting together a universal font set that already has the special characters built in and can be used from writing to publishing. The fonts that result from the project will be made available for free." The site says that "In particular. the STIX project will create a TeX implementation that TeX users can install and configure with minimal effort." The licensing for these fonts (discussed in the FAQ) will allow free use, but not modification.
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New Royalty-Free Fonts for Scientific Writing/Publishing

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  • ... you can just use any of the usual TeXfonts, which just work.
    • So right, LaTex is already enough when you want to write math-stuff. Well, I don't know how to use, compile and whatever, but I believe it's close to that staroffice formula program.
      • In its most basic form, LaTeX is similar to StarOffice. I think it's more correct to say that StarOffice's equation handling techniques are very similar to LaTeX's basic layouts. I could go on for a long time about this, but suffice it to say I used StarOffice for a year. Then I discovered LaTeX, and I haven't looked back since. It's a fantastic and versatile software package that does not require a mouse at any stage of the operation, and has very low system overhead.
    • by apsmith (17989) on Tuesday July 09, 2002 @10:58PM (#3854101) Homepage
      Since I'm involved in the project I guess I'll comment...

      We would happily use TeX for everything, except for two fundamental problems, and a few more superficial ones. First the fundamental problems:
      • The standard TeX fonts are Computer Modern (Knuth's invention) - these are lighter and "looser" than the standard text typefaces (Adobe Times Roman in particular), and text becomes uglier and slightly harder to read when the two types of fonts are used together in the same document.
      • The standard Tex fonts are also missing a lot of special symbols that scientific publishers have, over the years, had to create for themselves. It's impossible to capture every special character that a mathematician or physicist may decide to invent for some particular purpose, but we've managed to include in the description of the font, and in the latest Unicode version (3.2) essentially all the special characters we could find that have received repeated use in scientific communications. If more appear later we'll get them added to the font. The idea is to be comprehensive.
      The more superficial problems are, first that TeX distributions suffer from wild inconsistencies in what particular fonts are available - early experiences with making font-less PDF files (or even DVI files) that relied on users having a TeX font distribution available to them for display were essentially total failures. And second, TeX is unfortunately not all that widely used even by scientists and engineers... Another side problem is the way TeX is limited to a small number of 256-character font files (with further restrictions on tfm files) - what we're planning is to have all 8000 or so glyphs available in 4 OpenType fonts (regular, bold, italic, bold italic) - of course to use with TeX it will have to be broken out into a few dozen 256-character Type-1 font files.

      The goal here is to be able to distribute scientific content in XML format, with the mathematical content marked up in a standard way such as MathML, and special characters treated properly as entities within Unicode, and then have essentially any conforming application (web browsers, Star Office, MSWord one hopes...) display the content correctly and reliably.
      • ...lighter and "looser" than the standard text typefaces (Adobe Times Roman in particular),

        Times is not a standard text typeface, it is a standard newspaper typeface and is buck-ugly and tiresome to read on normally proportioned pages. NEVER use Times as a body face unless you're being charged a great deal too much for your paper or postage!

        TWW

      • What you're doing is great -- there is strong need for this!

        Are you using MetaFont to create the fonts? If so, will the sources be available?

        Could you explain a little more about the rationale for creating an entirely new TeX distribution? teTeX has had trouble staying up to date, but what's wrong with TeXLive? Does it really make sense to reduplicate their effort?

        Lastly, I'm disappointed that there's no mention of creating a sans serif math font. Any chance that you'll make one?

  • Distortion (Score:2, Interesting)

    Now, supposing I download myself a scientific document that uses this font. I, being a non-scientific type would not have this font. Does this mean I would end up with a bunch of ASCII 1-beginning of lowercase scrambled sentances?

    Knowing my luck they'll figure out the meaning of life mathematically, and I won't have the font to understand it.
    • Re:Distortion (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      if it's a .tex or .dvi file, you'll need the stix package to compile/view it. If it's a .ps file or .pdf file, it will probably have the font embedded in it.

      If it's a web page, and you're using IE, you'll be prompted if you want to d/l the font.

      And if it's slashdot, well, the <font> tag isn't allowed, and unicode is stripped.
      • If it's a .ps file or .pdf file, it will probably have the font embedded in it.

        This is probably the key point ... all of the sponsors of this font are scientific publishing houses that are already heavily into using Abobe .pdf files for online publishing. Having a standardized scientific font is one more step towards a uniform online publishing format. Whether this should have been based on .pdf files or not is another issue - it is certainly not my favorite format, but it looks like we're stuck with it.

  • by lonenut (165873) on Tuesday July 09, 2002 @03:30PM (#3851695)
    Is there an issue with using the fonts which come with TeX? This is a standard tool for creating papers in math and physics departments everywhere (many also use LaTeX).

    I never had to pay Donald Knuth to use TeX, and I certainly never licensed the included fonts. Is there a legal issue with using the fonts included with TeX, or is this all an attempt to make some free fonts which are friendly to non-markup text processing tools like MS Word?

    If the latter is the case, what is the point of releasing these fonts in a TeX usable form at all?
    • well, the stix project isn't just for tex, it will also include a postscript type 1 and truetype font, be unicode compatable, and will have 7,000+ symbols.

      TeX contains most math symbols, but is missing a lot of scientific symbols, and some people want to write their scientific paper in MS Word.
      • Speaking from the biased position of a mathematician, noone in their right mind would go back to using MS Word after using Tex/LaTeX. However, Meta fonts are enormous (these are the fonts used by TeX).

        Consider that TeX does not allow for typesetting in all languages at the moment. Only the latinised languages are supported properly, though there are some hacks for similar non-latinised languages.

        There is a project that aims to remedy this called Omega (see the CTAN archive) with its own macro wrapper called Lambda. But one of the things that is needed for this is a solid set of fonts. Maybe (though I feel I should be somewhat cautious here) these STIX fonts will be it.

    • Yes, there is. (Score:4, Informative)

      by g4dget (579145) on Tuesday July 09, 2002 @07:17PM (#3853248)
      TeX fonts are not PostScript or TrueType fonts. That causes all sorts of practical problems.

      For example, there are lots and lots of LaTeX papers out there in PDF format that were created with dvips and pstopdf, and the results are just awful. Papers with embedded TeX fonts are also very large.

      In fact, many people nowadays just use PDFTeX, and it would be good to have fonts that go with that natively.

      Now, you could convert TeX fonts to PostScript or TrueType. But typographically, they are not really all that nice.

      • TeX fonts are not PostScript or TrueType fonts. That causes all sorts of practical problems.

        Actually you can get a set of Adobe Type 1 fonts for LaTeX from the AMS [ams.org]. You can then make TeX use these standard PostScript Type 1 fonts in the PDFs it produces. More details here [ltswww.epfl.ch] and here [aaai.org]. You can also make LaTeX use the standard PostScript fonts for its body by using the \usepackage{times} directive in the preamble.

  • by 4of12 (97621)

    How's this better than Blue Sky's donation of PostScript Type 1 versions of TeX's Computer Modern fonts that previously were only available in MetaFont and bitmapped versions?

    I am glad an effort is being made to make the fundamental building blocks of language a truly open and free commodity. Commonly used fonts should be an open standard - except for exotic artistic fonts, proprietary holds on these building blocks are an undue brake on free expression and human communication. What's next, computer speech enunciations that are copyrighted and impossible to use without payment?

    • It's very similar to Blue Sky's donation - in fact inspired by it. What's different is:
      1. Times-Roman instead of Computer-Modern style
      2. Many more symbols.
      3. OpenType and Unicode support.
      • It is always welcome to see high quality fonts
        freely contributed to the community. While I
        think the type1 CM fonts (and relatives) from
        the American Math Society and from others are
        quite good, and I'm not really interested in
        using Times based font set myself, this is
        never-the-less, a useful contribution.

        A distressing number of societies are asking
        their authors to submit in Times/Times Roman
        and its ilk, despite the lack of beauty in these
        fonts.

        I am currently assembling a proceedings, and we,
        at our sponsoring societies request, asked
        authors to use Times. There are basically two
        reasons for this:

        It is deemed important to have a unified look,
        and Times is most easily available to a wide
        range of platforms and software.

        Most authors are unfortunately creating their
        papers in MS Word (and converting to PDF, our
        required format), and the default font for a
        Word installation is Times. Few authors ever
        bother to change this or look at other fonts.
        You can criticize them if you wish, but they
        are not paid to fuss with fonts, and if they
        can say what they need to with minimum fuss
        using the defaults, they have no motivation
        to consider alternatives.

        I must comment also on the matter of embedding
        fonts. I think all fonts should be embedded
        in Type 1 or similar outline format. It
        is the only way to be sure. A number of papers
        that we have received as PDFs do not display
        quite right because their authors have different
        fonts than I do---even slightly different
        "Times" fonts. And papers from Asia, even when
        in English, invariably contain glyphs from
        Asian fonts---apparently even spaces, digits and
        some symbols like = signs might be pulled out
        of an Asian font and sneak into a submission with
        the author none the wiser.

        There is no way for authors to know what fonts
        their readers will have, either today or 10
        years or 50 years from now. There is no chance
        that any set of "standard fonts" will meet all
        needs, and there is little chance that most
        authors whose primary job is science will take
        the time to become familiar with what fonts are
        "standard" and which are not. They frankly assume that *whatever* they have, everyone will
        have.

        If a PDF paper is to replace a paper paper
        it should contain as much information as
        reasonable to describe itself. Embedding
        outline (not bitmapped) fonts does not result in
        unreasonably large PDF files, and it ensures
        that the readers will see what the author
        intends.

    • What's next, is if Microsoft throws their muscle into the font arena with the new FontAsAService technology:

      Monthly Font Summary
      You looked at Comic Sans MS 24 times
      You looked at Tahoma 13 times

      You owe: $12.35

      Man, Adobe would be all over that!

FORTRAN is a good example of a language which is easier to parse using ad hoc techniques. -- D. Gries [What's good about it? Ed.]

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