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Stix Scientific Fonts Reach Beta Release 159

Posted by Zonk
from the make-sure-to-!-after-the-word-science dept.
starseeker writes "At long last, the STIX project has posted a Beta release of their scientific fonts. The mission of the STIX project has been the 'preparation of a comprehensive set of fonts that serve the scientific and engineering community in the process from manuscript creation through final publication, both in electronic and print formats.' The result is a font set containing thousands of characters, and hopefully a font set that will become a staple for scientific publishing. Among other uses, it has long been hoped that this would make the wide scale use of MathML in browsers possible. Despite rather long delays the project has persisted and is now showing concrete results."
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Stix Scientific Fonts Reach Beta Release

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  • chicken (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    chicken
  • arg (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 03, 2007 @07:36PM (#21227291)
    Why exactly was it necessary to link to the user agreement rather than say an example of the fonts or something a tad more useful?
    • by jbn-o (555068) <mail@digitalcitizen.info> on Saturday November 03, 2007 @08:43PM (#21227719) Homepage
      I am glad to see the license for the fonts being published clearly and prominently so it can be reviewed along with the fonts. I recall submitting critique of an earlier license for the fonts, pointing out that the license didn't allow modification (important for improvement) or subsetting (important in PDFs). It was unfortunate that these fonts were aimed at an academic audience, people who were remarkably likely to want to improve the fonts to suit their needs, yet were disallowed from doing so under the old license. The revised license appears to have remedied my issues with their previous license; this license allows modification, subsetting, copying, and distribution (including commercial distribution) all with remarkably mild restrictions that (in my opinion) would not stop this from being a Free Software license.

      Because the license allows distribution of the fonts and "the associated documentation files", you could probably find a copy of the font software somewhere that doesn't make you go through a click-through, as well as a sample rendering.
      • by juhtolv (2181) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @08:52PM (#21227767) Homepage
        According to people in debian-legal -mailinglist that latest license is not yet free enough. Also, IIRC those fonts can not be included to TeX Live, because license is not yet free enough. Problem is this: Not every kind of modification is allowed. You can remove or add glyphs and modify them, but there are also other things that can be done to fonts, for example modifying kerning.

        http://lists.debian.org/debian-legal/2007/11/threads.html [debian.org]
        • by zeromorph (1009305) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @10:05PM (#21228095)

          Why are they doing this? There's a nice FLOSS license for fonts: the OFL [sil.org].

          As a linguist I do not like the SIL as a institution, but their fonts and the license under which the fonts are distributed are without any doubt great.

          • by narrowhouse (1949)
            Sorry for the off-topic, but out of curiosity, what is it that you don't like about SIL as an institution? I know very little about them outside of the information on their site and given their growing notability in the font arena I would like to gather a little more info.
            • by zeromorph (1009305) on Sunday November 04, 2007 @05:57AM (#21230071)

              They discredited linguistics as a science in many countries of Asia, Africa and South America - especially through their missionary work and their connections to US governmental agencies (e.g. CIA) and US corporations. That's not the SIL alone, but they are the biggest and most powerful organization of that kind. And, they actually carry linguistics in their name. You can't work as a linguist in many countries without being permanently considered as a missionary or worse.

              Because of their religious and political activity they were thrown out of several Latin American states where they acted much more aggressively than in Africa and Asia. (There are several books on that subject, but I can't tell which is actually good. The SIL says - of course - none.)

              To sum it up, they use science as a cover for their religious-political agenda - as a scientist that makes me very angry.

              But to be fair, their fonts [sil.org] (and XeTeX [sil.org] for that matter) are great stuff and a lot of people associated with them do respectable, even tremendous, work.

              • Tell me about scientists without an agenda of their own. Religion was and is always used as a means of improving things. Why do you think people know how to read and write? It's only because someone thought it helpful to write down religious scriptures. There's no chance of dividing religion from science. Whatever SIL does, they certainly improved linguistics as well (even if I only happen to use their superior Gentium fonts-which happen to be more suitable for linguistics than Stix). Speaking of linguisics
    • by bcmm (768152)
      I *think* that every section of the site now redirects to the download section. Possibly a temporary defence against Slashdotting.
  • awesome (Score:1, Insightful)

    by ILuvRamen (1026668)
    Well good, they needed a font set that had all the symbols you'd ever want to type in science. Only one little problem though...how do you type it? You'd either need a seriously huge keyboard, someone to memorize thousands of key combinations on a current keyboard, or an on screen keyboard program. Each of those options is unacceptably slow or difficult. Plus right now, we have alt codes that almost nobody knows about or uses and the character map built into XP with searchability. So um...what did they
    • Re:awesome (Score:5, Informative)

      by juhtolv (2181) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @07:46PM (#21227351) Homepage
      Stupid. Those fonts are primarily meant for TeX-based applications, for example LaTeX. rarely used characters are written with commands that start with backslash, for example: \ldots .
      • by hritcu (871613)

        Stupid. Those fonts are primarily meant for TeX-based applications, for example LaTeX. rarely used characters are written with commands that start with backslash, for example: \ldots .

        I think you are wrong. While these fonts will definitely also work with LaTeX, that is not the only purpose for which they were developed. Actually, I don't even think that LaTeX will be the primary user of this font. Whether this was intended or not, the primary user I see for this font is MathML [w3.org], which means that you can

      • Yes, awesome. As it stands now, you have to search through the different families to pick the glyph your need. When I work with LaTeX, I always have 'symbols' document from AMSMath website open, just in case I run into something I need to bring in yet another font family. Of course, you can't get a great consistency either. Just look at this document. What a sorry mess. As it stands now, there is not a single comprehensive font family exists. Hopefully this project will make things more manageable.
    • by davetd02 (212006)
      They have a great set for today, but what happens when new symbols are needed? Is there a clear version path so that future updates are backwards-compatible, and it's clear who has which version? I'd hate to send a manuscript to the printer only to find out that I had version 2.0 and they had version 3.0.

      they needed a font set that had all the symbols you'd ever want to type in science
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by juhtolv (2181)
        It is Unicode-font. Therefore your problem _may_ exist only with those characters that are mapped to Private Use Area. It seems those fonts have some characters that are not yet in Unicode.
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by forkazoo (138186)
      ILuvRamen says:

      Well good, they needed a font set that had all the symbols you'd ever want to type in science. Only one little problem though...how do you type it? You'd either need a seriously huge keyboard, someone to memorize thousands of key combinations on a current keyboard, or an on screen keyboard program.

      Summary says:

      Among other uses, it has long been hoped that this would make the wide scale use of MathML in browsers possible.

      Ramen, meet Summary. Summary, meet Ramen. MathML FTW, natch.

    • by hritcu (871613)

      Well good, they needed a font set that had all the symbols you'd ever want to type in science. Only one little problem though...how do you type it?

      You need to be very sMArTH [sourceforge.net] ;)

      While this application is not really polished (or even finished if you want) it allows you to type equations in a WYSIWYG editor inside the browser and then export MathML, LaTeX or SVG if you want. At least as a proof-of-concept I think it's pretty cool :)


      Full disclosure. I'm one of the authors of sMArTH. And yes, we were w

    • by HeroreV (869368)

      You'd either need [...], [...], or [...].

      You are being ethnocentric. This problem also exists for several natural written languages, like Chinese. Do you not think anybody ever worked on this? There are several more possible solutions than the few you happened to pull off the top of your head.

      Besides the options of representing these characters non-literally (MathML, TeX) there's also voice recognition software and hand-writing recognition software, often used with drawing-tablets. There's also an input method where you type in the name of the ch

  • Can't find anything useful on the website (without giving e-mail address), here's why: <a class="starter" accesskey="5" title="STIX Beta Test" href="#">STIX Beta Test</a>
  • Really all that new? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by gardyloo (512791) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @08:14PM (#21227523)
    I suppose it has something to do with the "openness" of the fonts, or something like that, but haven't complete (or nearly so) scientific font sets been around for a long time? Other posters have mentioned the TeX collections, and there's also Mathematica's fonts: http://support.wolfram.com/mathematica/systems/windows/general/latestfonts.html [wolfram.com].
          Basically: what's new about the Stix font set?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by juhtolv (2181)
      Have you ever tried to read those default fonts of TeX (Computer Modern) from the screen? Trust me: It is just raping your eyes. But of course, they want to make those STIX Fonts fonts free (as in free speech). Those fonts of Mathematica are not free in that sense.
      • > But of course, they want to make those STIX Fonts fonts free (as in free speech).

        They haven't. Read the license.
      • Re: (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Have you ever tried to read those default fonts of TeX (Computer Modern) from the screen?

        Kind of - I use the latin-modern family, a Type1/OpenType derivative of Computer Modern. Looks pretty good, actually.
      • by r6144 (544027)
        CM fonts look pretty good in xpdf IMHO, although they appear a little too light when antialiased at my current gamma settings.
      • I really don't understand what all the hate is about for Computer Modern. I think it's a fine font.

        Of course, it doesn't look nice on the screen when viewed at 100%. But that's what you get for viewing something at 72 (or 96 or whatever Windows uses) dpi, that's designed to be viewed on paper at 300dpi.

        If you blow Computer Modern up to 150% or so, which in my experience tends to be what happens if you fit the width of a document to a good-sized monitor, I think it looks pretty good. But at 10 or 12pt at 100
        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Bee1zebub (1161221)
          The other excellent feature of the Computer Modern class is that all three families fit visually together, meaning that typewriter text in the middle of a document fits visually with the body text, whether it is Roman or Sans Serif. The only thing I would like to see is a version with old-style numbers (like one of the Vista fonts has), for use in non-technical documents. I also find the typewriter text attractive, and very easy to read (since it was designed by a computer scientist for code listings, this
        • You asked why some people don't like the CM fonts, but then described one of the major problems: on-screen use. The only way to get text set in CM fonts to be reasonably legible, never mind readable, on a computer screen is to zoom right in. By doing that, you typically make the text column much wider than is comfortable for the human eye to track at a normal reading distance from the monitor, and thus make it unnecessarily difficult to read the whole body of text even if you can make out the individual cha

  • math typography (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I'm an amateur typographer and a typophile. I certainly see the need and use for this fontset. However, based on the nature of the comments that I've seen so far, I'm going to sit this discussion out. (Hint: several of you guys are making yourselves look like idiots.)

    The one question I have about these fonts is this: Are they designed to sit well in various types of body copy? That is, do the weight and color of the STIX Fonts blend in well with the various serifs and san serifs typefaces used in differen
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by juhtolv (2181)
      STIX Fonts have both text fonts and math fonts. Therefore you do not need to care, how they look like with other serif fonts used for body, because STIX Fonts can handle that body text, too. On the other hand, STIX Fonts are made to look like Times. Therefore, any sans serif and monospace font that looks good with Times should look good with STIX Fonts.
  • The user license is a little hard to interpret for those of us who don't speak legalese. Can someone help with the following bit:

    2. The following copyright and trademark notice and these Terms and Conditions shall be included in all copies of one or more of the Font typefaces and any derivative work created as permitted under this License: ...
    Does this apply to simply using the fonts in a document?
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by coyote4til7 (189857)
      Derivative is actually used in the dictionary sense. The document is developed (or derived) from previous (presumably scientific) work. It is expressed with the font. In this case a derivative work would be a font based on this one.
  • mathml (Score:5, Informative)

    by bcrowell (177657) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @09:17PM (#21227905) Homepage

    There's nothing new about being able to produce good-looking math output using free software and free fonts; people have been doing that for decades using tex/latex, and the relevant fonts are free enough that they can be distributed with linux distributions.

    What's really new and important about STIX is that it will work better with technologies other than latex, especially web browsers. Mathml has been kicking around since 1999, but browser supported has always sucked to high heaven. One of the things holding browsers back from implementing mathml well has been the issue of fonts. Mathml is xml, so it naturally should use unicode. Latex dates back to long before the creation of unicode, so all its fonts are in obscure non-unicode encodings. The approach so far has been to cobble together something that works by building a Frankenstein's monster made out of various fonts that weren't designed to look good together, and that come from various sources. Even though Firefox now has mathml enabled by default, and I have the recommended witches' brew of fonts installed on my linux box, firefox still nags me about its fonts every time it needs to render mathml. The only way this is going to get better is with the STIX fonts.

    For an example of how screwed up things have been, take a look at the archives of the Wikiproject Mathematics talk page on Wikipedia. WP's software uses software that renders LaTeX math into bitmaps, and that software has only very limited mathml output functionality, which is not actually being used. There was a project by a math grad student at harvard to make something better, called blahtex, which would have allowed mathml to be output as well. A user who was interested in mathematical topics, and who had Firefox, could set a preference on his WP account so that math would always be displayed to him in mathml, which would look much better (both on the screen and on paper) than the crappy screen-resolution bitmaps. Well, he wrote the thing, got it working great, tested it extensively on a huge number of equations harvested from actual WP pages, built support for it among WP editors. And when all was said and done, the Mediawiki developers wouldn't take his code. Basically the reasoning seems to have been that browser support for mathml sucked, so there was no point in disturbing mediawiki's codebase for a feature nobody cared about.

    Ouch.

    It's been a real chicken-and-egg thing. Since mathml support in IE requires a plugin, nobody's bothered to put much effort into making mathml content. MS's motivation for building mathml support into IE has been low, because nobody was using mathml, and the fonts weren't available. Although firefox has mathml support, it's extremely buggy, and the motivation to fix the bugs has been low, because nobody was using mathml, and the fonts weren't available. The fact that STIX is finally coming out may finally generate some excitement among developers about making mathml into a going concern on the web.

    Anothing thing holding everyone back is that people are still expecting to be able to write html as if it was 1995, with no quotes around attributes, unbalanced tags, etc. That isn't going to work for xml-based technologies like mathml, and in fact firefox won't render mathml if it occurs on a page that's not valid xhtml. That seems to have been one of the big factors holding back adoption of mathml by mediawiki, for example, because the html code generated by mediawiki isn't valid xml.

    I'm really hoping that sometime soon square roots won't look messed up on the screen in firefox's rendering of mathml, and a printed mathml web page won't look so horrible.

    • by ceroklis (1083863)
      Firefox's mathml support recently became much better (if unpolished) than you describe.
      1. Install the necessary fonts (http://www.mozilla.org/projects/mathml/fonts/ [mozilla.org])
      2. Apply symbol font fix (http://silas.psfc.mit.edu/tth/symfontconfig.html [mit.edu]

      The torture test (http://www.mozilla.org/projects/mathml/demo/texvsmml.xhtml [mozilla.org]) should now be passed perfectly, with no prompt about missing fonts.

  • They will have a big job replacing the computer modern fonts, especially if they don't make convenient LaTeX packeges to load the fonts.
    • If anything can do it, it'll be an initiative something like the STIX work.

      In any case, Computer Modern is far from everyone's taste. Knuth did a great job designing a highly legible font that could both typeset mathematics elegantly and survive the scanning, photocopying and other abuse scientific papers tend to suffer. However, notwithstanding Knuth's personal preferences, aesthetically the Computer Modern set leaves a lot to be desired. Many people prefer a different style on paper, and on screen the l

    • by hritcu (871613)

      They will have a big job replacing the computer modern fonts, especially if they don't make convenient LaTeX packeges to load the fonts.

      They are working on it:

      This beta test is limited to the OpenType version of the STIX Fonts. Now that the font designs are complete, we are working to prepare a LaTeX support package for the Type1 version of the STIX Fonts. This package should be ready for beta test before the end of 2007.

      I wonder how much 2 of their months takes in real life. I assume it's something li

  • Small font sizes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ortholattice (175065) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @09:50PM (#21228029)
    I took a quick look at the Stix fonts - only a few samples, so maybe I'm overlooking something - but they seem to have the same problem that plagues almost all recently designed fonts, free and otherwise: they don't render clean bitmaps at small sizes, when ClearType or other font smoothing is turned off. To me, smoothing often just doesn't work all that well for small point sizes. Sometimes it makes very small fonts nearly illegible that are easily readable in bitmap form (e.g. Mono Andale at 8pt where it is essentially impossible to distinguish a period and a comma with smoothing turned on).

    Compare these to the fonts of yore, such as Times or Arial or essentially any font that existed in the early Mac and Windows days. The font designers took great care to ensure that bit maps were customized for best appearance at small point sizes, given the inherent limitation of the black-and-white screens and resolution available then.

    Now it seems it is universally assumed that everyone will have smoothing turned on. Modern fonts may look professional and polished at larger point sizes, but the unsmoothed bitmap versions of many of them at small sizes tend to look rough and amateurish, with ugly artifacts and inconsistent line widths and sometimes barely legible. Even the smoothed ones aren't necessarily great at small sizes - the smoothing can make them blurry with poor contrast, unlike the crisp black and white of well-designed bitmaps.

    Perhaps I am alone, but I am more efficient working with small font sizes for things like programming, so I can have the maximum amount of information simultaneously available on the screen. So I almost always have smoothing turned off and use old-fashioned (and typically mono) fonts that have clean, carefully crafted bitmaps suited for that purpose. But when I switch to web browsing, if the site sports a trendy font and I have smoothing turned off, it can be an eyesore.

  • Can anyone point at a good reference.

    I'm familiar with Type1, Postscript, bitmap, TrueType; but not OTF.

    • At the risk of being obvious... try google.

      Try "OTF font", as "OTF" catches too many other things.

    • by hritcu (871613)
      As the README files notes this depends on your operating system. Try clicking on the file first, it might work.
  • Some of the fonts apparently crash FontBook when previewed. It's too bad, since I was hoping for a good symbol font.
    • Works for me on Leopard. I guess that means it's a bug that won't get fixed in Tiger.
      • by hritcu (871613)

        I guess that means it's a bug that won't get fixed in Tiger.
        Works for me on Tiger, meaning you are probably wrong.
  • To me it seems like both projects took ridiculously long to complete and they were delayed over and over and over again. Anyway, for better or for worse now they are both here ... in beta ;)
  • The mission of the STIX project has been the 'preparation of a comprehensive set of fonts that serve the scientific and engineering community in the process from manuscript creation through final publication, both in electronic and print formats.'

    For many working scientists, manuscript creation is performed using a monospaced typeface.

    I admit that I was initially quite excited when I downloaded these files a few days ago. (Yeah, I lead a sheltered life: a new typeface can excite me.) The excitement

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