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Software Science Technology

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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  • arg (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 03, 2007 @06:36PM (#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?
  • awesome (Score:1, Insightful)

    by ILuvRamen (1026668) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @06:40PM (#21227323)
    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 invent that we don't already have other than a font?
  • math typography (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 03, 2007 @07:21PM (#21227583)
    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 different scientific publications?
  • Re:TeX (Score:2, Insightful)

    by juhtolv (2181) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @07:47PM (#21227739) Homepage
    But nowadays it does not work like that in practice. Many of those LaTeX-packages have some fonts that do not sit well with some other fonts that may be in same LaTeX-document. One reason for creating STIX Fonts is to rectif that situation.

    On the other hand, those default fonts of TeX (Computer Modern) are not very suitable for reading from screen. STIX Fonts have Times-like appearance.
  • Re:awesome (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ScriptedReplay (908196) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @07:53PM (#21227779)
    Times New Roman can type every single character on the character map, which is a FUCKING LOT of scientific characters.

    Umm, no. It's a fucking lot of Latin characters, but pitiful wrt scientific notation. Check out the AMS symbol fonts in LaTeX if you want to get a clue.
  • Re:chicken (Score:3, Insightful)

    by God_Retired (44721) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @08:06PM (#21227839)
    And so the age old mind puzzle is put to rest.
  • Small font sizes (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ortholattice (175065) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @08:50PM (#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.

  • Re:TeX (Score:3, Insightful)

    by zippthorne (748122) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @09:30PM (#21228201) Journal

    On the other hand, those default fonts of TeX (Computer Modern) are not very suitable for reading from screen. STIX Fonts have Times-like appearance.
    emph. mine.

    Now that is ironic. Although I disagree that Times is a better font for screen reading. It's all squishdy and pointy.
  • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Saturday November 03, 2007 @10:25PM (#21228575)

    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 lightness of the CM set is pretty horrible, as anyone who's tried to read a long PDF of a paper set using TeX can testify.

    It's a shame that in a world where OpenType and Unicode are now commonplace, and where many professional fonts now come with glyphs for numerous different alphabets and numerous carefully tuned typographical features, it isn't yet common to supply matching glyphs for say the top 100 scientific symbols. I guess the market is just too specialised, and the current dominance of the TeX family means there's little commercial incentive for others to produce high quality scientific fonts. In that respect, having a high-quality, science-friendly font available for use with things like web pages surely must be a good thing. (Monospace fonts useful for typesetting computer programs currently suffer a similar lack of support, probably for the same reason.)

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