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STIX Project Releases v1.0 of Its Scientific Fonts Set 100

Posted by timothy
from the now-that's-conservative-versioning dept.
starseeker writes "The Scientific and Technical Information Exchange (STIX) font creation project has released version 1.0 of its font set. This release is the product of almost 15 years of work, with the goal of creating a comprehensive set of fonts for scientific and engineering manuscript creation. The fonts have been released under the SIL Open Font License, and can be downloaded here. Among the many potential applications is proper universal support for MathML in web browsers." If you want a peek, here's "a page for viewing the thousands of glyphs (as a first approximation, think of a glyph as an individual character)."
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STIX Project Releases v1.0 of Its Scientific Fonts Set

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  • Fonts (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Arker (91948) on Friday May 28, 2010 @07:30PM (#32384050) Homepage Journal

    The biggest problem with 'modern' fonts I can see is that so few have proper differentiation between O and 0. It's an ugly thing, particularly when it's a problem we solved decades ago and should have stayed solved. Yet somehow it doesnt.

    Is downloading this package going to help with that problem? MathML is nice but I dont actually need it. 0s that actually look like 0s would make me very happy though.

    • by maxume (22995)

      Try Cambria.

      • by Arker (91948)

        Hmmm ok. *takes a look* nope [wikimedia.org]. Just as bad as anything else.

        Here [wikimedia.org], this is an example. The first font is good. The second is acceptable. The third is not. You see?

        • by maxume (22995)

          Well, sticking with Microsoft's Vista fonts (which look really nice on Windows XP), Consolas has a slashed zero:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Consolas [wikipedia.org]

          But it is monospaced (I expect you will find your slashed zeros much more often in monospaced fonts).

        • by beckett (27524)

          The first font is good. The second is acceptable. The third is not. You see?

          A slashed zero looks like the empty set symbol to me. Slashed/dotted zeros could also be misconstrued to be upper case theta.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Arker (91948)

            Using a zero for an empty set is perfectly understandable, both may be voiced as 'null.' It is difficult to think of a situation where one usage of it would be confused with another - i.e. where context would not make it clear and obvious which is meant. Also there are other ways to symbolise a null set, {} coming to mind immediately.

            Slashed zeros look nothing like a theta. The only thing other alphanumeric character they resemble is the letter Ø used in Norwegian and Danish. The chances for confusion

    • Try the slashed zero [wikipedia.org].

      • by Arker (91948)

        *Golf clap*

        Yes, that is a proper zero. Now do you have any actual useful information as to how one can get a full set of fonts that actually display zeroes properly?

    • Lots of fonts have that problem. Some also have the problem where l (lowercase L), I (uppercase i), and/or 1 (the numeral) look pretty much the same. But those are kind of common problems that can be fixed and have been addressed in many fonts. It doesn't seem like this package is aimed at that, but rather aimed at providing special notation for math/science/engineering publishing.

    • Just use Bitstream Vera Sans Mono [wikipedia.org]. To quote Wikipedia, "The Bitstream Vera Sans Mono typeface in particular is suitable for technical work, as it clearly distinguishes 'l' from '1' and 'I', and '0' from 'O', unlike the more widely available Monotype Courier New."
    • Uh-oh. Nobody told those publishers that the SIL license was not written by a lawyer and never had any legal review. OSI, unfortunately, will approve a license that hasn't been crafted by a lawyer, and this can be a big problem for the users of that license, when the license acts radically differently in court than they expect it to.

      The problem in this case is that the license allows conversion of the font to any other license or public domain once it is embedded in a document. The license explicitly says that it no longer applies once the font's embedded. And the authors didn't realize that if you extract the font from the document, the license doesn't come back!

      I left a note on their web submission form.

      Bruce

      • by WWWWolf (2428)

        The problem in this case is that the license allows conversion of the font to any other license or public domain once it is embedded in a document. The license explicitly says that it no longer applies once the font's embedded. And the authors didn't realize that if you extract the font from the document, the license doesn't come back!

        I thought that was a feature.

        Fonts are very funny in that they're a form of art that is meant to be used by people to create more art. It starts off as the typographer's amazing work of art... but once it's on the page, it's no longer just the typographer's work of art: it's part of another work of art. And no one pays attention to the poor typographer after that point... apart of typography geeks, of course.

        Aside of the fact that you can recover the original font data easily through embedding and you don't

      • by hritcu (871613)

        The problem in this case is that the license allows conversion of the font to any other license or public domain once it is embedded in a document. The license explicitly says that it no longer applies once the font's embedded. And the authors didn't realize that if you extract the font from the document, the license doesn't come back!

        I find your interpretation of the license quite strange (but, well, I am not a lawyer). The license only says that the license "does not apply to any document created using

        • by hritcu (871613)

          The license only says that the license "does not apply to any document created using the Font Software", not that the license does not apply *at all* once the font is embedded.

          A little clarification, it's not the license that does not apply to documents created with the font, but the requirement that the font can only be distributed under the same license. Here is the precise text about this exception:

          5) The Font Software, modified or unmodified, in part or in whole, must be distributed entirely under th

        • The problem is simply that they didn't know the right words. They could have given permission to distribute a document without restriction when the fonts are embedded in it, and everything would have been OK. But they didn't give that permission, they said, and I quote: The requirement for fonts to remain under this license does not apply to any document created using the Font Software. They didn't consider that if the font is no longer under the license, none of the license terms apply any longer. They d

          • by hritcu (871613)
            Thank you, I now understand where the problem is. Still, I'm not so sure this would be so easy to fix.

            They could have given permission to distribute a document without restriction when the fonts are embedded in it, and everything would have been OK.

            What if I want to distribute a document containing the embedded fonts while imposing some restrictions on the document itself? Would I be able to do that if you only give me permissions to distribute the document without restriction? But maybe I'm mixing up wit

            • That's a good question, and the answer would be that the attorney crafting the license would take more time thinking about it than I take to write the typical shashdot comment :-) Making this license work correctly would be within the competence of any lawyer.

              Essentially all of my consulting work these days is with attorneys and their customers, and is regarding Open Source in some way, and thus I am getting to see a lot of how things go wrong with Open Source and the law. And the one lesson I've learned is

    • What you need already existed for many years: the DejaVu fonts [wikipedia.org] (derived from the Bitstream Vera fonts, but with wider character range).
    • by Breetai (14095)

      I find the Inconsolata very good for diagrams and other texts that need a monospaced font.
      advantages:
      - Monospaced
      - has a slashed zero
      - The brackets are higher than the other characters. So you instinctively see what's inside the brackets.
      - has an open license.
      http://www.levien.com/type/myfonts/inconsolata.html [levien.com]

  • What a peek (Score:5, Insightful)

    by imsabbel (611519) on Friday May 28, 2010 @07:32PM (#32384074)

    call me spoiled, but if you announce a link for a "peek", i expect something other than a website that prompts me to install the fonts i wanted a peek at.

    How about something useful, like comparisions with existing fonts to show what the big deal about these new ones is. Preferably in a way that doesnt require having them installed.

    Hell, how about making that stupid 100 screen long page a PDF with the font embeded?

    • ...and for those of us who dont wanna bother downloading a PDF, just post pictures of the symbols (even if it would take some time to load)...
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by Phiz (21461)

      call me spoiled, but if you announce a link for a "peek", i expect something other than a website that prompts me to install the fonts i wanted a peek at.

      I agree. However, if you download the font, in the archive you'll find a directory "Glyphs" that has a bunch of PDFs with tables of the characters shown. Therefore you don't actually have to install the font to take a look at it.

      They should have made it easier to find these PDFs....

      • by fatp (1171151)
        Even the PDF's are character based, not showing images of the fonts.

        Before I install the font, I can't tell whether the PDF reader is displaying an arbitrary glyphs from other fonts. Or... what's meant by 'Embedded' font in a PDF??

        After I install the font, I don't need to see those pdf for font sample
    • by Sir_Lewk (967686)

      Interesting. I was just about to comment asking how I was able to view that page without installing any new fonts. Guess, I already have it (well, at least some version of it..). Running Firefox on Fedora 12 here.

    • by Chelmet (1273754)
      Agreed - if nothing else, I was actually expecting images of the fonts - isn't that the most sensible approach? Loading the page and being auto redirected to the download page is a terrible way for the submitter to give us a 'peek'.
      • Sorry about that - I didn't/don't know of a good image based overview of the fonts. I really wish the STIX group did have something like that, but if they do I haven't been able to find it and creating a good overview of 8000+ glyphs with images was more time than I had available.

        The purpose of that page is to have SOMETHING that will let you see the font after you have it installed, since even creating an example page to show all of the glyphs is a bit of a chore.

    • by Dynedain (141758) <slashdot2 AT anthonymclin DOT com> on Friday May 28, 2010 @07:54PM (#32384318) Homepage

      Seriously.... this has got to be the only website out there that is pushing a font without actually providing any preview of what it looks like.

      • by meerling (1487879)
        Probably because it's intended audience already knows what it should look like, those same exact symbols they write by hand every freaking day because there isn't a decent (and free) font for them anywhere! Well, before now that is.
      • by hritcu (871613)
        They look really clean and consistent ... all 9000 of them :)
    • Yeah, sorry about that. Unfortunately, I don't know of a really good one. The middle column of this website has some images of math rendered using the Beta fonts (not final, although they are close - plain descriptive text looks a little larger in the final version): https://www.eyeasme.com/Joe/MathML/MathML_browser_test [eyeasme.com] - those are good math examples but I'm not sure they're comprehensive over the whole font (odds are not - STIX is big).

      If someone has a place they can host a pdf of the glyph page as pdf

      • If someone has a place they can host a pdf of the glyph page as pdf that might be helpful, but unfortunately I'm not up on how to coax open source tools to generate pdfs with embedded fonts (up until now I always used LaTeX for serious math) - anybody know of a good way? Also be warned that offering up such a page for a slashdotting will be inviting a beating for a server and bandwidth - that'll most likely be a pdf with over 400 pages plus the embedded font payload.

        When it comes to fonts, most people expect to see something along these lines:

        http://www.linotypelibrary.com/1563/universalmathematicalpi-family.html [linotypelibrary.com]
        http://www.typography.com/collections/index.php?collectionID=700007 [typography.com]

        Put together some representative samples of the a handful of typical glyphs and build a few images along those lines. If you want to upload a full PDF with embedded fonts, throw it on Scribd [scribd.com] or use drop.io [drop.io] and let them take the beating... they're good at it.

  • by fishthegeek (943099) on Friday May 28, 2010 @07:36PM (#32384098) Journal
    15 years? Sounds like Stix has too much time on their hands.
    • For the love of god someone give these people a pencil and a scanner.
    • 15 years? Sounds like Stix has too much time on their hands.

      But they finally got it made, like a renegade.

    • by starseeker (141897) on Friday May 28, 2010 @11:57PM (#32386240) Homepage

      Despite the (simultaneously amusing and frustrating) schedule slippage that the STIX project became infamous for, they deserve tremendous praise for the work they have done here. They have created a monumental work, stuck with the project for well over a decade despite all the setbacks, and released the results free to the world as an open source font. To understand the magnitude of this task, consider how long it would take to design a good quality font for just the standard character set (which isn't easy, as witnessed by the large number of bad fontsets floating around...). Now, scale that up to 8,000+ characters. Not only that, but many of these characters are obscure to any outside of specific scientific fields, and hence the font designers won't immediately know how the characters are supposed to look - the background research must be done, the results organized into some coherent framework, and a LOT of characters have to be created more or less from scratch. This work was being funded by scientific publishing houses who wanted a font for high quality consistent output, so the goal wasn't met by "partial" success - it had to be judged a finished work before any benefit could be realized. They couldn't use the TeX approach of allowing the user to custom-roll their own solution to strange characters - everything had to be handled "up-front" and built into the font.

      That is an ENORMOUS task, and the result is a VERY significant contribution to the open source world. I have nothing but admiration and gratitude for the people behind this who persevered and succeeded, not just technically and organizationally but also in working through the legal questions raised by the open source community when selecting an open font license. The publishing houses could have decided that "done and usable in journal paper printing" was "good enough", but the project elected to listen to and work with the community to arrive at the OFL, which is a little odd but apparently workable both for the companies involved and the open source community. So, to those who worked on this project: Thanks!

      • by hritcu (871613)
        I'm very happy they pulled it through in the end! I also agree that this is a very significant contribution to open source, and we must be grateful to the people who designed these fonts. I'm also very happy that in the end they chose an OSI-approved license, which will allow this font to be part of all Linux distributions. At the same time, it's hard not to notice not only the "schedule slippage" of 10 years or so, but also the fact that although they clearly had no clue how long this was going to take, t
  • I guess it's just an indication at how slow the science to product lag is.

    br/
    • by meerling (1487879)
      Especially when it's out of their field of expertise.
      For example:
      The Mathematicians don't make fonts, that's something the Graphic Artists do
      Graphic Artists don't know jack about math symbols, they leave that to the Mathematicians.
      Etc, ad infinitum...

      Someone finally got off their 'whatever', found out what symbols were most needed (that probably took 1 year of questions, and 13 years of arguing.) and actually put them into a font. The rest, we sure hope wasn't a waste of time.
  • by tenco (773732) on Friday May 28, 2010 @07:54PM (#32384324)

    Finally. But how to use them properly with webbrowsers? For Firefox I had to use

    math { font-family: STIXGeneral, STIXVariants, STIXIntegralsSm, STIXIntegralsD, STIXIntegralsUp, STIXIntegralsUpSm, STIXIntegralsUpD, STIXSizeOneSym, STIXSizeTwoSym, STIXSizeThreeSym, STIXSizeFourSym, STIXSizeFiveSym, STIXNonUnicode; }

    in my userContent.css to get partial math glyphs from installed STIXfonts. To get every MathML char rendered with STIXfonts I had to disable custom fonts for webpages and set all fonts to STIXGeneral. Unfortunately STIXGeneral seems to be only available with serif. Which isn't all that good for reading text from displays.

  • TeX? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 28, 2010 @08:09PM (#32384482)

    Why can't we just make basic latex commands part of html? There are some pretty lightweight tex compilers out there which, in a perfect world, should have been shipping standard on new computers for ages now.

    • by mikael_j (106439)

      I've actually wondered this myself for a while. In its simplest form it could just be something like:

      <latex>y &= \frac{x^2}{7}</latex>

      Or at least something similar to that. Not exactly very html-ish but it's not like the purpose would be to create entire websites using LaTeX...

      • Re:TeX? (Score:4, Informative)

        by bcrowell (177657) on Friday May 28, 2010 @10:51PM (#32385820) Homepage
        If what you want is to embed tex in html, you can do it: http://asciimathml.sourceforge.net/ [sourceforge.net] But that doesn't do anything about solving the font problem. You need the fonts, otherwise it can't be rendered. Knuth's Computer Modern fonts were an impressive achievement, but they date back to 1992, and the technology they're built on is obsolete and doesn't fit well with the modern operating systems, or with modern encodings such as unicode. Knuth invented scalable fonts before Adobe reimplemented and commercialized them.
        • the technology they're built on is obsolete and doesn't fit well with the modern operating systems

          I think you meant to say "the contemporary obsolete operating systems don't fit well the ever-modern technology of Knuth's fonts".

    • Re:TeX? (Score:4, Informative)

      by SEE (7681) on Friday May 28, 2010 @11:09PM (#32385938) Homepage

      TeX4ht [ohio-state.edu] renders TeX as HTML.

      MathTeX [forkosh.com] is a CGI that renders TeX embedded in a webpage as an image.

      The Techexplorer [integretechpub.com] plugin, originally by IBM, will directly render TeX embedded in HTML.

    • by thogard (43403)

      There was a TeX add on for Mosaic but it was very slow so ML won out and got hacked into the mess we have now.

    • wasn't there an article last week with firefox devs bragging about supporting exactly that?

  • by BitterOak (537666) on Friday May 28, 2010 @10:46PM (#32385798)
    I've looked at these fonts, and they look very good. Is there a LaTeX package that will let me use these fonts with LaTeX yet? I think they look much more attractive than the Computer Modern fonts that ship with LaTeX.
    • Re:LaTeX package? (Score:4, Informative)

      by SEE (7681) on Friday May 28, 2010 @10:53PM (#32385830) Homepage

      Not yet. Per the website, this set is 1.0; modifications to work with MS Ofice are targeted for 1.1 (expected release this year), and LaTeX with 1.2 (expected release next year).

    • Re:LaTeX package? (Score:5, Informative)

      by iris-n (1276146) on Friday May 28, 2010 @10:59PM (#32385882)

      No but yes. What you need to use them now is XeTeX [sil.org], a TeX engine that lets you use OpenType fonts in your TeX documents.

      LaTeX per se uses only Type 1 (actually a few more) fonts, and these aren't ready yet.

    • by Zoinky (915530)

      I'm a little surprised to find out that LaTeX support isn't going to be available until next year. I understand that the journals published by the societies funding this project use LaTeX, and that they are funding STIX for use with their publications.

      And yet, LaTeX support is coming in after even Microsoft Word support (does anyone actually use Word for scientific papers?). It doesn't really make any sense.

  • I really like it when book or publication authors take the time to use good fonts and make the equations readable. There's nothing that turns me off more when reading a paper and the author has done all the equations in Times with crappy-looking subscripts and superscripts.
  • by Animats (122034) on Saturday May 29, 2010 @03:05AM (#32386988) Homepage

    To see what it was like to use these fonts on the web, I created a test page. [animats.com] This uses dynamically downloaded fonts, which work in most current web browsers. (Firefox users need Firefox 3.6 or later.)

    This sample is sized at 16 point. Smaller than that, many of the symbols are unreadable. That's something to be careful about. When you have a huge symbol set, the symbols need to be bigger. However, some of the symbols don't scale up well. If you scale up that page, the integral symbols look great, but the arrows become pixilated. Some of the symbols seem to have been were badly encoded.

    This is just a raw demonstration of the font; for formulas, you'd use MathML. I'm not sure if MathML, the W3C names for math characters in HTML, and the STIX fonts are all synchronized yet. But at least you don't have to tell people "to display this page, install all these fonts first."

    • Gack! Some of those look awful. . .

    • by molo (94384)

      I tried looking at this page in FF3.6, Chrome 5, Opera 10, and IE 8. It looks like only Chrome 5 displays the appropriate font. The others look like standard windows unicode font. None of them displayed the arrows.

      -molo

  • If I named functions and variables the way scientists and mathematicians seem to be so keen on, I'd be fired. every last one of them is a single character name. Why is this allowed to go on!?

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