Designing a Better Font Selection Widget for use in Open Source Software

Hi, everyone,

This message is an open letter to:

 - Gnome Desktop developers
 - KDE Desktop developers
 - developers
 - Gimp developers
 - Inkscape developers

... regarding a proposal for an improved font selection drop-down
widget that would be ideal for use in professional-quality Open Source 
word processing, desktop publishing, and graphic design programs
such as, Gimp, Inkscape, and similar

The proposal suggests a design that is particularly 
applicable where users require a streamlined and intuitive interface
for selecting multiple fonts from large font collections present on
the user's machine.  The proposal also attempts to fully address 
aspects of internationalization related to font selection
that I believe have been largely overlooked until now.  Finally,
the proposal suggests using a common XML configuration file which
for storing font collection information.

To see the full proposal, please see:

The rest of this email provides a synopsis of the proposal.


Although important Open Source desktop software has advanced 
rapidly in the last few years and now easily rivals and in many
cases surpasses commercial equivalents in terms of functionality 
and ease of use, the font selection drop-down widgets and font
selection dialog boxes in many programs still lack a number of
important features.  (This is also true among commercial software
too, but that is not our concern here).

First, many programs do not provide adequate font previews
at the stage where the user is choosing from a 
(now-a-days usually very long) drop-down list
of available fonts.  Even when font previews are provided, they
are often limited to a preview of Latin glyphs and thus provide
no information about the appearance of non-Latin glyphs for, say,
Chinese, Thai, or Arabic users trying to pick fonts for their language.  

Secondly, a very long list of alphabetically-sorted font names
is not ideal.  Fonts need to be organized and presented to the 
user in logical groups, as is done in Apple OS X (where they are
called "collections").  
These groups can and should be both system-defined
and user-defined.  System-defined groups would include font categories
like "Sans", "Serif", "Monospace", "Recently Used", and "Chinese".  User-defined
groups might include categories like "Script", "Black Letter", "Funky", or
"Fonts for the new company brochure".

The proposal at
addresses how these goals can be met.  Implementation of the proposed
font selection widget at the GUI toolkit level (i.e., in GTK+ and in KDE)
along with an XML-based configuration scheme standardized across 
toolkits and desktops would do much to help create a more intuitive and 
more uniform user experience on Linux and related Open Source platforms.

I welcome the community's suggestions and criticisms --

-- Ed Trager
   maintainer of "Unicode Font Guide For Free/Libre Open Source Operating Systems"

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