Fonts in LaTeX, Part Two: pdfTeX and OpenType

In part one of the tutorial, I commented that sometimes you would want to use pdfTeX and pdfLaTeX instead of XeTeX and XeLaTeX. One reason to consider using pdfTeX over XeTeX is that the latter does not yet support the same microtypographic features. When you are preparing slides, pdfTeX's microtypographic features probably will not have much of an impact on your output, but I've definitely found that while preparing articles and my dissertation, using pdfTeX's microtypographic features produces much nicer looking output with fewer bad breaks or hyphenations.

However, pdfTeX's architecture for handling fonts is much more like standard TeX and is far more complicated that XeTeX's. One option is to use a tool to do all the work for you.  For example, you could use the fontinst utility or my own tool, otftofd.  The other option is to do it all by hand, which is what I will explain in this tutorial.

One of the first complications you'll encounter with pdfTeX is that the font that is active at a given time can only refer to 256 glyphs at a time. Therefore if you need to use more than 256 different glyphs in a document, you will need to switch between multiple "fonts".

The first step in using a font in pdfTeX is picking an encoding. Since most OpenType fonts contain more than 256 glyphs, an encoding provides a mapping from those glyphs to the 256 that you can reference at a given time in pdfTeX.

For the most part I generally just use what is called the T1 or "Cork" encoding. However, if we want to replicate the example from the first part of the tutorial, we will need to make a custom encoding to access the Greek glyphs. So, first use kpsewhich to find where your system keeps cork.enc, and make a copy:

% kpsewhich cork.enc
% cp /local/texlive/2007/texmf-dist/fonts/enc/dvips/base/cork.enc ./custom.enc

Open custom.enc in you favorite editor, and go to the end. Assuming you are using the same version of TeX Live as me, the last few lines will look something like:

/oslash /ugrave /uacute /ucircumflex /udieresis /yacute /thorn /germandbls
] def

You will want to edit it to look like:

/tau /epsilon /chi /ucircumflex /udieresis /yacute /thorn /germandbls
] def

What we have done is changed the encoding so that glyphs 0xf8, 0xf9, 0xfa (in hexadecimal) now point to τ, ε, and χ. The general format of entries in the encoding file is / followed by a name. In the case that the software doesn't understand a name that you think it should, you can always specify the gylph using its Unicode hexadecimal name prefixed with /uni. For example, we could have changed the encoding as followings:

/uni03c4 /uni03b5 /uni03c7 /ucircumflex /udieresis /yacute /thorn /germandbls
] def

A complete list of glyph names can be obtained from Adobe's website.  You can learn more about the encoding file format from the dvips documentation, though the eagle-eye may have noticed that actually a subset of PostScript itself.

Next, we need to create a file to tell LaTeX about our new encoding, which we will call U for "user-defined". Create a file in the current directory called uenc.def and put the following in it:

  2. \ProvidesFile{uenc.def}
  3. \DeclareFontEncoding{U}{}{}

As it says, it is defining a new font encoding called "U".

Now that we have an encoding, we need to generate font metrics that pdfTeX can understand, and a mapping file to tell it how to map font names to encodings and actual font files. Additionally, pdfTeX (at least last I checked) cannot handle OpenType fonts that contain PostScript rather than TrueType font outlines. So we also need to convert our OpenType font, Pagella, to Type1 format. Fortunately, Eddie Kohler's excellent tool otftotfm will do most that for us. Again, it is included with TeX Live. We invoke it on the font we wish to use, with the encoding we have created, and redirect the output to a file called

% otftotfm -e custom.enc texgyrepagella-regular.otf >
otftotfm: ./custom.enc:19: warning: 'space' has no encoding, ignoring ligature
otftotfm: ./custom.enc:19: warning: 'space' has no encoding, ignoring ligature
otftotfm: ./custom.enc:30: warning: 'space' has no encoding, ignoring '{}'
otftotfm: ./custom.enc:30: warning: 'space' has no encoding, ignoring '{}'
I had to round some heights by 13.0000000 units.
I had to round some depths by 3.0000000 units.
I had to round some heights by 13.0000000 units.
I had to round some depths by 3.0000000 units.

Don't be concerned about the warnings. The first few are just complaints because there is no "space" gylph, which is not used by TeX. The rounding warnings occur, I assume, because PostScript metrics differ very slightly from TeX's internal representation of size metrics. An otftotfm unit is about one thousandth of an em.

We now have have several new files in the current directory:


The pfb file is the PostScript Type 1 version of our original OpenType font, the file is used to tell pdfTeX how to map a font name to files, the two tfm provide the font metric information TeX needs to format text, the vf file is a "virtual font" file that depending on the options you gave to otftotfm may perform some operations on the basic glyphs, and the file a_qnnnfc.enc is an encoding otftotfm generated based upon the encoding we supplied it. Depending on the options, otftotfm may try to include some additional glyphs to deal with ligatures or in the case that a glyph in the encoding we specified doesn't exist in the font, it will replace its entry with /.notdef, etc.

Next we want to take a peek inside of It's contents will look something like the following:

TeXGyrePagella-Regular--custom--base TeXGyrePagella-Regular "AutoEnc_qnnnfca3qut7llkesqq3eddyzc ReEncodeFont" <[a_qnnnfc.enc

You can get away without understanding the structure of the map file, but we need know the name LaTeX should use to refer to the font. In this case it is the somewhat lengthy TeXGyrePagella-Regular--custom--base. We could edit to give it a different name, but then we would need to make sure to rename the tfm files appropriately. So we'll just leave it alone.

At this point we are ready to describe the font to LaTeX. To to this we'll create a file called UPagella.fd where fd stands for "font definition". Assuming you are using TeX Live, you can learn more about the format of font definition files by running: texdoc fntguide, which will bring up the LATEX 2ε font selection document. Put the following into UPagella.fd:

  2. \ProvidesFile{UPagella.fd}
  3. \DeclareFontFamily{U}{Pagella}{}
  4. \DeclareFontShape{U}{Pagella}{m}{n}{ <-> TeXGyrePagella-Regular--custom--base }{}
  6. \DeclareUnicodeCharacter{03C4}{\char"F8}
  7. \DeclareUnicodeCharacter{03B5}{\char"F9}
  8. \DeclareUnicodeCharacter{03C7}{\char"FA}

The second line declares for the font encoding U, a font family named Pagella. The third line defines an available shape for the Pagella family. It has a medium weight (m) and normal/upright (n), and for all sizes (<->) the font named TeXGyrePagella-Regular--custom--base should be used. The three \DeclareUnicodeCharacter lines map the Unicode glyphs for τ, ε, and χ to their locations in the encoding we defined. Note that the hexadecimal numbers must all be in uppercase for LaTeX to parse them correctly.

Now we are all set to revisit our original example. In test.tex enter:

  2. \documentclass{article}
  3. \usepackage[utf8]{inputenc}
  4. \usepackage[U]{fontenc}
  5. \pdfmapfile{}
  6. \renewcommand{\rmdefault}{Pagella}
  8. \begin{document}
  9. Testing pdfLaTeX!
  11. Greek: τεχ.
  12. \end{document}

The second line here tells LaTeX to load the inputenc package and pass it the option utf8 to tell it to parse the remainder of the input as UTF8 encoded text. The third line tells LaTeX to load the fontenc package and pass it the option U telling it to set the default encoding to be U. The fourth line is specific to pdfTeX and tells it to add to its internal mapping the definitions in Finally, \renewcommand is used to change the default serif (Roman, rm) font to be Pagella.

We can now go ahead and run pdflatex:

% pdflatex test.tex
This is pdfTeXk, Version 3.141592-1.40.3 (Web2C 7.5.6)
 %&-line parsing enabled.
entering extended mode
(./test.aux) (./upagella.fd) [1] (./test.aux) ){a_qnnnfc.enc}<./TeXGyrePagella-
Output written on test.pdf (1 page, 22850 bytes).
Transcript written on test.log.

Again, we now get a PDF with the desired output:
pdfLaTeX test

That concludes the second part of the tutorial. The third, and probably final, part of the tutorial will cover what needs to change in the above process if you would like to use a TrueType font rather than an OpenType font containing PostScript outline data.

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Fonts in LaTeX, Part One: XeLaTeX

Now and then I get asked about how to use some TrueType or OpenType font with LaTeX, so I figured I would take the time to write up some simple tutorials on how to do so. The first part will focus on the easiest route to making use of TrueType and OpenType fonts in LaTeX: XeTeX and XeLaTeX.

XeLaTeX also has the advantage of not only giving easy access to modern fonts, but also accepting Unicode input files.

The first thing you need to do is find out if you have XeLaTeX installed, and if it is a sufficiently up to date version. This is easiest to do from the command-line:

% xelatex
This is XeTeXk, Version 3.141592-2.2-0.996 (Web2C 7.5.6)
%&-line parsing enabled.

This is the version that I am using for the tutorial, and is what comes with TeX Live 2007. I highly recommend just installing and using the entire TeX Live CD/DVD, even if you're using a Linux system that offers TeX Live packages, because, in particular for Debian/Ubuntu, I've found that the default installation often doesn't install some important packages, and it can be a pain sort through all the available packages using Synaptics or whatnot to find what it didn't install.

I am also assuming that you are using a (modern) Unix or MacOS X system. I assume that most of this material should also apply when using Windows, but if someone can comment, let me know.

Now, as an example, say you want to use the Pagella font from the TeX Gyre project. First download them and install the fonts (the otf files) as you normally would on your computer. Under MacOS X, this means using Font Book. If you double-click on an otf file it will load Font Book for you and there will be dialog with a button to install the font. If you load Font Book yourself, you can use the "Add Fonts..." menu item under the File menu to select the files. Under a modern Unix, I would recommend just placing the otf files in your ~/.fonts folder, though I think file managers like Nautilus also understand how to install fonts.

And that was all the installation work necessary; as I said, XeLaTeX is the easiest solution unless you have specialized needs. Now just create a small LaTeX document:

  2. \documentclass{article}
  3. \usepackage{fontspec}
  4. \setromanfont{TeX Gyre Pagella}
  5. \begin{document}
  6. Testing XeLaTeX!
  8. Greek: τεχ.
  9. \end{document}

The fontspec package isn't necessary, but it makes dealing with fonts in XeLaTeX much easier, for example it defines the convenient \setromanfont command. You can learn more about all of its great features from its beautifully formatted manual.

The other thing you might need to know is what XeLaTeX thinks your font is called. If you're using TeX Live, like I suggest, you will have the program otfinfo at your disposal that can do that for you:

% otfinfo --family texgyrepagella-regular.otf
TeX Gyre Pagella

Note that despite its name, otfinfo will also work on ttf files, assuming that they include OpenType data in them. The other option is to use Font Book on MacOS X or fc-list from the command-line in Unix.

Now you just run xelatex:

% xelatex test.tex
This is XeTeXk, Version 3.141592-2.2-0.996 (Web2C 7.5.6)
%&-line parsing enabled.
entering extended mode
Output written on test.pdf (1 page).
Transcript written on test.log.

And you have your document:

XeLaTeX test

I think that is about everything you need to know, but if you try this tutorial out and find that something doesn't work, let me know.  If you have more specialized or demanding typographical needs, you may want to use pdfTeX and pdfLaTeX, and part two of the tutorial will explain how to do the necessary configuration to use TrueType and OpenType fonts with them.

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