The new design is great, but the font is really killing me. Here's why:

Uneven kerning and spacing

Have a look at this title. The space between n and e in uneven, r and n in kerning, a and c in spacing are all wrong! There are a lot of other examples, but a font like this just isn't conducive to reading. If you want more, have a look at the headers for each category of applications in this question.

See also: http://ilovetypography.com/2007/09/15/type-torture-kerning/

The f and t characters are badly designed

Words with t and f in them look really weird. For instance, Firefox looks like it might actually be two words when bold. The main problem is with the way the ascenders are designed. Suffice to say it'll only look good on headers

Bold text is larger than non-bold text

Really, it makes any string of text that is bold look out of line. The x-height difference is jarring enough, but the letter spacing is even worse.

The Ubuntu font is a display font

And isn't suitable for long paragraphs of text.

Proposed solution

is simple. This font can be used everywhere - even at small sizes, small doses can still look good. For example, the user info box that appears with every post. However, for large block of text, (I'm thinking stuff in .post-text mainly), can we please stick to something more conventional? The Bitstream Vera family is a good choice, as is the Liberation and the Nimbus Sans family. You'd want to keep the usual Arial/Helvetica last, since it's Ubuntu we're talking about here.


I have removed font-face, using font-family: "Ubuntu Beta",UbuntuBeta,Ubuntu,"Bitstream Vera Sans","DejaVu Sans",Tahoma,sans-serif; instead. The fix will be in the next deployment.

  • 1
    Perhaps little bit (+20%?) of <em>leading</em> (increased line-spacing) would help; which would open the text up slightly and reduce the density. – sladen Jul 1 '11 at 16:00

The font is designed for screen use and it is intended to be used on all Ubuntu websites. The font has been spaced, kerned and hinted, so if you see any problems, please report the bug for the font itself (as per badp's answer).


Please report the bugs with the font on Launchpad. I'm against using anything else than the Ubuntu font on AskUbuntu.com however, considered that on 10.10 the font is used basically everywhere.

  • 2
    Hmmm... I did some digging, and I think the main problem here is that the bold version of the font isn't included correctly. The version on Lauchpad doesn't have the problems I described, so it's not a problem with the font itself. Additionally, they are using the fontsquirrel.com kit, which ignores any local version in favor of the one stored on the server, which is annoying because using the local version should stop the Flash of Unstyled Text problem from occurring. – Yi Jiang Oct 10 '10 at 8:36
  • @YiJ, maybe you should edit the solution part of your answer then :) – badp Oct 10 '10 at 11:04
  • @Jin if the bold version wasn't included, it will look horrible, as the browser is interpolating the regular to "make up" for the lack of bold glyphs. – Mat Tomaszewski Oct 11 '10 at 15:57

Yi Jiang: It's wonderful to meet other people that also care about presentation. I'll try to respond to your points; I'm sorry that it has taken so long because I missed the separate report on meta rather than the main askubuntu.com site itself.

"Uneven kerning and spacing"

How a particular "title" looks depends on the text in the title, and the configuration and machine that it is being viewed upon. The only way to know what you're definitely seeing is if you can share a screenshot. The Ubuntu Font Family is carefully kerned, with both negative and positive kerning used between many pairs. Currently there ~5,000+ kern-pairs, per weight:

$ for f in /usr/share/fonts/truetype/ubuntu-font-family/Ubuntu-*.ttf ; do\
    basename $f | tr \\n \\t ; showttf $f | awk '/npairs/{print$1}' ; done
Ubuntu-L.ttf    npairs=4987
Ubuntu-LI.ttf   npairs=5957
Ubuntu-R.ttf    npairs=5264
Ubuntu-RI.ttf   npairs=6055
Ubuntu-M.ttf    npairs=5527
Ubuntu-MI.ttf   npairs=5697
Ubuntu-B.ttf    npairs=6752
Ubuntu-BI.ttf   npairs=8366

Having said that, not everything is perfect. Please file a bug report along with a screenshot if you spot something that's still not ideal yet:

The most likely answer though is just that the browsers aren't using kerning by default

"The f and t characters are badly designed"

Again, it's only really possible to know what you're seeing with a screenshot. It could be many things; stylistic familiarity is a possibility in that the 't' and 'f' do not feature full crossbars except in the Ubuntu Mono. The artefacts that you're seeing could also be from synthesis, hinting, or substitution. (For example, it could be a completely different font you're looking at, or an early alpha version of something still in ~/.fonts).

"Bold text is larger than non-bold text"

Yes, bold text is wider. There is a 7% difference in the average width between Regular and Bold:

$ for f in /usr/share/fonts/truetype/ubuntu-font-family/Ubuntu-*.ttf ; do\
  basename $f | tr \\n \\t ; showttf $f | awk '/avgWidth/{print$1}' ;\
  done | sort -t= -nk2
Ubuntu-LI.ttf   avgWidth=562
Ubuntu-RI.ttf   avgWidth=584
Ubuntu-L.ttf    avgWidth=589
Ubuntu-R.ttf    avgWidth=602
Ubuntu-MI.ttf   avgWidth=605
Ubuntu-M.ttf    avgWidth=614
Ubuntu-BI.ttf   avgWidth=634
Ubuntu-B.ttf    avgWidth=643

There is also a slight variance in xHeight between the weights (517, 520, 523, 526) although I'm puzzled how 6/1,000s between Regular and Bold is going to be jarring, unless autohinting is in use and one amount gets rounded up, whilst the other gets rounded down. Again, a screenshot would be helpful in trying to understand what you're seeing.

"The Ubuntu font is a display font"

Not really. The previous Ubuntu-Title font used for the Ubuntu logotype was definitely a display font; where-as members of the Ubuntu Font Family have (so-far) been designed for on-screen or print use. It's possible that in the future there might be members of the family targeted for other uses (perhaps an "Ubuntu Thin").

"And isn't suitable for long paragraphs of text."

Have you tried Ubuntu Light; do you find that more suited to your eyes in long-runs of text?

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