Using bitmapped fonts (like artwiz) in Debian

January 4, 2016

I understand little of the complexity surrounding fonts in Debian (and most other Linux distributions). But I do know that to get the artwiz fonts (or other bitmapped fonts) properly installed has been challenging as the procedures to install fonts occasionally changed, and good documentation is hard to find. In 2008 I explained how to install the artwiz fonts in Ubuntu Hardy, but those guidelines have not worked for many years.

Which is a shame, because the artwiz fonts are wonderfully minimalistic. Here are a few examples:


I had given up on installing these fonts a long time ago, but recently decided to give this another try. After a good amount of searching, I found a way that seems to work, at least on this system, running Debian Testing. I suppose that this should work also on Ubuntu, Linux Mint, or other Debian derivatives (please confirm this in the comments, if this is indeed the case!).

Here is what you have to do. First, download the artwiz fonts. (There are also version that support characters used in German and Swedish here; if you download those files, change the commands below where necessary.)

Unpack the bz2 archive:

tar xvjf artwiz-aleczapka-en-1.3.tar.bz2

Move into the new directory:

cd artwiz-aleczapka-en-1.3

Inside that directory you have all the .pcf font files. Before, those were the files that you would use, but apparently Debian no longer recognises .pcf font files, only .pcf.gz files. Therefore, you have to archive these with the following command:

gzip *.pcf

Now copy the entire artwiz-aleczapka-en-1.3 directory to /usr/share/fonts/X11/misc, with root privileges. If you use Ubuntu, add sudo before each command, as Ubuntu does not use root (su).

mv artwiz-aleczapka-en-1.3 /usr/share/fonts/X11/misc

Move into that last directory, and create an index of the font files that X will be able to use, still with root privileges:

cd /usr/share/fonts/X11/misc

By default Debian disables bitmapped fonts. Check whether there is a link to a file called 70-no-bitmaps.conf in /etc/fonts/conf.d/ directory. If there is, delete it.

Renew your font cache, as root (su or sudo):
fc-cache -f -v

Then enable the use of bitmapped fonts, as root:

dpkg-reconfigure fontconfig-config

You will be asked to answer three questions. These are the choices I selected:




Then reconfigure your fontconfig settings, also as root:

dpkg-reconfigure fontconfig

Then, add the following line to ~/.xprofile (or ~/.xinitrc if you use startx), so you can use the fonts in X applications (like xterm, and xfontsel, but also dmenu):

xset fp+ "/usr/share/fonts/X11/misc/artwiz-aleczapka-en-1.3/" &

(According to this post from 2013, you should also be able to add this to /usr/share/X11/xorg.conf.d/, but that did not work for me.)

Once all this is done, you should be able to use the artwiz fonts in any X application. To prove that this does indeed work, here is a screenshot of xfontsel, selecting the nu font, and using nu as the font in Openbox.


To use these fonts in conky, I use ${font nu:size=7} in .conkyrc just before the command or text conky should display. Thus, ${font nu:size=7}${time %H:%M} gives the following:



4 Responses to “Using bitmapped fonts (like artwiz) in Debian”

  1. ondoho said

    To use these fonts in conky…
    once they show up in xfontsel, you can use “use_xft no” and specify the font in the format provided by xfontsel.
    lighter on resources.

  2. kingbeetle66 said

    Great tutorial! I can’t even begin to imagine the trial and error it took to set all those steps and all that syntax correct.
    Note that for Debian Jessie, the “xset” command needs to go in ~/.xsessionrc instead of ~/.xprofile or ~/.xinitrc.

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