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After 14 Years of Cantarell, GNOME is Testing a New Default Font

When GNOME 47 is released later this year it may come with a new desktop font.

Well, not new new, so don’t get too excited. We’re talking new to GNOME, not new to the world.

GNOME’s design team is exploring a switch to Inter, a popular open-source sans-serif typeface first published in 2017 by Swedish programmer Rasmus Andersson. Inter pitches itself as a “carefully crafted & designed” font for computer screens.

Yet its use has extended well beyond that.

Inter’s legibility, variability, and adaptability, multiple weights, OpenType features, and glyph coverage across 147 languages have seen it used on everything from website text, and brand logos, to NASA tools, and even medical equipment.

The fact this font is purposely designed for use in computer user interfaces (where a large x-height helps), Inter feels like a fine fit for the GNOME desktop.

Why is GNOME changing font?

Cantarell and Inter (latter font size TBD)

Presently, the GNOME desktop uses Cantarell—which my mind always misreads as Canderel, much to my amusement—as its default font, and has done since (IIRC) 2010 or so.

Cantarell is a competent, legible typeface that, to my eye, looks good as-is. It’s a key plank in GNOME’s visual branding.

Not familiar with Cantarell? Not a surprise; not all distros which ship GNOME Shell use it. Ubuntu sets the Ubuntu font as its UI typeface, Pop!_OS uses Fira Sans, and so on. Fedora Workstation does use Cantarell, though.

So what’s prompted a change?

GNOME Foundation member Cassidy James Blaede, in an initiative ticket proposing (and now partly tracking) the change, explains it thus: –

“Cantarell has served us well, but we’ve been wondering if it would be more beneficial to default to a more modern and well-maintained typeface, especially one that is actively developed to support new font features as they are developed“.

“Inter fits this bill and is viewed favorably by some folks on the [GNOME] design team.”

The other side to the move is maintenance.

Cantarell, tried-and-tested though it is, is said to be “basically unmaintained”. The popularity and open-source nature of Inter has led to a vibrant community growing up around it, filing issues, proposing changes, and contributing code.

It’s not simply maintained, it’s passionately maintained, with stakeholders and expertise pouring in from diverse sectors — a compelling lure when it comes to reliability, maintenance, language support, and so on.

It’s an interesting change, and the rationale is solid: as we’ve seen with many popular fonts, be it the Ubuntu font, or Microsoft’s code-focused Cascadia monospace typeface, the needs, asks, and requirements of typefaces changes and evolves.

Try it Out Yourself

If you fancy trying it out yourself you don’t need to wait until GNOME 47. You can download the Inter font from the official website (don’t get it from Google Fonts as that version is outdated). Then install it, and use GNOME Tweaks to set Inter as the default for GNOME Shell.

Do make a note of what your distro uses as its default font (and the font size) before making a change — taking a screenshot is handy for this.

GNOME developers are still experimenting with different font sizes, weights, etc so it’s too early to know exactly how (assuming if they do switch, ofc) Inter will look in-situ, but a font size of ’11’ is a good way to get an early gauge on how things could look.

But to be clear: this is not a done deal. Although code committed upstream in GNOME’s development branch makes the switch to Inter, that is to enable testing. GNOME is prepared to revert back to Cantarell should testing suggest the switch isn’t up to scratch.

Let me know what you think in the comments.

The post After 14 Years of Cantarell, GNOME is Testing a New Default Font is from OMG! Linux and reproduction without permission is, like, a nope.

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Source: OMG! Linux

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