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C.7 Font Specification Options

By default, Emacs displays text in a twelve point Courier font (when using X). You can specify a different font on your command line through the option ‘-fn name’ (or ‘--font’, which is an alias for ‘-fn’).

-fn name
--font=name

Use font name as the default font.

Under X, each font has a long name which consists of fourteen words or numbers, separated by dashes. Some fonts also have shorter nicknames. For instance, ‘9x15’ is such a nickname. This font makes each character nine pixels wide and fifteen pixels high. You can use either kind of name. Case is insignificant in both kinds. You can use wildcard patterns for the font name; then Emacs lets X choose one of the fonts that match the pattern. The wildcard character ‘*’ matches any sequence of characters (including none) and ‘?’ matches any single character. However, matching is implementation-dependent, and can be inaccurate when wildcards match dashes in a long name. For reliable results, supply all 14 dashes and use wildcards only within a field. Here is an example, which happens to specify the font whose nickname is ‘6x13’:

 
emacs -fn \
  "-misc-fixed-medium-r-semicondensed--13-*-*-*-c-60-iso8859-1" &

You can also specify the font in your ‘.Xdefaults’ file:

 
emacs.font: -misc-fixed-medium-r-semicondensed--13-*-*-*-c-60-iso8859-1

Note that if you use a wildcard pattern on the command line, you need to enclose it in single or double quotes, to prevent the shell from accidentally expanding it into a list of file names. On the other hand, you should not quote the name in the ‘.Xdefaults’ file.

The default font used by Emacs (under X) is:

 
-adobe-courier-medium-r-*-*-*-120-*-*-*-*-iso8859-1

A long font name has the following form:

 
-maker-family-weight-slant-widthtype-style…
…-pixels-height-horiz-vert-spacing-width-registry-encoding
maker

This is the name of the font manufacturer.

family

This is the name of the font family—for example, ‘courier’.

weight

This is normally ‘bold’, ‘medium’ or ‘light’. Other words may appear here in some font names.

slant

This is ‘r’ (roman), ‘i’ (italic), ‘o’ (oblique), ‘ri’ (reverse italic), or ‘ot’ (other).

widthtype

This is normally ‘condensed’, ‘extended’, ‘semicondensed’ or ‘normal’. Other words may appear here in some font names.

style

This is an optional additional style name. Usually it is empty—most long font names have two hyphens in a row at this point.

pixels

This is the font height, in pixels.

height

This is the font height on the screen, measured in tenths of a printer's point—approximately 1/720 of an inch. In other words, it is the point size of the font, times ten. For a given vertical resolution, height and pixels are proportional; therefore, it is common to specify just one of them and use ‘*’ for the other.

horiz

This is the horizontal resolution, in pixels per inch, of the screen for which the font is intended.

vert

This is the vertical resolution, in pixels per inch, of the screen for which the font is intended. Normally the resolution of the fonts on your system is the right value for your screen; therefore, you normally specify ‘*’ for this and horiz.

spacing

This is ‘m’ (monospace), ‘p’ (proportional) or ‘c’ (character cell).

width

This is the average character width, in pixels, multiplied by ten.

registry
encoding

These together make up the X font character set that the font depicts. (X font character sets are not the same as Emacs charsets, but they are solutions for the same problem.) You can use the xfontsel program to check which choices you have. However, normally you should use ‘iso8859’ for registry and ‘1’ for encoding.

You will probably want to use a fixed-width default font—that is, a font in which all characters have the same width. Any font with ‘m’ or ‘c’ in the spacing field of the long name is a fixed-width font. Here's how to use the xlsfonts program to list all the fixed-width fonts available on your system:

 
xlsfonts -fn '*x*' | egrep "^[0-9]+x[0-9]+"
xlsfonts -fn '*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-m*'
xlsfonts -fn '*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-*-c*'

To see what a particular font looks like, use the xfd command. For example:

 
xfd -fn 6x13

displays the entire font ‘6x13’.

While running Emacs, you can set the font of the current frame (see section Setting Frame Parameters) or for a specific kind of text (see section Using Multiple Typefaces).


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