From MorphOS Library


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Fonts and Browsers

by DoctorMorbiusFP

Birth Of A Tutorial

The early ideas concerning this article arose when I decided to replicate on Amiga browsers an useful feature of Firefox. Assume that, surfing the web, you reach a page where current fonts are so small or so big that you cannot read the HTML page in a convenient way. With Firefox you can press and hold the <CTRL> key and turn the mousewheel (or press a number of times the <+> or <-> keys): these actions enlarge/decrease all the fonts in a proportional way, until font sizes are optimized for your sight (<CTRL><0> resets the default sizes). The concept behind this feature requires that three conditions are satisfied:

  1. The browser should be properly configured for using efficiently all the available fonts.
  2. The OS should be able to support vector fonts at their full potential.
  3. Suitable vector fonts (TrueType fonts) should be available and installed.

These conditions usually are not completely satisfied in Amiga-like environments:

  1. Amiga browsers are not up-to-date and are provided with very poor font configurations. These browsers should be properly configured by the user, otherwise they are not able to use fonts at their best. Unfortunately, most people does not know the procedure for setting font management of their browsers in the correct way.
  2. AmigaOS 3.x never supported natively TrueType fonts. MorphOS has such a support, but new TrueType fonts become usable only after their installation, and most people does not know in which way this may be done on their Pegasos.
  3. MorphOS provides some preinstalled TrueType fonts, and these could also be suitable for a browser. However, an optimal display of web pages requires the so-called webfonts, but most people either ignore their existence or does not know where they can be obtained legally and for free.

In this article I will try to address all these issues.

The above-mentioned hotkey feature of Firefox is now available for AWeb by inserting an ARexx program in the Plugins directory and creating new buttons in the GUI. The pictures reported below in the Examples subsection will show you explicitly what is possible to do with this plugin. Actually you gain much more than what is shown, because all the special settings available in the font preference window of Firefox are cloned within the plugin and become usable in AWeb. Complete details are available in the section AWeb Enhancement.

I also provide a solution for the browser problem mentioned in the previous item 1. The Amiga Browsers section of this article explains a few basic properties of HTML font management and the minimal approach required for optimising the behaviour of any Amiga browser. Furthermore, the Cloning Firefox Webfonts section describes extensively more advanced ways for optimisation, based on manual insertion of webfonts in the settings of any Amiga browser. Again, AWeb users are privileged because all these optimisations and settings are automatically made by a suitable ARexx configuration program.

Well, I created my ARexx programs first for AWeb because it is my preferred browser: I was lucky and had success. Unfortunately I cannot provide similar programs for IBrowse or Voyager, because I had technical problems with these programs (complete details on this failure are given in the last paragraph of this subsection).

You can set the webfonts in your browser, but of course they will be used only if the relevant TrueType fonts are installed in your system. The installation of TrueType fonts was originally described in an article available for classic Amigas and ttf.library. Since no similar tutorials existed for MorphOS and its freetype.library and ft2.library, I decided that another section of this article should be dedicated to this subject: Installation Of TrueType Fonts. There, I explain the basic installation procedure of these fonts on Pegasos/MorphOS for pedestrians. So even the previous item 2 is solved.

After I wrote this section, I thought that unskilled people maybe want to understand what features are relevant for optimal use of generic fonts (possibly even in wordprocessors and DTP programs). This requires the knowledge of a few basic typographical properties of bitmap fonts and vector fonts. So I feel forced to write another section on this subject, The Nature Of Fonts, where also the history of webfonts is described, as well as the place where webfonts are still freely available in a perfectly legal way. This provides a solution for the problem mentioned in the previous item 3.

In conclusion, if you look at the contents displayed on the left side of this web page, you will see that this tutorial was written from the end to the beginning. I hope that, reading it in the forward direction, you will find it at least as useful as it seemed to my backward-oriented mind...


Maybe a few example pictures will be more claryfying than all the words above.

This is a Firefox window grabbed on a PC.
This is a window of AWeb running out of the box (just after extraction from an old MAX distribution archive) with its default fonts. The HTML source is the same as above!
And this is a window of AWeb after Dr. Morbius' cure described in this article. Please compare with the previous Firefox window...
Of course, the same cure also works with IBrowse...

...and Voyager.

Below you can see AWeb and its new exclusive dynamic management of font sizes.
These fonts can be obtained by those of the former AWeb picture, on the fly, if the user clicks one time on the Enlarge button visible in the AWeb GUI. Further clicks give further size increases.
These fonts can be obtained by clicking on the HugeFonts button visible in the AWeb GUI. This set of maximal sizes may also be reached by clicking enough times on the Enlarge button described above.
Smaller fonts can be obtained, on the fly, if the user clicks one time on the Reduce button visible in the AWeb GUI. Further clicks give further size decreases, until the minimal set of sizes is reached. This set of minimal sizes, shown in the figure, can be reached directly by clicking on the TinyFonts button.