Pango Dropping Support For Bitmap Fonts Is Frustrating Some Linux Desktop Users

Written by Michael Larabel in Desktop on 29 October 2019 at 10:26 PM EDT. 43 Comments
Cleaning up of the Pango layout engine library as some much needed housekeeping by GNOME developers resulted in shifting to the Harfbuzz library for font loading. That quietly meant dropping support for bitmap fonts from Pango, which is now reaching Linux desktop users when upgrading to the Pango 1.44 stable release.

Some Linux desktop users are being surprised when their Pango-using applications are no longer loading their bitmap fonts but just showing square blocks or similar artifacts instead. Pango, of course, is the layout engine used by GTK and Qt among other desktop software.

Due to the modernization with Harfbuzz usage, loading of most bitmap fonts was lost. But it turns out there still are many users of bitmap fonts out there due to the speed, 1:1 output of the fonts, and better quality when displaying on older/smaller panels. So there has been this GNOME Pango issue/ticket over the bitmap font removal.

Pango developers don't plan to restore the support or implement it within Harfbuzz. One developer, Khaled Hosny, recommended users replace their monitors if necessary, "If non-bitmap fonts are destroying my sight, then I’d fork some cash and get myself a high-dpi screen not whine here about people not doing work for me. I do value my eye sight after all."

There is a workaround to convert older bitmap fonts into a compatible format, but that's not working out for at least some users/fonts (OpenType). But that thread has resulted in some improvements like ensuring Pango doesn't list unsupported fonts and better fallback handling.

So, for now, if you do rely upon bitmap fonts you have been forewarned before upgrading Pango.
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Michael Larabel is the principal author of and founded the site in 2004 with a focus on enriching the Linux hardware experience. Michael has written more than 20,000 articles covering the state of Linux hardware support, Linux performance, graphics drivers, and other topics. Michael is also the lead developer of the Phoronix Test Suite, Phoromatic, and automated benchmarking software. He can be followed via Twitter, LinkedIn, or contacted via

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