Cantarell is the default font in Fedora Workstation. It comes courtesy of the GNOME desktop community, which designed and chose Cantarell. Recently the maintainers of Canatrell have done a great deal of work on the typeface to improve readability and appearance. There are now two maintainers, Jakub Steiner and Nikolaus Waxweiler, who both contribute to the GNOME desktop environment as well as Cantarell. Here’s a sample of the typeface:

A little sample.

A little sample.

These improvements will be shipped with Fedora 24, which is scheduled for final release in June.

What happened to Cantarell?

We talked a bit with the maintainers to get some more information. According to Steiner, maintenance of the Cantarell font had become quite stagnant. This lack was especially apparent when it comes to font hinting.

Cantarell hinting work.

Cantarell hinting work.

Hinting is a process that helps make a font more readable. Hinting requires precision when modifying a typeface. The developer must make use of zones that affect how the font is adjusted at different sizes. When a font is correctly designed, these zones match your font type and make it look clear and readable. To achieve this result, the design must be consistent and regular.

For instance, the horizontal zones defined in a font (see the image above) are called “blue zones.” If the lines of your typeface go outside of the blue zones, the hinting algorithm simply ignores them. This results in odd or inconsistent type appearance at different resolution or letter sizes.

Waxweiler found that Cantarell was in a somewhat poor state, with inconsistent diacritics and clunky appearance at some common resolutions.

Many fonts, one system.

Many fonts, one system.

Waxweiler set about cleaning up the Cantarell font, fixing for example the blue zones to achieve a more harmonious look. He also addressed a number of issues concerning Cyrillic. In addition, Cantarell now has all its diacritics and accented glyphs fixed in the font. Central European users who make use of these marks will have an improved experience and see characters correctly now.

Will I see the difference?

The new version of Cantarell is already available in Fedora 24. The adjustments in the new release provide a more pleasant default experience for Fedora users.

What if you’ve changed your font settings, for instance with the GNOME Tweak Tool? If you upgrade to Fedora 24, the Cantarell font will still be upgraded. But its appearance is subject to your font settings, which are correctly retained when you upgrade.

You can restore these settings to their defaults using the Tweak Tool, or you can use these commands in a terminal:

gsettings reset org.gnome.desktop.interface font-name
gsettings reset org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.xsettings antialiasing
gsettings reset org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.xsettings hinting
gsettings reset org.gnome.settings-daemon.plugins.xsettings rgba-order

If you have any issues with this font, please file a bug in  the Gnome Bug Tracker.

Image courtesy Marcus DePaula – originally posted to Unsplash as Untitled