05 June 2013

LibreOffice 4.1: Most important new feature?

In an earlier post (http://lodahl.blogspot.dk/2013/05/exiting-new-design-initiative.html) I wrote about the new design features that will be exposed as experimental feature in LibreOffice 4.1.

Among the other new features, there is one that I believe is worth noticing. Embedding fonts in documents will make a interoperability much better - both between Office suites but also between different operating systems as Windows, Linux and Mac.

Under normal circumstances fonts are not embedded in the document, and when the document is opened on another computer that doesn't have the used font installed, then the application will try to replace the fonts "best possible". The problem is that best possible is not always good enough.
If (or when) the fonts are embedded in the document the rendering of the document will always be more accurate as the fonts used is exactly the same as on the original machine.

The feature in LibreOffice works in all modules, text editing, spreadsheet, drawings and presentations. Besides that this opportunity is compatible with Microsoft Office, and no matter if the document is interchanged as .odt or .docx, then the document is opened in the opposite application with the original fonts.

I have performed a small and very simple test both ways (between Linux and Windows, and LibreOffice versus Microsoft Office accordingly) with success.

Embedding fonts is activated for each document in the dialog Files - Properties on the tab Fonts.


This medal has a back side, as the file will become large compared with the same document without embedded fonts. Although I will recommend that fonts are embedded in all documents that will be exchanged between operating systems or office suites.

7 comments:

Anonymous said...

Embedding fonts can be useful. However, one needs to be careful not to violate the copyright of the font designer.

Does LO only support embedding the full font? Or also a subset of the used glyphs? The latter can save some bytes and is sometimes allowed by font copyright holders even if they do not allow embedding the full font.

(If one only embeds the used subset of the font, one has to be careful when changing the document. But I believe LO does not support embedding subsets, yet.)

Anonymous said...

Embedding fonts can be useful. However, one needs to be careful not to violate the copyright of the font designer.

Does LO only support embedding the full font? Or also a subset of the used glyphs? The latter can save some bytes and is sometimes allowed by font copyright holders even if they do not allow embedding the full font.

(If one only embeds the used subset of the font, one has to be careful when changing the document. But I believe LO does not support embedding subsets, yet.)

kobzeci said...

Embedded fonts is a great feature and will close a big gap of layout problems!

Thanks!

Anonymous said...

As noted before, embedding fonts is quite thorny from a legal point of view. Some designers will forbid embedding raw fonts. Others will forbid subsetting fonts (degrading the font artistic integrity). Since ODF files are just zip files, and read/write, people won't tolerate things they are ok with in pdf files.

If embedding is pushed as interoperability solver, instead of using fonts with liberal licensing, you're going to have huge legal problems (because the only fonts safe to embed are the fonts that can be freely redistributed legally). Embedding fonts you can't redistribute is punished by law.

I do hope the embedding fonts UI makes it easy to check the legal metadata contained in the font files, an helps users avoid legal mistakes.

Glen Turner said...

Displaying copyright notices from the font file to the user is of little help. Firstly, the user would be presented with the copyright notices having asked to save the document. The user's priority is getting that document to permanent storage so they will click-through anything which gets in the way. Secondly, a copyright notice is a statement of the holder of the copyright of the font, not the license terms to use the font. Thirdly, the font information is of little use -- I imagine the average user would panic at the sheer legalese and assume this is a non-usable font:

Copyright (c) 2001-2010 by the STI Pub Companies, consisting of the American Chemical Society, the American Institute of Physics, the American Mathematical Society, the American Physical Society, Elsevier, Inc., and The Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, Inc. Portions copyright (c) 1998-2003 by MicroPress, Inc. Portions copyright (c) 1990 by Elsevier, Inc. All rights reserved.STIXGeneralRegularFontMaster:STIXGeneral-Regular:1.0.0Version 1.0.0STIXGeneral-RegularSTIX Fonts(TM) is a trademark of The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, Inc.MicroPress Inc., with final additions and corrections provided by Coen Hoffman, Elsevier (retired)Arie de Ruiter, who in 1995 was Head of Information Technology Development at Elsevier Science, made a proposal to the STI Pub group, an informal group of publishers consisting of representatives from the American Chemical Society (ACS), American Institute of Physics (AIP), American Mathematical Society (AMS), American Physical Society (APS), Elsevier, and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).... (trimmed because Blogger wouldn't accept the posting because it was to long, but it goes on, and on and on).

Font subsetting is also a poor idea. A character in a font is a complete work of itself, so you have to hold rights to distribute the subset of the font. There are only a few peculiar fonts where you have the right to redistribute a subset of a font without also having the right to redistribute the entire font. It is Microsoft's solution to a problem when sharing documents whilst using fonts it wished to remain proprietary. The solution makes little sense when good open fonts are so widely available and makes no sense at all on operating systems where the whole point of the software is that it can be freely redistributed. If you are worried about redistributing the system's fonts then use the font substitution table so that an equivalent free font is actually the one used and embedded into the document, or don't embed the fonts, or don't use the system fonts at all but use a superior free font.

Anonymous said...

I embedded a font and my file jumped from 100k to 8 or 9 Mb... clearly subset embedding is needed...
david

Anonymous said...

@Anonymous: if you unzip the .odt or .odp file that went from 100k to 9MB, and identify the embedded fonts, you'll notice there are a lot more than just the ones you actually used. LO embeds other fonts that are referenced by default styles in your document, even when they are not used or have been superseded by your document. Poor implementation...