[Bug 421317] Thunderbird's default-font options shows only one member of the font family

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Fri Mar 7 13:15:28 UTC 2008

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--- Comment #2 from Nicolas Mailhot <Nicolas.Mailhot at laPoste.net>  2008-03-07 05:15:24 PST ---
I'm going to try to reword and summarise the problem in this comment.

1. When software was young fonts were sparse and their format limitative. One
typically had different font files and names per encoding and variant of the
same font, and all those files exposed different font family names.
manipulating formatted text just had to expose a raw font family list to users,
and make minimal effort to regroup the most frequent variants/faces (regular,
bold, bold italic, italic) together. Font users browsed the raw font name list
and selected the right font file directly. Everyone knew the Microsoft font
(for example, use Aral Black for an heavy font, use Arial Narrow for a

2. Strong demand from artists led to creation of more complex fonts and font
formats. Modern fonts are no longer limited encoding-wise, faces are no longer
limited to regular, bold, bold italic, italic, and more critically they're no
longer exposed under different font names. All the faces declare the same font
name, and software is expected to provide users ways to select the face they

3. Those complex fonts were at first limited to expensive font collections, but
are now being commodized (indeed OO.o now ships DejaVu, which is a complex

4. After the success of its "core fonts for the web" initiative Microsoft
decided to use its new fonts as a commercial argument. So they're no longer
freely distributed, and alternatives to Windows, IE and Office need to propose
their own font offering. Since font names are protected, that means exposing
users to new font lists, where the workarounds they learnt in 1. no longer

It is therefore becoming critical to revamp the font selection UI so :
1. it can expose to users all the faces of the complex fonts which are now
getting widely distributed
2. it can help them browse non-Microsoft font libraries, so they don't run back
to Microsoft products just because they can't manage anything but the
fonts it bundles with its offerings

Fortunately the technical analysis has already been done as part of W3C
and probably other specifications. Selecting the right face inside a font
depends on three parameters:
1. font slant (font-style, FontStyle): normal, italic, oblique...
2. font weight (font-weight, FontWeight): normal, bold, light...
3. font stretch (font-stretch, FontStretch): normal, condensed, expanded...

This classification is adopted by every major actor:
http://www.w3.org/TR/css3-fonts/#font-styling (Web)
http://blogs.msdn.com/text/attachment/2249036.ashx (Windows)
http://fontconfig.org/fontconfig-user.html (Unix/Linux)

A reasonably universal and future-proof UI would therefore replace the current
font selection methods of
1. font family list 
2. font family + weight  + stretch list selector or 
3. font family list + weight list + stretch list selector (ie treat weight &
stretch as selection axes like is already done for size)

Since for all practical means fonts do not support italic and oblique at the
same time yet.

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