[Bug 3512] Implement font-stretch property

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Fri Mar 7 13:25:54 UTC 2008

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--- Comment #36 from Nicolas Mailhot <Nicolas.Mailhot at laPoste.net>  2008-03-07 05:25:42 PST ---
I'm going to try to reword and summarise the problem there.

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.
Applications 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 list (for example, use Aral Black for an heavy
font, use Arial Narrow for a condensed one).

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

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 offerings. 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 mechanisms of
FLOSS apps so :
1. they can expose to users all the faces of the complex fonts which are now
getting widely distributed
2. they can help them use non-Microsoft font libraries, so they don't run back
to Microsoft products just because they can't manage anything but the
commercial fonts it bundles with its offerings

Fortunately the technical analysis has already been done as part of W3C
OpenType and probably other specifications. Selecting the right face inside a
font family 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)

Firefox is not implementing the third CSS axis right now. That means it can not
browse the full font universe, and effectively pushes its users to use fonts
distributed on the Windows platform at a time font family games were the only
way to expose stretch. This kind of indirect dependency on an editor which has
no love lost for Firefox is not good for Firefox users, not good for the Free
web the Mozilla foundation wants to promote, and therefore not good for Firefox

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