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Font Technology

There are three major smart-font technologies in common use:

SIL Graphite is open source. It has been recently built in to several major applications such as Firefox and Thunderbird.

To learn more about complex fonts, a good place to start is in SIL's Non-Roman Script Initiative pages.

Font subsets for mobile technology

Please refer to Font Subsets - a new initiative at SIL.

SIL's Non-Roman Script Initiative has created very comprehensive fonts for Latin and Cyrillic character sets. These are very large fonts that cover just about every need we know about in the Latin and Cyrillic world. Now, as we move into the age of mobile phone and web usage, everyone wants fonts that are small and compact. Our fonts are over a megabyte each and that is considered way too big for mobile phone usage.
We are now considering ways to subset our fonts. Current commercial font subsetting schemes remove the smart font information from a font when it subsets a font. While this may be acceptable for majority languages, we consider this unacceptable as so many languages in the world require smart diacritic positioning above and/or below base characters. ...


These are some suggested fonts for use with SWORD tools. Any of these work with either Linux or Windows tools, and probably Macs as well, though certain fonts work better with different tools. They're TrueType or OpenType fonts, which means that usually just copying *.ttf to the right place makes them available, and that's necessary only if you don't have some sort of package manager or font installer to do it for you.


GNU FreeFont, consisting of serif, sans serif, and monospaced typefaces in regular, bold, italic, and bold italic fonts, is an attractive set of open source fonts covering a broad range of scripts in the first two Unicode planes. Many of the glyphs incorporated into FreeFont were designed by professional type foundries.

A derivative of the above Free Serif typeface, FreeIdgSerif, was designed for Indo-Eurpoeanists, but has wide character coverage of use to Bible users.

GNU Unifont Glyphs from This page contains the latest release of the GNU Unifont, with glyphs for every printable code point in the Unicode 5.1 Basic Multilingual Plane (BMP). It was the intention of the site owner to provide an update for Unicode 5.2 coverage, which added almost 1000 newly assigned code points.

Linux Libertine is a very pretty typeface that provides quality character sets for all of Latin, Hebrew, and Greek, which makes it especially useful for commentaries that use all three. While it is designed for Linux, it works quite well under Windows, as a display typeface for SWORD tools.

Arial Unicode MS is a useful font - if not the prettiest, it is one of the few combining decent Arabic and Farsi glyph shaping with more or less complete Latinate and Greek alphabets.

There is quite a selection of other fonts available from SIL. Visit SIL and look around, but the Charis SIL and Doulos SIL typefaces, in particular were designed with fairly broad coverage in mind.

Code2000 – now open source -- aims at complete coverage of the Unicode Basic Multilingual Plane (BMP) aka Plane 0. See also the freeware fonts Code2001 and Code2002, which are Plane 1 and Plane 2 fonts, respectively.[1]

Junicode (short for Junius-Unicode) is a Unicode font for medievalists.

Symbola is a free font in George Douros' collection of Unicode Fonts for Ancient Scripts with support for the new characters in Unicode 6.0.

Quivira is a free Unicode font in the OpenType format which is supported by every usual office program or printer. Unicode font means it contains more than the standard characters for some western European languages. Quivira provides a large character repertoire, so that texts containing rather unusual characters can be rendered pleasingly.

Fonts for Scholars (Latin, Germanic Languages, Greek, Hebrew and Linguistics) – Materials compiled by David J. Perry Rye High School, Rye, New York. Download the Unicode font called Cardo from this site, released under the SIL Open Font License.[2]


  1. Some Unicode fonts do not render a zero width space correctly. Code2000 displays some space to the left of the codepoint. cf. Tahoma displays them correctly (invisible). Bear this in mind when selecting the font directive for a Sword module in the conf file.
  2. Having tried this font in Xiphos 3.2.0 for Windows, I found that it required lines double spacing.

Particular languages

For particular requirements on languages not listed here, it is generally useful to visit the Wikipedia page for the relevant alphabet or script.

For Biblical languages, it is advisable to visit SBL Educational Resources.


"Gentium" is a good font for Greek. Look in repositories for gentium-fonts-1.02-5.fc7.noarch.rpm or go instead to [1] to get the *.zip.


"Ezra SIL" is SIL's best font for Hebrew and works very well in most SWORD front-ends. [2]

The "SBL Hebrew" font displays some Hebrew points more accurately. [3]
NB. Unicode normalization can easily break Biblical Hebrew text. See on page 9 in the SBL Hebrew Font User Manual.

For BibleTime, the best Hebrew fonts are the Culmus fonts, particularly the Frank Ruehl CLM or Drugulin CLM. Many Linux distributions have a Culmus fonts package (Mandriva calls it fonts-type1-hebrew). If your distribution doesn't have this package, you may check out the Culmus Project site [4] and follow this link [5] to a truetype download.

See also Hebrew Support for Your Browser at the Mechon Mamre website. For front-ends that use a browser (or browser engine) to display Bible text (e.g. FireBible), this may be relevant if you have a problem displaying Hebrew vowels and/or cantillation marks.

Another resource of free/libre and open source Hebrew fonts is The Open Siddur Project.


For Vietnamese, fonts like Arial and Linux Libertine work well. However, the UVN fonts are excellent options that are designed for Vietnamese and can be downloaded for free. They can be used for English or other languages that use a Latin alphabet. UVN Saigon looks particularly good with many SWORD front-ends. You can find these fonts at the TTi website [6].


Apart from MS Arial, which is mentioned above as a good all round font, the prettiest free font is probably Nazli, available from Farsiweb and part of many Linux repositories.

See also X Series 2 fonts – freely available fonts extended to support Persian, Arabic, Urdu, Pashto, Dari, Uzbek, Kurdish, Uighur, old Turkish (Ottoman) and modern Turkish (Roman).

In the same region, the Azeri module actually specifies the Nazli font. This can be downloaded from here.


Amharic is a Semitic language spoken in Ethiopia. The recommended TrueType font for viewing the Amharic Bible is called GF Zemen Unicode. For further Amharic Unicode resources, see [7]. Windows 7 comes preloaded with a font called Nyala Regular designed for Ethiopic. See [8]. See also Abyssinica SIL, which is a Graphite font released under the SIL Open Font License (OFL).


Coptic is the final stage of the Egyptian language, a northern Afro-Asiatic language spoken in Egypt until at least the seventeenth century. Several Unicode fonts include coverage of Coptic. New Athena Unicode is one of them. For further Coptic Unicode resources, see [9] and [10]. See also [11] and [12]. Coptic readers prefer glyphs to be like those of the New Athanasius Coptic Font as it's similar to many printed Coptic books, and so easier to read.


The TrueType font AmazighU_Arial is a Unicode font that supports the Kabyle alphabet. However, this is a copyrighted font, made by the Monotype Corporation.


SIL Padauk is an excellent font [13]. Code2000 may be preferred. See also the fonts and keyboard entry methods mentioned in [14]. See also the Win Myanmar Typeset package at [15].


Several fonts for Karen languages are available to download from the Karen Teacher Working Group website. Sgaw Karen and Pwo Karen are based on the Burmese script, but have some extra characters not found in the Burmese alphabet. See also [16].

Indian languages

BarahaUnicode provides:



Nunavut / Inuktitut

Detailed recommendations are given by the Government of Nunavut in its Inuktitut fonts and tools page.

With only 0.01 people per square kilometer of land, Nunavut is one of the least populated regions in the world. And yet it has four official languages: English, French, Inuktitut and Inuinnaqtun. For this reason, the government of Nunavut adopted a clean sans-serif font called Pigiarniq (designed by Tiro Typeworks) that enables its people to use all four languages in a uniform manner. The result is a professional-looking free font family. [20]


A family of Khmer fonts called Antioch is available from Words of Life Ministries. Email Steve Hyde to request.

The Society for Better Books in Cambodia also has some free Unicode fonts for Khmer script.


Useful resources for Mongolian Cyrillic are available at Mongolian Language Development Kit.

Classical Chinese

If you need to work with Classical Chinese texts, please visit this page. If required, follow the link to install the Hanazono Unicode font.

India & Turkey

Rupakara is is a sans-serif font created primarily to give support to the newly-invented INDIAN RUPEE SIGN ₹, which has been assigned to U+20B9. It has been updated to support the newly-invented TURKISH LIRA SIGN ₺, which has been assigned in Unicode 6.2 to U+20BA.


Although the default Unicode font for most front-ends may display Armenian normal text, finding a freely distributable open font that displays text in italics is proving more of a challenge. In Windows, the Sylfaen font does a reasonable job, even with italics, though this is not one that we can redistribute. For background, see Armenian alphabet.

The DejaVu Sans font supports the Armenian script, and the Sans family includes Oblique, Bold & Bold-Oblique styles. Through such Bitstream fonts are copyright, they are freely distributable. See [21].


For digital applications, the Droid Arabic Kufi font is recommended. This is an Arabic type designed for use in Google™ products such as Google ChromeOS™ and Android™. Designed to complement the Latin, Greek and Cyrillic provided in the Droid Sans family, the Arabic matches the color, alignment and design detail of the Droid Sans allowing them to be used together for multi-lingual typesetting. This Kufi style is optimized for reading Arabic script on screen. It provides full language support for Arabic (العربية), Farsi (فارسی), Urdu (اُردو), Pashto (پښتو), Sindhi (سنڌي), Uighur (ئۇيغۇر) and partial for Kazakh.


Broad-Coverage Shareware/Commercial Fonts

Other nice fonts with wide character coverage require purchase or registration. These are not endorsed by CrossWire, though some of us certainly use them.

TITUS Cyberbit Unicode (requires registration to download, otherwise free) -- 36161 codepoints, designed for Indo-Europeanists & medievalists.

ALPHABETUM (limited trial font which is missing glyphs, €15 to purchase full font) -- a good font for a number of ancient languages such as Gothic, Old Church Slavonic (incl. Glagolitic), Ugaritic, & Phoenician

iOS Fonts

See also

Further resources

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