[XeTeX] wrong r+vocalic r ligature in FreeSerif font

Zdenek Wagner zdenek.wagner at gmail.com
Thu Dec 18 11:07:08 CET 2014

Hi all,

I understand both sides. I will try to put some clarification.

It is not true that GNU FreeFont cannot be uninstalled from TeX Live
without removing a lot of packages. The magic is to use the -force
switch. It will uninstall just the font without taking dependences
into account and when other packages are later updated, tlmgr will say
"skipping forcibly removed package" and will not install it again.
This is the way how I do it.

Now you know how to remove the installed version, so you just have to
fetch it from svn, build it and install it. However, a great many
users are not programmers, they do not know how to install fontforge
and how to run make. And Windows users most probably do not have GNU
utilities, they even do not have a subversion client unless they are
experienced programmers developing free software.

Four years ago sombody complained that Devanagari in FreeFont is
absolutely unusable. I found that he was right and you wrote that
without bug reports you are not able to fix it. I started sending you
explanations and you worked hard to make everything working. The
official release of May 2012 found its way to TeX Live 2012 and
everything worked fine.

Afterwards ICU became unmaintained and TeX Live 2013 switched to
HarfBuzz. Since that time Devanagari in FreeFont ceased to work. I
have just looked at the log of my tests and I see that you have fixed
all issuse by April 7, 2013 (this is the date of my test). Now the
problem is that there is a beautifull font with functional Devanagari
but the official released version is more than two years old and does
not work since the release of TeX Live 2013. On the contrary, if you
install TeX Live 2012 or 2011, remove its FreeFont and use the version
from svn, Devanagari still works fine.

I am in a bad situation myself. I have to do a job for linguists. They
can use XeTeX but they are not programmers, they are unable to tweak
installation on their computers. I have to prepare a system so that
they can use Devanagari and a lot of different marks. All necessary
characters are present in FreeFont and are probably missing in other
free fonts. It leads me to a dilemma whether I should explain them how
to use subversion, how to install fontforge, how to install all the
GNU stuff on Windows computers and what is the danger of using the
HEAD of the svn repository.

Being a developer I know that there may be a good reason for comitting
a totally broken revision because it may be useful to perserve it and
the developer has no time to fix all bugs at that moment. Thus it is
not a good idea to blindly package the HEAD of the svn repository
without running at least all my tests available here:


I do not guarantee that everything is covered in these tests. Even if
all tests pass, the font may still be broken somewhere else.

It would be nice if those users, who need high quality Devanagari
typesetting, could easily get GNU FreeFont working with TL 2013 and
later without the risk that they may receive a broken version.

Steve, you have done a lot of work, the Devanagari block is functional
and the glyphs are beautifull. One of my books was typeset with
FreeSans and highly educated readers in India like it. Thus I believe
that the result of your work should be somehow accessible to normal
users who are unable to build the font themselves from svn.
Zdeněk Wagner

2014-12-18 9:28 GMT+01:00 Dominik Wujastyk <wujastyk at gmail.com>:
> Nobody is talking about responsibility or blame.  Actually, everyone is
> extremely grateful for and appreciative of everything you have done and are
> doing with FreeFont!
> The 2012 version of the fonts is seriously broken for Devanagari users.  But
> it's co-installed with several other TeX Live packages, and causes a lot of
> trouble for anyone doing Indian typesetting.  Over the last couple of years
> we've seen this problem surfacing again and again with Indian script users
> who think that XeTeX is broken.  Only some of these disappointed and
> frustrated users actually get as far as reporting to this list.
> You have fixed the Devanagari font problems (ICU>Harfbuzz), which is great,
> and everyone is extremely grateful.  And your fixes are there in SVN.  But
> that's not enough, because fetching and installing the 2014 Freefonts from
> SVN still leaves the TeX Live problem.  One can't uninstall gnu-freefonts
> from TeX Live without ripping out a lot of other dependent packages, and the
> whole situation becomes very hard to manage, even for sophisticated users.
> Again, we've seen numerous complaints and reports here in the list from
> users who unwittingly end up with multiple versions of gnu-freefonts on
> their disks, and wonder why XeTeX is still behaving badly when they have
> installed the SVN release of gnu-freefonts.
> What Norbert has done, at my request, is to to provide an elegant temporary
> solution relating to TeX Live for this problem for advanced users who are
> comfortable using the SVN version of FreeFonts and understand that there may
> be other difficulties in doing so, even if the Devanagari situation is
> improved.  This is, in fact, to do with TeX Live, and not so much
> gnu-freefonts itself.
> What about this as a way forward?  On my blog, I'll put very loud warnings
> that this TeX Live fix is about the SVN version of gnu-freefonts, that it's
> not meant for production use, that users may encounter unintended
> consequences, and that they are responsible for themselves.  I could even
> say that this fix is deprecated.
> As long as gnu-freefonts are packaged with TeX Live, forking the code would
> help nobody and would add a fresh level of confusion for users.
> There may even be a benefit: if a few more sophisticated TeX Live users
> start using your SVN code, you may get some helpful feedback and bug reports
> that you wouldn't otherwise have received.
> Best,
> Dominik
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