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Font maker plans open-source typeface

Under an agreement with the Gnome Foundation, Bitstream says it will release 10 variations on the Vera typeface, aiming to smooth out a rough spot on the road to Linux.

NEW YORK--Typography for open-source operating systems such as Linux took a step forward this week as font maker Bitstream announced it would release 10 fonts under an open-source license.

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The company's plan calls for 10 variations of the Vera typeface to be available under a license that permits anyone to modify the fonts as long as the name is changed. The fonts may be included at no charge with other software packages but not sold on their own, Bitstream said at the LinuxWorld Conference and Expo here.

The plan is part of an agreement between Bitstream and the Gnome Foundation, which oversees the Gnome graphical environment often used with Linux and other open-source operating systems. Gnome will include the fonts with its software, the foundation said.

Bitstream's plan highlights the growing strength of the open-source movement, which advocates software that may be freely seen, modified and redistributed. The philosophy behind open-source software not only has spread to font designs but also to publishing.

Typography has been a rough spot for Linux. A popular set of fonts used with the operating system actually came from Microsoft, a proprietary software maker. In addition, Linux only now is getting support for antialiasing, the process of smoothing jagged edges of letters that's been available on Windows and Mac OS for years.

Gnome is the default graphical interface used by top Linux seller Red Hat, and Sun Microsystems is adopting it for its Solaris operating system as well. The major alternative to Gnome is KDE, which is used by default in SuSE's Linux.

Curtis Sasaki, head of Sun's desktop Linux efforts, said Sun will make Gnome the default interface by the time of Solaris 10's release. The current Solaris 9 uses CDE (Common Desktop Environment) by default.