Frequently Asked Question List for TeX
MetaFont allows you to create your own fonts, and most TeX users will never need to use it — modern (La)TeX systems contain rather few MetaFont fonts of any significance, and when MetaFont output is needed the font generation is done, automatically, “on the fly”.
If you find you have some special requirement that the system doesn’t
satisfy, you need to know about MetaFont in rather more detail. MetaFont,
unlike TeX, requires customisation for each output device: such
customisation is conventionally held in a “mode” associated with the
device. Modes are commonly defined using the
convention described on page 94 of The MetaFontbook
(see TeX-related books). Your distribution should
provide a file, conventionally called
local.mf, containing all the
mode_defs you will be using. In the unlikely event that
local.mf doesn’t already exist, Karl Berry’s collection of
modes.mf) is a good starting point (it can be used as a
local.mf without modification in a modern implementation of MetaFont).
Settings for new output devices are added to
modes.mf as they
Now create a
plain base file using
mf (in “initialisation” mode),
% mf -ini This is METAFONT... **plain # you type plain (output) *input local # you type this (output) *dump # you type this Beginning to dump on file plain... (output)
This will create a base file named
plain.base (or something
similar; for example, it will be
PLAIN.BAS on MS-DOS
systems). Move the file to the directory containing the base files
on your system, and run
texhash as necessary.
Now you need to make sure MetaFont loads this new base when it starts up. If
MetaFont loads the
plain base by default on your system, then you’re
ready to go. Under Unix (using the default TeX Live (and earlier)
distributions this does indeed happen, but we could for instance
define a command
mf -base=plain (or, in more traditional
mf & plain) which loads the
plain base file.
† On the grounds that a command
plaincould be misconstrued as a reference to Plain TeX.
The usual way to create a font with MetaFont (with an appropriate base file loaded) is to start MetaFont’s input with the line
\mode=<mode name>; mag=<magnification>; input <font file name>
in response to the
** prompt or on the MetaFont command line (if
<mode name> is unknown or omitted, the mode defaults to
“proof” mode and MetaFont will produce an output file called
<font file name>.2602gf).
<magnification> is a floating point number or a
“magstep” (magsteps define sizes by stating how many times you need to
multiply a base size by
1.2, so for a base size of
magstep 1 is
magstep 2 is
mag=<magnification> is omitted, then the default
magstep 0). For example, to generate
12pt for an Epson, printer you might type
mf \mode=epson; mag=magstep 1; input cmr10
Note that under Unix the
; characters must usually be
quoted or escaped, so this would typically look something like
mf "\mode=epson; mag=magstep 1; input cmr10"
If you need a special mode that isn’t in the base, you can put its
commands in a file (e.g.,
ln03.mf) and invoke it on the fly with
\smode command. For example, to create
for an LN03 printer, using the file
% This is ln03.mf as of 1990/02/27 % mode_def courtesy of John Sauter proofing:=0; fontmaking:=1; tracingtitles:=0; pixels_per_inch:=300; blacker:=0.65; fillin:=-0.1; o_correction:=.5;
(note the absence of the
enddef commands), you would type
mf \smode="ln03"; input cmr10
This technique isn’t one you should regularly use, but it may prove useful if you acquire a new printer and want to experiment with parameters, or for some other reason are regularly editing the parameters you’re using. Once you’ve settled on an appropriate set of parameters, you should use them to rebuild the base file that you use.
Other sources of help are discussed in our list of MetaFont and MetaPost Tutorials.