This is documentation for Mathematica 6, which was
based on an earlier version of the Wolfram Language.
View current documentation (Version 11.2)

Fonts on Unix and Linux

Dealing with fonts under Unix can sometimes be tricky. The important issues in dealing with fonts in Mathematica are presented here for your convenience.

Font Formats

BDF and Type1 fonts are installed by MathInstaller. PCF fonts are included on the CD, but not installed. If your X server requires PCF fonts, copy them from the CD and install them according to the instructions that follow. If you need fonts in another format, convert them using utilities included in your X installation. Your license gives you permission to convert the fonts to an appropriate format for your X server.

Font Installation

All machines that display the front end must have access to the fonts included with Mathematica. If the Mathematica process is running on a remote machine and the front end is displayed on the local machine, the X server on the local machine must know where to find the Mathematica fonts. To do this, add the Mathematica fonts to the local font path by running a command like the following on the local machine.
xset fp+ /usr/local/Wolfram/Mathematica/6.0/SystemFiles/Fonts/Type1; xset fp rehash
Be sure to execute xset fp rehash to make the fonts available to the local X server.
For optimal onscreen performance, Type1 fonts should appear before BDF or PCF fonts in the font path. Hence, $InstallationDirectory/SystemFiles/Fonts/Type1 should appear before $InstallationDirectory/SystemFiles/Fonts/BDF or $InstallationDirectory/SystemFiles/Fonts/PCF. You can check the order of the font path by executing the command xset q.
Most platforms only require the BDF bitmap fonts, but some platforms, such as HP Tru64 Unix's X server, require PCF instead of BDF. Some Windows-based X servers, for example SCO's XVision, require PCF fonts as well. Note that some Windows-based X servers, such as Hummingbird's Exceed, require that you compile fonts into a format specific to the X server. For further information, visit

Font Servers

You may prefer not to install local copies of the Mathematica fonts on all machines. You can instead set up a font server with all the necessary Mathematica fonts. The other machines on the network can then find the fonts as needed by reading them from the Mathematica directory on the font server. Consult your operating system's documentation for further information.

Common Font Errors

On some systems, the font path is limited in length, and it is possible to receive xset: bad font path element errors even if the fonts are available to the server. In this case, try reordering the font path and adding the directories for the Mathematica fonts earlier in the path. The directory $InstallationDirectory/SystemFiles/Fonts/Type1 must be listed before $InstallationDirectory/SystemFiles/Fonts/BDF on the font path for optimal onscreen performance.

Fonts and Printing

When the X front end prints a notebook, it uses AFM files for the font metrics needed for printing. If you want to print using a particular font not included with Mathematica, you will need the AFM files for the font. These files are installed in either $InstallationDirectory/Configuration/Fonts/AFM, /usr/lib/AFM, or /usr/lib/afm. Fonts are normally downloaded to the printer by the front end when printing. You may be able to download the fonts and store them on the printer. See the documentation and programs that came with your printer for more information.


If you want to view Mathematica graphics using GhostScript, you need to make GhostScript aware of the Mathematica fonts. For more information, contact Technical Support by sending email to, or visit