SETFONT(8) International Support SETFONT(8)
setfont - load EGA/VGA console screen font
setfont [-O font+umap.orig] [-o font.orig] [-om cmap.orig] [-ou umap.orig] [-N] [font.new
...] [-m cmap] [-u umap] [-C console] [-hH] [-v] [-V]
The setfont command reads a font from the file font.new and loads it into the EGA/VGA
character generator, and optionally outputs the previous font. It can also load various
mapping tables and output the previous versions.
If no args are given (or only the option -N for some number N), then a default (8xN) font
is loaded (see below). One may give several small fonts, all containing a Unicode table,
and setfont will combine them and load the union. Typical use:
Load a default font.
Load a given font (here the 448-glyph drdos font).
setfont cybercafe -u cybercafe
Load a given font that does not have a Unicode map and provide one explicitly.
setfont LatArCyrHeb-19 -m 8859-2
Load a given font (here a 512-glyph font combining several character sets) and
indicate that one's local character set is ISO 8859-2.
Note: if a font has more than 256 glyphs, only 8 out of 16 colors can be used simultane-
ously. It can make console perception worse (loss of intensity and even some colors).
The standard Linux font format is the PSF font. It has a header describing font proper-
ties like character size, followed by the glyph bitmaps, optionally followed by a Unicode
mapping table giving the Unicode value for each glyph. Several other (obsolete) font for-
mats are recognized. If the input file has code page format (probably with suffix .cp),
containing three fonts with sizes e.g. 8x8, 8x14 and 8x16, then one of the options -8 or
-14 or -16 must be used to select one. Raw font files are binary files of size 256*N
bytes, containing bit images for each of 256 characters, one byte per scan line, and N
bytes per character (0 < N <= 32). Most fonts have a width of 8 bits, but with the frame-
buffer device (fb) other widths can be used.
The program setfont has no built-in knowledge of VGA video modes, but just asks the kernel
to load the character ROM of the video card with certain bitmaps. However, since Linux
1.3.1 the kernel knows enough about EGA/VGA video modes to select a different line dis-
tance. The default character height will be the number N inferred from the font or speci-
fied by option. However, the user can specify a different character height H using the -h
Several mappings are involved in the path from user program output to console display. If
the console is in utf8 mode (see unicode_start(1)) then the kernel expects that user pro-
gram output is coded as UTF-8 (see utf-8(7)), and converts that to Unicode (ucs2). Other-
wise, a translation table is used from the 8-bit program output to 16-bit Unicode values.
Such a translation table is called a Unicode console map. There are four of them: three
built into the kernel, the fourth settable using the -m option of setfont. An escape
sequence chooses between these four tables; after loading a cmap, setfont will output the
escape sequence Esc ( K that makes it the active translation.
Suitable arguments for the -m option are for example 8859-1, 8859-2, ..., 8859-15, cp437,
Given the Unicode value of the symbol to be displayed, the kernel finds the right glyph in
the font using the Unicode mapping info of the font and displays it.
Old fonts do not have Unicode mapping info, and in order to handle them there are direct-
to-font maps (also loaded using -m) that give a correspondence between user bytes and font
positions. The most common correspondence is the one given in the file trivial (where
user byte values are used directly as font positions). Other correspondences are some-
times preferable since the PC video hardware expects line drawing characters in certain
Giving a -m none argument inhibits the loading and activation of a mapping table. The
previous console map can be saved to a file using the -om file option. These options of
setfont render mapscrn(8) obsolete. (However, it may be useful to read that man page.)
UNICODE FONT MAPS
The correspondence between the glyphs in the font and Unicode values is described by a
Unicode mapping table. Many fonts have a Unicode mapping table included in the font file,
and an explicit table can be indicated using the -u option. The program setfont will load
such a Unicode mapping table, unless a -u none argument is given. The previous Unicode
mapping table will be saved as part of the saved font file when the -O option is used. It
can be saved to a separate file using the -ou file option. These options of setfont ren-
der loadunimap(8) obsolete.
The Unicode mapping table should assign some glyph to the `missing character' value
U+fffd, otherwise missing characters are not translated, giving a usually very confusing
Usually no mapping table is needed, and a Unicode mapping table is already contained in
the font (sometimes this is indicated by the .psfu extension), so that most users need not
worry about the precise meaning and functioning of these mapping tables.
One may add a Unicode mapping table to a psf font using psfaddtable(1).
-h H Override font height.
Load console map or Unicode console map from file.
Save previous font in file.
Save previous font and Unicode map in file.
Store console map in file.
Save previous Unicode map in file.
Load Unicode table describing the font from file.
Set the font for the indicated console. (May require root permissions.)
-v Be verbose.
-V Print version and exit.
PC video hardware allows one to use the "intensity" bit either to indicate brightness, or
to address 512 (instead of 256) glyphs in the font. So, if the font has more than 256
glyphs, the console will be reduced to 8 (instead of 16) colors.
/usr/share/consolefonts is the default font directory. /usr/share/unimaps is the default
directory for Unicode maps. /usr/share/consoletrans is the default directory for screen
mappings. The default font is a file default (or default8xN if the -N option was given
for some number N) perhaps with suitable extension (like .psf).
psfaddtable(1), unicode_start(1), loadunimap(8), utf-8(7), mapscrn(8)
11 Feb 2001 SETFONT(8)