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Source Sans Pro: Adobe’s first open source font family (adobe.com)
386 points by robinhouston on Aug 2, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 67 comments

The license for those interested:

SIL OPEN FONT LICENSE Version 1.1 - 26 February 2007

The OFL allows the licensed fonts to be used, studied, modified and redistributed freely as long as they are not sold by themselves. The fonts, including any derivative works, can be bundled, embedded, redistributed and/or sold with any software provided that any reserved names are not used by derivative works. The fonts and derivatives, however, cannot be released under any other type of license. The requirement for fonts to remain under this license does not apply to any document created using the fonts or their derivatives.


This comes close to dancing around the Open Source Definition (http://opensource.org/osd.html/) I think. The restriction on "not sold by themselves" would seem to be a violation of the "No Restriction on Fields of Endeavor" requirement. But it's close.

It seems like a silly restriction anyway. What advantage would someone gain over Adobe by selling freely available fonts "by themselves" with no added value?

For what its worth the license is Debian approved:

"The following restriction on distributions, which is part of OFL, has been widely accepted by open source projects when it is applied to fonts:

    1) Neither the Font Software nor any of its individual components, 
       in Original or Modified Versions, may be sold by itself."* [1]
[1] http://wiki.debian.org/DFSGLicenses/#The_Open_Font_License

"What advantage would someone gain over Adobe by selling freely available fonts "by themselves" with no added value?"

The price it sold at. Just like people sell public domain texts, or even chunks of wikipedia as Amazon ebooks, with no added value.

I think its designed to keep someone from taking the work, and selling it as their own. If you look at fonts, there are hundreds of thousands of unique fonts being sold individually.

Well, sure. But these fonts are already open source. So who would buy it when they can get it for free from Adobe? This is like the resellers of free software on ebay. Sure, you can sell to a few dummies. And it's a little annoying. But it's not something that's going to hurt Adobe or its image meaningfully. Why bother polluting your license with this restriction?

If it's only going to affect people selling free stuff to ignorant people, why complain about the restriction? Wouldn't reducing people essentially scamming be a worthy reason for having that clause?

One good reason to complain about the restriction would be that it's a potential violation of the open source definition and a GPL-incompatible "additional restriction" on redistribution. And because it's just dumb.

FWIW, OFL is an FSF-approved license http://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html#SILOFL. Also it was not written by Adobe, Adobe here just picked the most widely used free software font license.

So that people who don't know better don't get screwed. That seems like a worthy goal to me.

If there is no added value, by definition, there would not be an advantage for the buyer.

The only added values I can think of would be the traditional reason why people used to buy CDs with freely available software:

- the seller delivers the stuff cheaper than if the buyer downloaded it themselves (highly unlikely nowadays, but maybe there are corners of the world where this still applies)

- the seller acts as a curator, sifting the gold from the junk, so that the buyer need not do that.

The 'curator' role might still be worth something. For example, a site could have a link 'do you like the template/icons/font we use? Buy it here'. That would be forbidden by this license (but selling all three in a package, or even two fonts with this license in one package, would be fine, at least in a literal interpretation of the license)

Because it's unclear with all the preamble, this is a release of 6 weights of the 'SourceSansPro' font in upright and italic styles. A monospace variant is a 'work in progress' that's not yet in the download package.

A new type family, without a prominently-featured specimen? A strange omission.

The TypeKit page is a decent substitute, anyway: https://typekit.com/fonts/source-sans-pro

Not a bad News Gothic descendent at all. It takes News Gothic's structural personality and adds a bit of Frutiger's humanism.

The PDF specimen is on the Adobe site (793K):


Can I ask why this is such a big deal. I mean besides the point that adobe is opening something up for "open source". Is there a lack of fonts?

A lack of fonts? No. A lack of high-quality, relatively-complete, free fonts? Absolutely.

Free fonts usually come in one width, two weights (regular and bold) and two styles (roman and italic), for a total of four variations, and usually cover the Latin alphabet plus a few relatively-common variants (accented characters for western European languages, and maybe a couple of additional characters like the the German eszett or the Icelandic eth).

Professional fonts will often come with perhaps five weights (light through black), three widths (condensed, normal, wide), and two styles, for a total of thirty variants. Some will also come in different optical sizes, or have other variable properties. Additionally, they'll have much larger character coverage (perhaps including Cyrillic or Greek), and have multiple stylistic variations of individual characters (stylistic alternates, swashes, old-style figures, etc.), as well as ligatures of commonly-colliding pairs of characters like "fi." Professional fonts can thus have literally thousands of times more glyphs, are very labor-intensive to produce, and are fairly expensive.

This font is certainly less rich than most of Adobe's "Pro" line of fonts, but still looks much better than a lot of what's out there in terms of open source type.

While I agree with your basic argument, I think you’re overstating the case a little. As services like Google Web Fonts have become popular, several very good, free, and reasonably comprehensive font families have become available.

For example, the most popular sans on GWF is currently Open Sans, which does come in a wider range of weights and has italic and condensed versions available. Unlike this new font family from Adobe, Open Sans also renders well on Windows, including Windows XP and including all major browsers when used as a web font.

I thought GWF were doing some processing to make the fonts work better on Windows? They way I understood it they were running the auto-hinter that Linux would use and then storing the hints inside the font for use by Windows. If that's true then the version hosted by Google (at least) should also look better than the complete disaster you get with entirely unhinted fonts at small sizes.

Interesting. I was looking at the Typekit page:


On the specimens there, Source Sans looks terrible at almost any sensible body text size in Firefox on Windows XP.

However, I was comparing those results with samples of Open Sans from Google Web Fonts, which look much better. Apologies if this wasn’t a fair comparison.

Thank you for your response. This makes much more sense. Never realized how intense fonts were.

Plus, while there are a lot of 'free' fonts online most of them are licensed such that you can't embed them in your app. From my understanding (IANAL) the SIL open font licence DOES allow you to embed and redistribute.

No problem. I think any field that has a community of people devoted to it full time gets pretty intense after awhile. If you're still curious, check out some hangouts for type designers, like http://typophile.com/

> Is there a lack of fonts?

That really made me laugh. I love it! :)

Is there a lack of cookie recipes?

There aren't, yet, any fonts named "Cookie recipe", which would be a great name for a semi-serious handwriting font that's readable at small sizes.

Arch Linux packages I just created/added to AUR:

otf-source-sans-pro: https://aur.archlinux.org/packages.php?ID=61403

ttf-source-sans-pro: https://aur.archlinux.org/packages.php?ID=61404

Thank you very much! I was already a bit sad when I didn't find a Source Sans Pro package yesterday.

Good for them. I'm not really digging the tail on the lowercase L next to the simple bar I. Otherwise I might give it a shot for my own site instead of Quattrocento Sans or Open Sans.

There's an alternate l available via OpenType features.

Thanks for these! :) Can't wait for monospaced.

Beautiful fonts. Thanks for the tip! :)

Here's the download link: http://sourceforge.net/projects/sourcesans.adobe/files/Sourc...

For those wondering, the monospace variant is sadly not included, as it is currently under development.

I think the monospace will worth the wait. But the current fonts already hit a sweet spot, UI development for mobile apps. They will look amazing on the retina screens of iOS devices.

That seems particularly ironic to me, given that a font like this where all the letters are made to be maximally distinguishable would be most useful as a monospace font.

The monospace version looks brilliant. Looks like something that could one day become my coding font. It's quite hard to find a nice monospace font and I think the choice does in fact matter (for coding obviously)

Monospace is beautiful! Sad to see it's not included

Im no font nerd, but this looks great

There's so much work to be done in advancing the state of readability on the web. Widely available, properly drawn fonts do a lot to help.

With only a quick look this looks like a really helpful contribution. I wonder if the name is a play on Open Sans.

That's a really nice monospace.

Source Sans Pro is a dead ringer for Microsoft's beautiful Segoe UI. This is a great move by Adobe. The Open Source world now has an equivalent for Segoe UI. Web designers rejoice!

Not a dead ringer, but in the same category of sans serifs, for sure.

Is there a font that supports both European and Asian languages available for free anywhere?

Can this font be self-hosted rather than use Typekit or other externally hosted services?

Yes, it can be.

This is really good, and great gift to the Open Source community.

So can anyone send me in a direction to use this with LaTeX?

I await Gruber's lengthy analysis of this font.

(and the monospaced version)

It'll run something like "It's not the default font on the iPhone, therefore it's unreadable".

They should atleast release the monospace as beta.

It most likely will be in the next month or so, if you know where to look (hint: pay attention to Brackets).

Looks like brand marketing to me.

Finally a new monospaced font!:)

Looks like they haven't released the monospace variant yet.

No, not yet.

Is there a plan to put a dot in the center (or something like this[1]) of the zero to differentiate it from capital o?

I ask because I didn't notice any zeros in the code example.

[1]: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FE-Schrift

Yes, the zero is dotted.

Great! Can't wait for it. :)

Wow...its beautiful!

I don't do enough design to care about fonts, but I'll always take a chance at a new monospace font. Especially this one. Looks gorgeous. (The regular face looks good too, don't get me wrong, I just don't have good uses for it).

[[On an aside, I love this thread. A post about the license, geeking out about the font and even more specifically the monospaced fonts. No where else would I see this conversation. :)]]

edit: sorry to burst bubbles, the release/source doesn't include the monospaced variant yet.

You don't have to design to care about fonts. I'm not a painter nor artist but I read about new paintings and artists. I don't play Starcraft 2 much but I still watch a bunch of Youtube replays.

Uh, sourceforge? When I hear "making these files available" I think github or a simple website. Not something with a download.com-style "Wait 5 seconds while we force this ad down your throat and try to find a mirror because Route 53 / load-balancing is a foreign concept to us programmers still hanging out in the '90s."

You just can't please some people. Yes, that gift horse's mouth is a little dirty. :-)

SourceForge has more bandwidth (IIRC) and has mirrors all over the world. I download from SF daily.

God bless sourceforge; they were there at the beginning in our time of need.

At this point, however, GitHub is a far larger organization. They host an order of magnitude more projects.

GitHub is more popular for code management of underpinnings (think jquerry, twitter backend stuff, etc) but SourceForge is far more popular for actual apps. Nearly all the most popular GitHub projects, if you click downloads, you're met with "There aren't any downloads yet. But don't worry! You can download the source code as a zip or tarball above." SourceForge, on the other hand, is all about apps, usually cross-platform, that users can download and use (VLC, Pidgin, GIMP-Windows+Mac, OpenOffice, Inkscape, KeePass, etc). So, I think GitHub is more popular with coders, but SourceForge is far more popular with users and app makers.

Also available via Google Web Fonts... DL link in the top right of the page.


It does seem odd, especially since they have a Github organization account: https://github.com/adobe

Is it about audience? I imagine SF has more regular users and github more programmers.

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