[scribus] Outlining fonts

Bert Driehuis driehuis at playbeing.org
Sat Jan 23 23:13:17 UTC 2021

Dear Joe,

It is hard to describe Font Outlining in layman's terms, but I'll try to
have a go at it anyway :-)

First of all, a computer font is a program that draws letter shapes called
glyphs. It can have very complex logic, for example to reduce the spacing
between the letters "To" so that the horizontal bar of the "T" slightly
overhangs the "o" for improved legibility (kerning), or to use a special
glyph for letter combinations like "fi" (ligatures).

When embedding a font, you include that entire program (or, in the case of
a subsetted font, just the parts that are actually used). This means that
the final shape of the glyphs is drawn at print time. If you have an "fi"
ligature, the replacement of the two glyphs "f" "i" by the combined glyphs
"fi" won't happen until you print or display the PDF.

In contrast, when outlining a font, the glyphs are drawn as vectors when
the PDF is created. If you have an 'fi" ligature, the PDF will only contain
the vectors that make up the combined shapes of the "fi" ligature. In the
absence of bugs in the font or in the renderer, this will result in the
exact same shape on screen or on paper. For example, when zooming in on the
PDF you will see the same crisp details when outlining as you would see
when embedding.

One major advantage of outlining fonts in PDF is that when the author
previews the PDF and the letter shapes look okay, you can be near certain
they will print exactly like shown on screen. An embedded font can be
interpreted differently by different receivers (been there, done that, got
the T-shirt ;-)

The major drawback of outlining is that the generated PDF is no longer
searchable. That is not a fundamental property of outlining, but Scribus
does not appear to be able to retrofit searchable text into a PDF with
outlined fonts.

There are no visual differences between outlined and embedded fonts when
printed or viewed on-screen.

To pacify your critical audience, you may want to rephrase "outlining
fonts" to "prerender the fonts as vector shapes". Outlining has nothing to
do with using outline fonts, and I think that's the concern of the

With kind regards,


On Sat, Jan 23, 2021 at 10:48 PM Joe Zeff <joe at zeff.us> wrote:

> For many years, I've been using Scribus to create a weekly newsletter,
> for an APA I'm a involved with.  Until recently, I embedded the fonts I
> was using when creating the .pdf, because I use Linux, and the person
> printing them out and collating the APA uses Windows.  A few months ago,
> this stopped working and I had to switch to outlining the fonts instead,
> which not only works fine, it creates a much smaller file.
> However, the official collator has been arguing that outlining a font
> means that each letter is hollow and that it can't possibly have the
> effect that it clearly does have.  (He's more than a tad narrow minded
> in general, so for him this isn't unusual.)  I'd appreciate it if
> somebody could explain just what the term means in this context so that
> I can 'splain things to him and everybody else in the APA.  Thanx in
> advance for any useful information you can get to me.
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