SETFONT(8) International Support SETFONT(8)NAMEsetfont - load EGA/VGA console screen font
SYNOPSISsetfont [-O font+umap.orig] [-o font.orig] [-om cmap.orig] [-ou
umap.orig] [-N] [font.new ...] [-m cmap] [-u umap] [-C console] [-hH]
The setfont command reads a font from the file font.new and loads it
into the EGA/VGA character generator, and optionally outputs the previ‐
ous font. It can also load various mapping tables and output the pre‐
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
setfont LatArCyrHeb-19 -m 8859-2
Load a given font (here a 512-glyph font combining several char‐
acter sets) and indicate that one's local character set is ISO
Note: if a font has more than 256 glyphs, only 8 out of 16 colors can
be used simultaneously. 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 properties like character size, followed by the glyph
bitmaps, optionally followed by a Unicode mapping table giving the Uni‐
code value for each glyph. Several other (obsolete) font formats are
recognized. If the input file has code page format (probably with suf‐
fix .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 framebuffer 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 distance. The
default character height will be the number N inferred from the font or
specified by option. However, the user can specify a different charac‐
ter height H using the -h option.
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 program output is coded as UTF-8 (see
utf-8(7)), and converts that to Unicode (ucs2). Otherwise, a transla‐
tion table is used from the 8-bit program output to 16-bit Unicode val‐
ues. 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, ..., cp1250.
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 corre‐
spondence between user bytes and font positions. The most common cor‐
respondence is the one given in the file trivial (where user byte val‐
ues are used directly as font positions). Other correspondences are
sometimes preferable since the PC video hardware expects line drawing
characters in certain font positions.
Giving a -m none argument inhibits the loading and activation of a map‐
ping 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 map‐
ping 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 render loadunimap(8) obsolete.
The Unicode mapping table should assign some glyph to the `missing
character' value U+fffd, otherwise missing characters are not trans‐
lated, giving a usually very confusing result.
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).
OPTIONS-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 per‐
-v Be verbose.
-V Print version and exit.
PC video hardware allows one to use the "intensity" bit either to indi‐
cate 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/kbd/consolefonts is the default font directory.
/usr/share/kbd/unimaps is the default directory for Unicode maps.
/usr/share/kbd/consoletrans is the default directory for screen map‐
pings. The default font is a file default (or default8xN if the -N
option was given for some number N) perhaps with suitable extension
SEE ALSOpsfaddtable(1), unicode_start(1), loadunimap(8), utf-8(7), mapscrn(8)
11 Feb 2001 SETFONT(8)