WordPerfect for Linux Font and Printer Driver Recommendations

WordPerfect Versions

First, if you're using WordPerfect 7, you may want to consider an upgrade to WordPerfect 8. In my experience, WordPerfect 8 is substantially more stable than version 7 was (though some others have reported no stability problems with WordPerfect 7). In addition, WordPerfect 8's font installer doesn't pose as many problems in mapping font attributes as does the installer in version 7. On the other hand, to get the font installer benefits, you'll need to purchase the retail version of the program, since the freely-available downloadable version lacks this utility (as well as assorted other features, like the equation editor and drawing module).

Printer Drivers

For most Linux users, the basic choice is one of whether to use a WordPerfect driver that's native to the printer in question or to use a PostScript driver and print via Ghostscript. Which option will work better depends on the specific printer in question, and perhaps on the definition of "better." In the short time I used my Brother HL-660 with WordPerfect for Linux, I used it with its WordPerfect PCL driver for most things. The native driver's output looks as good, on the whole, as the Ghostscript output, but the HL-660 driver produces its output much faster. There are a few subtle differences between the two approaches, mostly relating to apostrophes so far as I've discovered, but I don't think either driver has the edge here. For my Epson Stylus Color 400, on the other hand, I must use the Ghostscript option, since the WordPerfect native Epson Stylus Color driver doesn't work on the ESC 400. If I were using an ESC 1520, I'd probably use Ghostscript as well, since the WordPerfect ESC driver doesn't produce output that looks as good as the Ghostscript-driven output on that printer. I can use a 1200 dpi PostScript driver, a PCL driver, or use PostScript in conjunction with Ghostscript with the HP LaserJet 4000 that's replaced my Brother. Using native PostScript seems to make the most sense for most things; I'm keeping the other two options just in case I run into problems with native PostScript on some document.

People who need characters beyond the set I as an English-speaking US citizen require sometimes report problems getting their language-specific characters to print with one or another driver. If you find yourself in this situation, try another driver or driver model, since these effects can be driver-dependant. You might also try using a different font, since different fonts support different numbers of characters, and you might just be using a font that lacks the characters you need.

A secondary choice may be which specific driver to use, especially when printing via Ghostscript. As I mentioned in the PostScript printing section, I've found that the Apple LaserWriter Pro 630 driver produces good output for 600 dpi monochrome printing via Ghostscript, while the QMS magicolor driver does good 600 dpi color output, and that this is good enough for me for printing on my 720 dpi Epson Stylus Color 400. My HP LaserJet 4000 works well with the 1200 dpi PostScript driver for the Lexmark Optra R+, but Ghostscript chokes on this driver's output, and I don't know what else might be good for 1200-dpi Ghostscript-driven printers or other 1200 dpi printers. If you don't need more than 300 dpi printing, the Apple LaserWriter II NT driver seems to work well. I've also heard recommendations for using the Passthrough PostScript driver, but I've not tried that one. For color, I tried the NEC Colormate PostScript driver, and it worked, but it had a bug which caused colored text to revert to black after font attribute changes.

For those using WordPerfect native drivers, including those with true PostScript printers, it's probably best to use a driver for the specific model you have. If there is no such driver, you may need to try drivers for similar models. For instance, if you have a PCL 5e printer (600 dpi HP-compatible), the HP LaserJet 4 may be a good bet, since that's the HP model that first used PCL 5e. If you're unsure of what to try, it's possible that Corel would have suggestions; or you could try your printer's manufacturer. Some manufacturers, including HP and Lexmark, have WordPerfect 6 drivers for their printers, and these will work with WordPerfects 7 and 8 for Linux, though you'll need to rename the files. They're usually listed in a DOS support section, and come as a self-extracting zip file with an .exe extension (InfoZip can handle these).

Fonts

The basic choice in fonts is one of using graphics fonts or soft fonts. When there's no loss in output quality, I favor using graphics fonts, simply because to be used in a WYSIWYG fashion, soft fonts require that the font be installed twice -- once as a soft font, and once as a graphics font. This clutters the font menus and may make it difficult to select the desired font. The font specifications in "Reveal Codes" also don't differentiate between the two types of fonts, so it may not be clear which variety you have selected.

Unfortunately, because printing of graphics fonts is done via bitmaps generated by WordPerfect to the resolution of the printer specified by the WordPerfect printer driver, it may be that you won't be able to get the fullest resolution out of your printer with graphics fonts, particularly if you have a device with a peculiar resolution. Also, if you want to create a PostScript file that will print at the best possible resolution no matter where it's printed, soft fonts may be superior (however, because soft fonts embed the font files in the PostScript file, this can result in huge files, and it may be illegal to distribute such a file; if you want to distribute a file in this way, a built-in printer font such as Times or Helvetica may be a better choice). There may also be some subtle differences between the way WordPerfect rasterizes a font and the way Ghostscript or your printer would. Aside from differences in apostrophe design, I've not noticed anything major in this way, but neither am I a font designer or graphic artist; somebody with discriminating tastes in fonts might have preferences that I can't predict.

Sources for Fonts

As WordPerfect uses standard Type 1 fonts, it's possible to install fonts from a large number of sources in WordPerfect. Most software retailers will probably have font CDs with Type 1 (aka "ATM") fonts on them. The main caveat is that WordPerfect does seem to require both .pfb and .afm files, and not all font CDs include the .afm files. Some font CDs also don't contain Type 1 fonts at all, though the presence of Type 1 fonts is usually at least labelled correctly (though not always). Among CDs that I've bought, the Bitstream 500 Font CD does include these files. This CD includes very high-quality fonts. According to Bitstream's web site, this product is still available -- and the web site actually acknowledges that Unix can use these fonts, which is a rarity (the mention of Unix, that is, not that Unix can use Type 1 fonts sold mainly to other markets). Adobe is another major font publisher, though as far as I know they don't have any low-cost font CDs to compete with the others I describe here. Their fonts are of generally high quality, though, and I gather they do include .afm files. Corel's own CorelDRAW package includes a wide selection of fonts, including Type 1 variants with .afm files the last I checked. Certainly purchasing the whole package is overkill just to get the fonts, but if you see a particularly elderly version in a closeout bin, it may be cost-competitive with other font collections, and many of the fonts are of high quality. The Expert Software 2000 Fonts CD is a low-cost CD that included .afm files when I bought mine, but this was also a couple of years ago. The fonts in this collection are of a lower overall quality than the Bitstream fonts, but some are quite nice. I've seen two font CDs from SoftKey claiming to contain Type 1 fonts. One of these CDs (the "KeyFonts Plus" collection) didn't contain the fonts at all. The other ("KeyFonts Pro 2002") had the .pfb files, but not the .afm files. Overall font quality on this latter CD was about like the Expert Software CD, once I'd generated .afm files with a utility called pfm2afm. Southern Software is a font supplier who seems to have licensed their fonts to SofKey, but the Southern Software CD includes the .afm files. Unfortunately, their font names all include "SSi" at the end, and this confuses WordPerfect into creating two font entries for each font family. (The SoftKey versions of the same fonts use "SSK", which WordPerfect can handle just fine.) There are also numerous fonts available on various ftp and web sites; but unless you see a specific font on a web site that you like, I don't think it's worth bothering with these. In my experience, the quality of freeware and shareware fonts is quite low, and font CDs cost very little. Before you buy a low-cost font CD, you may want to check the TypeRight web page for advocacy information on intellectual property rights and fonts. Southern Software maintains information on their web page advocating another position on these issues.

If you have TrueType fonts you'd like to use with WordPerfect for Linux, check out this TrueType to PostScript Type 1 conversion utility. To use this utility, you'll need to run its ancestral ttf2pfb program to generate an .afm file, then run ttf2pt1, then use the t1asm utility to convert the human-readable .pfa file produced by ttf2pt1 into a .pfb file. All this is a bit tedious, but it did work on the handful of TrueType fonts I've tried. Some of the commercial Mac and Windows font editing programs will also do TrueType to Type 1 conversions. I believe that Fontographer from Macromedia is one such package.

I don't know where you'd go for soft fonts for PCL printers, unless WordPerfect uses TrueType fonts for this purpose, in which case most of the same font CDs that include Type 1 fonts also include TrueType fonts.

Conclusion

I hope this document can help users of WordPerfect for Linux (and perhaps even WordPerfect on other platforms) make sense of the font and printer confusion which this program's (and X's) design induces. If you have any suggestions for improvements, and especially if you have further information or tips to share, please feel free to e-mail me. If I have the time, I'll update this document accordingly.


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Copyright © 1998, 1999 by Rod Smith, rodsmith@rodsbooks.com