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
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.
- setfont drdos8x16
- 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
- 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 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 Unicode value for each glyph.
Several other (obsolete) font formats 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 framebuffer device (fb) other widths can be
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 character height H using the
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
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
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 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
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 render 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 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
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/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
mappings. The default font is a file default (or default8xN if
the -N option was given for some number N) perhaps with suitable extension
- -h H
- Override font height.
- -m file
- Load console map or Unicode console map from file.
- -o file
- Save previous font in file.
- -O file
- Save previous font and Unicode map in file.
- -om file
- Store console map in file.
- -ou file
- Save previous Unicode map in file.
- -u file
- Load Unicode table describing the font from file.
- -C console
- Set the font for the indicated console. (May require root
- Be verbose.
- Print version and exit.