06 July, 2011

Getting the new MS fonts in LibreOffice - or rather, forget about it

Learning point of the day:
when on the website of a company with dubious business and legal practices READ the fine print...

I already wrote most of the following article (actually more, including making screen shots) before I did that.

But in the interest of not having wasted that time, let me explain how to get the new Microsoft Office fonts in LibreOffice (or the older OpenOffice) and why it is illegal to do so under non-Microsoft OS'es like most phone, tablet or Linux systems. Windows users can just install MS Powerpoint Viewer to get the fonts, see link below!

The Font Issue

If you get a document with fonts you don't have, the result can be bad. Layout will surely not be proper and for some reason LibreOffice and Calligra pick a horrible replacement on my computer - Alien Leage, see screen shot. Guaranteed to make any normal document unreadable. And the idiotic 'reading mode' of LO makes it impossible to change the font until you've saved the file somewhere. The benefit of that mode always escaped me in MS Office, at least I knew how to turn it off...


Anyway, enough ranting - a solution. If you don't have the new Microsoft fonts like the new Win7 fonts including the often-used Calibri, you can start to search the web for obscure download sites where, after you decided not to enjoy some online casino, enlarge a body part or clean your computer from viruses, you might find potential candidates in zip or rar form.

Luckily, there is a better way - get the stuff from the source. Install the free Microsoft PowerPoint viewer with Wine. Serious! You can get it here. The second image in this blog shows the three major steps you have to go through to install this using PlayOnLinux (plain wine might not work but this does). In the end it shows a selection dialog which you have to point to the executable and the font files would obviously end up in C:\Windows\fonts of the PlayOnLinux map (~/.PlayOnLinux/).

To install them, navigate your file browser to ~/.PlayOnLinux/wine/C/Windows/Fonts, right click the font and choose under 'actions' for 'install'. If your file browser isn't decent enough to help you with this, find a font manager with "alt-F2" "font" in a Plasma Desktop or "win key" and "font" in a GNOME Shell.

A different way to get to the font files is to use cabextract. Download the PowerPoint file to a folder, open a console & go to the folder, and use cabextract (twice):
cabextract PowerPointViewer.exe
cabextract ppviewer.cab

Then install the fonts via file manager or font manager.

Obviously, Windows users install the PowerPoint viewer and it will install the fonts automatically, or they similarly extract them from the installer.

The snag

I would recommend to do this, if I had not discovered the following section on the download page of the PowerPoint Viewer site:
You may use the fonts that accompany the PowerPoint Viewer only to display and print content from a device running a Microsoft Windows operating system.
What a ridiculous limitation... In other words, people send us documents written in the default font of their OS but it's illegal for users of other systems to view them properly. I call it abuse of market power and it makes me feel how I imagine Thom felt when he wrote about Microsoft's extortion against Android makers. If you can't win by creating a better product...

And of course I only discovered this AFTER doing it (works fine) and writing this article.


I'm happy to be active in the world of Free Software, openSUSE and KDE. We invite our 'competitors' to our conference or simply share it with them! We're not afraid as we believe in ourselves. Looks like Redmond lost confidence in their own products long ago...