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Support for OpenType advance features please!

asked 2013-01-11 11:23:18 +0200

anonymous user


There are a lot of OpenType fonts out there which contain not only ligatures but also alternative glyphs, stylistis sets, old style numbers, lining/proportional numbers, true small caps and some even have true petite caps. MS Word supports some of these features but not all (no true small caps, for example). LibreOffice supports none of these OpenType features. Instead, it supports Graphite fonts, of which there is only a handful (unlike the hundreds of OpenType fonts available).

Are there any plans to implement OpenType advance typography feature support in LibreOffice? I think that this is a matter of some importance (and urgency), and it would give LibreOffice quite an advantage over MS Word and other word processors.

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I wonder: does the difficulty of supporting OpenType have anything to do with LibreOffice using its own GUI toolkit and thus not being able to easily rely on libraries/frameworks such as Pango/Harfbuzz/Cairo?

CyanCG gravatar imageCyanCG ( 2013-01-18 06:40:14 +0200 )edit

Who said it was difficult?

Uglyface200 gravatar imageUglyface200 ( 2013-04-08 00:35:22 +0200 )edit

It is probably not the most complex of tasks, but judging by various articles in TUGBoat and other publications in the TeX world, it is a daunting task, because implementing the OpenType specification is complex. If we are to judge by the number of complete OTF implementations (very few!) then I think we can infer that implementing it is complex. Complete implementations I know of: XeTeX and LuaTeX, Adobe CS and other DTP applications, but unfortunately not Scribus.

CyanCG gravatar imageCyanCG ( 2013-04-08 16:50:43 +0200 )edit

See this Wikipedia article to get a good overview of the state of OpenType support. Things are getting better, but the situation is still far from ideal. Also, as a daily OS X user, I can confirm that OS X’s OpenType support is not that satisfactory: it is buggy and unreliable.

CyanCG gravatar imageCyanCG ( 2013-04-08 19:21:16 +0200 )edit

Even XeTeX isn't complete, as you can see by scrolling almost to the bottom of this page. It is missing Swash, Ornaments, Slashed Zero, Justification Alternates, Alternate Annotation, Mathematical Greek (??), Localized Forms, Glyph (De)Composition, Required Ligatures, Mark Positioning Via Subs, and Isolated Form.

Uglyface200 gravatar imageUglyface200 ( 2013-04-11 19:15:18 +0200 )edit

Thanks for pointing this out, I had forgotten about such gory details :-). This article, and the “” site in general, is a great resource.

CyanCG gravatar imageCyanCG ( 2013-04-11 21:18:51 +0200 )edit

At least it looks like Caolan McNamara has implemented localized forms separately, as shown by oweng in the comments of my answer.

Uglyface200 gravatar imageUglyface200 ( 2013-05-21 22:05:20 +0200 )edit

Here's a complete Web implementation of OpenType: And its source code:

Uglyface200 gravatar imageUglyface200 ( 2013-05-22 21:30:23 +0200 )edit

This feature is extremely important especially for arabic fonts, as they are based on ligatures, glyphs etc.

IbnSaeed gravatar imageIbnSaeed ( 2016-02-02 18:27:02 +0200 )edit

7 Answers

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answered 2013-01-30 22:28:49 +0200

updated 2015-04-24 17:23:28 +0200

David gravatar image

You might want to see (and help out with) Bug 58941 - Support optional smartfont features.

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The “bug ID” is said to be invalid when following the link.

CyanCG gravatar imageCyanCG ( 2013-01-31 17:31:27 +0200 )edit

It works now. ;)

manj_k gravatar imagemanj_k ( 2013-02-06 23:19:02 +0200 )edit

Thanks. This bug has some interesting comments. I agree with one of the commenters: XeTeX has the best OpenType support right now and LibreOffice could definitely build on that. XeTeX’s smart font handling is based a modified version of ICU, which is already used from LibO 4.0 onwards for regexp.

CyanCG gravatar imageCyanCG ( 2013-02-07 03:11:01 +0200 )edit

Update: XeTeX is now based on Pango/Harfbuzz, which is the sexier, actively-developed and emerging solution for OpenType support. Possibility: let OpenOffice remain the ICU-using IBM-style suite, and let LibO embrace the future with Pango and Harfbuzz.

CyanCG gravatar imageCyanCG ( 2013-05-21 05:08:39 +0200 )edit

@CyanCG, a comment by Caolán McNamara here states, "There is an experimental use-harfbuzz patch that we should get around to applying ...", so I guess you can expect LO to eventually replace ICU with Harfbuzz at some point.

oweng gravatar imageoweng ( 2013-05-21 08:58:02 +0200 )edit

@oweng I've submitted a comment at Caolan's post to which you linked; it's still awaiting moderation. I informed him of this question and the related bug 58941 to which you linked, and also of the importance of supporting more OpenType features.

Uglyface200 gravatar imageUglyface200 ( 2013-05-21 21:58:19 +0200 )edit

@oweng McNamara has posted my comment and responded with "LibreOffice will support them when someone writes the relatively small pieces of code, UI glue and flags to enagle [sic] them." So, it would appear that this is an easy job.

Uglyface200 gravatar imageUglyface200 ( 2013-05-25 07:00:03 +0200 )edit

Does anyone know if there are any updates on these simple patches and harfbuzz support?

iandol gravatar imageiandol ( 2015-11-07 11:33:12 +0200 )edit

answered 2013-05-21 09:46:03 +0200

David gravatar image

Of course it would (will!) be wonderful to have Open Type supported by LO.

In the meantime, Graphite fonts are not to be sneered at (not that anyone here is sneering!) In addition to the complex Roman+ fonts listed at the Graphite site, there are also the beautiful (IMO) and versatile Linux Libertine and Biolinum Graphite-enabled fonts (+ link to PDF documentation).

So, if "Anonymous" original poster is still watching: while waiting for Open Type to become fully supported, at least make good use of such Graphite fonts as are available!

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+1. I cannot mark this up enough. In basic terms supporting OpenType = supporting Adobe, which would seem at odds with an open source project like LO. As @David mentions the SIL Graphite fonts are exceptionally good. IMO it is better to have one great font than a dozen poor ones.

oweng gravatar imageoweng ( 2013-05-21 10:13:16 +0200 )edit

As I recall the OpenType specification is an open standard, so there's nothing wrong with implementing it.

Uglyface200 gravatar imageUglyface200 ( 2013-05-21 21:50:13 +0200 )edit

It is not that simple. OOXML is "open" too, but using it merely promotes MS and is highly contentious as indicated on the mailing list. It is in the interests of LO to promote platform agnostic solutions i.e., Graphite (over OT / AAT). PostScript outline fonts are not likely to be embeddable within an editable document e.g., ODF. Ask Adobe why that might be.

oweng gravatar imageoweng ( 2013-05-22 02:55:11 +0200 )edit

I don’t believe that implementing OpenType implies being awkwardly encumbered the way implementing OOXML does. The modern TeX engines (XeTeX and LuaTeX) implement OpenType with much success and they are both free software projects (XeTeX was actually started by a SIL employee). Yes, Graphite is an excellent technology that deserves more widespread use: right now, it is not implemented on OS X and I wish it was.

CyanCG gravatar imageCyanCG ( 2013-05-22 19:29:53 +0200 )edit

I'm interested: does the Graphite in LibreOffice not work on OS X?

Uglyface200 gravatar imageUglyface200 ( 2013-05-22 21:13:26 +0200 )edit

That’s right, it doesn’t work. the Wikipedia article on Graphite says “ According to SIL, Mac OS X support is not planned since with AAT, Mac already provides a technology suitable for minority scripts”. I tested it, and when feature tags are applied with Libertine G the font is replaced with a generic sans serif font instead.

CyanCG gravatar imageCyanCG ( 2013-05-23 05:28:46 +0200 )edit

Now that I think about it though, when the right experimental feature is enabled in Firefox on OS X in the about:config menu, Graphite is supposed to work. I tested OpenType in this way in Firefox, but I don’t remember testing Graphite, so I can’t say yet whether it really does work.

CyanCG gravatar imageCyanCG ( 2013-05-23 05:32:16 +0200 )edit

@CyanCG re. my simplistic OOXML/OT comparison I accept your criticism. Like @Uglyface200, I was under the impression that Graphite2 was being actively developed for MacOS, although I have not looked at it for some time. This blog post by Khaled Hosny regarding LO/XeTeX porting to Harfbuzz (incl. Graphite2) is relevant.

oweng gravatar imageoweng ( 2013-05-23 06:05:39 +0200 )edit

@CyanCG, I feel that Wikipedia quotation requires a "[citation needed]" tag. If you know of evidence supporting the claim I would be interested (and saddened) to know of it. EDIT: A quick test of Graphite support for ligatures under MacOS 10.6.8 / LOv4.0.3.3 using Linux Libertine G shows this appears to be working. Which particular Graphite features are you not seeing?

oweng gravatar imageoweng ( 2013-05-23 06:11:42 +0200 )edit

@CyanCG : Re : Graphite support in Firefox (on Mac). You can get a decent test page here: and scroll down a bit. (Assuming you've done the "about:config" search "graphite" > "enabled | true" thing, of course.) FWIW.

David gravatar imageDavid ( 2013-05-23 10:56:34 +0200 )edit

answered 2013-05-21 08:52:37 +0200

oweng gravatar image

While it is not specifically mentioned in the original question I thought this thread should note that support for the OpenType locl feature (localized forms) is also now supported (FDO#62154). I imagine this feature will be available in v4.1.0.

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answered 2013-05-20 23:08:27 +0200

João Paulo gravatar image

Maybe a workaround could be the Writer2LaTeX extension (, as it "converts documents into LaTeX 2e format for high quality typesetting".

But it is cumbersome to use, as you have to install two packages on your system (LibreOffice and LaTeX).

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Indeed, see the previous answer by @Dakta and its comments.

CyanCG gravatar imageCyanCG ( 2013-05-21 05:14:30 +0200 )edit

answered 2016-12-29 16:28:36 +0200

this post is marked as community wiki

This post is a wiki. Anyone with karma >75 is welcome to improve it.

Using Windows 10, when I use LibreOfficeDev 5.3.0 beta2, OpenType font features works for me.

I found some discussions here:

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answered 2013-01-16 03:33:00 +0200

Dakta gravatar image

According to this bug report OpenType/OTF ligatures are properly supported.

HOWEVER, I have not been able to get them to work at all, despite this functionality being apparently supported in the up-to-date version of LibreOffice I have. So, your mileage may vary.

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The questioner specifically excluded ligatures as something he wants. I frequently access stylistic sets, and hate having to use Word to get an alternate g, so +1 for this feature from me.

Uglyface200 gravatar imageUglyface200 ( 2013-01-19 23:35:54 +0200 )edit

The solution that works best for me right now is to only make basic typography in LibO, then export the document with Writer2LaTeX 1.2, change a few commands to get small caps, real sup/sub etc. and typeset with XeTeX.

CyanCG gravatar imageCyanCG ( 2013-02-07 03:13:00 +0200 )edit

...which doesn't exactly work for those of us who don't want to take the time to download and learn a whole programming language for a few aesthetic changes.

Uglyface200 gravatar imageUglyface200 ( 2013-02-13 21:43:33 +0200 )edit

I wholeheartedly agree: in the long run, it is very necessary to support all of OpenType. From what I gather, it seems that this would be easier if LibreOffice used Harfbuzz for rendering. This would give LibO a very good edge on MS Office and many other products.

CyanCG gravatar imageCyanCG ( 2013-02-13 22:30:53 +0200 )edit

Now, if only the developers could give us some information on how easy/difficult this would be to implement. I'm sure the LibO community would be glad to help.

Uglyface200 gravatar imageUglyface200 ( 2013-02-14 17:12:15 +0200 )edit

Certainly. I’m a newbie when it comes to programming, but when I have the time I want to write a detailed “enhancement bug” report, because I want to make sure that those who are responsible for this part of the code base understand how important it is. See this article.

CyanCG gravatar imageCyanCG ( 2013-02-14 17:49:24 +0200 )edit

answered 2013-07-27 19:08:31 +0200

Pecita gravatar image

Using Debian Lenny, OpenType fonts features (contextual alternates an ligatures) work. It is a revolution. Simply put, LibreOffice suddenly became modern.

  • What marks this milestone: the version 4?
  • What on systems other than Debian?
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4.1 brings this to OS X with Core Text and to Linux with Pango/Harfbuzz.

CyanCG gravatar imageCyanCG ( 2013-08-09 22:52:33 +0200 )edit

...and windows XP ??? Left in the cold because it is old???

ROSt52 gravatar imageROSt52 ( 2013-08-10 03:42:24 +0200 )edit

I have no idea about Windows XP specifically. What I do know is that, on Windows, the modern and “correct” way to implement OpenType is with Windows Presentation Foundation, which is a .NET technology. An alternate way of implementing OpenType is possible, but I am not aware of many applications that implement advanced OpenType features on Windows besides Adobe’s suite.

CyanCG gravatar imageCyanCG ( 2013-08-10 04:53:30 +0200 )edit

Well, there's MS Office 2010 and 2013. And all browsers. And pretty much any application on a Mac, including LibreOffice.

downbeat gravatar imagedownbeat ( 2015-04-14 02:18:17 +0200 )edit
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Asked: 2013-01-11 11:23:18 +0200

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Last updated: Dec 29 '16