I use the Kubuntu 10.10 distribution while working at a computer. It suits me. For word processing tasks, I mainly use OpenOffice.  In school settings, the typical teacher uses Microsoft Word. It is installed by the tech department and the district may even have mandated its use so that it is easy to exchange work among members of the staff. In Massachusetts, the state department of education uses Microsoft .doc and .xls file formats for much of the information sent to schools and has asked schools to submit their work in those formats.

Where does that leave me, a proponent of GNU/Linux?

I’m not using Windows or Microsoft Word on my own computer. If somebody wants me to read a .doc file I have no trouble. OpenOffice transparently deals with the doc format created by MSWord. But, the fonts don’t automatically work right. There are slight spacing issues. Most users of MSWord do their routine typing with either the Arial or Times New Roman fonts. Those fonts are not automatically on my GNU/Linux computer.

On my computer, I like the FreeSerif font much better than the DejaVu Serif font. DejaVu Serif really has the look of a typewriter font with better character spacing. FreeSerif looks more elegant. Both fonts are on my Kubuntu 10.10 install.

Although most GNU/Linux distributions don’t automatically install the common Windows fonts used by a MSWord user. However, the fonts are typically available in the packages system of a distribution.

In Kubuntu, which uses KPackageKit for managing installs, I typed “fonts” into the search box. Among the many listed packages was “ttf-mscorefonts-installer” which will connect to the Internet and download/install the following fonts. Your distribution package manager will probably show something similar.

If you have Arial or Times New Roman installed on your system, your computer will do a good job of opening and displaying the documents your colleagues send to you. If you modify and save the file in the Microsoft doc format, the file will get back to your collaborator in good shape for them to continue working with it.

“TTF” in the font package name stands for “true type font” which is one of the standard computer font systems. The Microsoft fonts are not fully “free as in freedom” and the package description recommends alternatives if you want to keep “free”. If, however, working efficiently with fellow teachers is more important, install the “ttf-mscorefonts-installer” and get your job done.

Update: Oracle filed a patent suit against Google related to Android. The judge in the case is asking that court submissions be 12 point Times New Roman font. If the lawyers are using Linux, it is good that ttf-mscorefonts exists for them.