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Installing FontForge from Git Source Code

Doing It By Hand

Clone a copy of the Github source repository:

mkdir -p ~/src/;
cd ~/src/;
git clone;

Install all your typical build tools, build dependencies and runtime dependencies - all the packages that allow you to build of software from source code. The exact method to do this depends on your OS distribution. You can see a list of the dependencies for Debian in the debian/control file, or to generate a list on Debian-like systems with aptitude installed, run sudo ./debian/deb-build-dep

To download all dependencies on Debian Jessie, run:

sudo apt-get install autotools-dev libjpeg-dev libtiff5-dev libpng-dev libgif-dev libxt-dev libfreetype6-dev autoconf automake libtool libltdl7-dev libxml2-dev libuninameslist-dev libspiro-dev python-dev libpango1.0-dev libcairo2-dev chrpath

To download all dependencies on Ubuntu, run:

sudo apt-get install packaging-dev pkg-config python-dev libpango1.0-dev libglib2.0-dev libxml2-dev giflib-dbg libjpeg-dev libtiff-dev uthash-dev libspiro-dev build-essential automake flex bison;

Install the unifont package to get a full display of the reference glyphs. Unifont includes glyphs for all Unicode codepoints, and FontForge will use it if it is installed.

sudo apt-get install unifont;

FontForge uses libspiro to simplify the drawing of curves. Download and install the latest code like this:

git clone
cd libspiro
autoreconf -i
automake --foreign -Wall
sudo make install
cd ..

Build libuninameslist

FontForge uses libuninameslist to access attribute data about each Unicode code point.

Download the code:

git clone

Run the following commands in sequence (that is, wait for each one to complete before running the next):

cd libuninameslist
autoreconf -i
automake --foreign
sudo make install
cd ..

Now run the build and installation scripts, and ensure you can open shared object files:

cd fontforge;
sudo make install;
sudo ldconfig;

Attention, Designers Who Love TrueType Hinting: You like to run ./configure with the --with-freetype-source1 option. This option enables advanced features for debugging TrueType font hints, such as stepping through hinting instructions one by one.

1 use absolute path to freetype source root. i.e. --with-freetype-source=/abspath/to/freetype

Common Problems

  • If you can not install due to problems with Python, run ./configure line like this (paths may vary):
PYTHON_CFLAGS="-I/System/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/2.7/include/python2.7" \
PYTHON_LIBS="-L/System/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/2.7/lib/python2.7/config" \
./configure \
--disable-programs \
--disable-native-scripting \
--without-x \
--without-cairo \
--without-giflib \
--without-libjpeg \
--without-libtiff \
--without-libpng \
--without-libspiro \
--without-libuninameslist \
--without-libunicodenames \
--without-iconv \
--without-libzmq \
--without-libreadline \
--enable-python-scripting \

Or try this:

PKG_CONFIG_PATH=/opt/X11/lib/pkgconfig/ \
PYTHON_CFLAGS="-I/System/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/2.7/include/python2.7" \
PYTHON_LIBS="-L/System/Library/Frameworks/Python.framework/Versions/2.7/lib/python2.7/config" \
  • Problems with lack of libraries can be solved with Homebrew or similar systems:
brew install autoconf;
brew install automake;
brew install glib;
brew install pango;
  • If make fails with no such file or directory msgfmt then with Homebrew run:
brew install gettext;

Then edit then your shell profile (eg, ~/.bash_profile or ~/.zprofile) and add:

export PATH=${PATH}:/usr/local/opt/gettext/bin

## On Mac OS X with Homebrew

Homebrew no longer packages FontForge with a UI, but the release GUI app bundles are available from Cask. You can install FontForge from the current github source code using a package manager, such as MacPorts or Fink.

Here is how to install FontForge without a UI:

ruby -e "$(curl -fsSL"

Check everything's ok (fix any issues before moving on)

brew doctor

Install dependencies

brew install python gettext libpng jpeg libtiff giflib cairo pango libspiro czmq fontconfig automake libtool pkg-config glib pango

Install the latest release or build from source

brew install -v --debug --with-giflib --with-libspiro fontforge


brew install -v --debug --with-giflib --with-libspiro fontforge --HEAD

If this does not work, please file an issue

To install the UI with Cask:

brew tap caskroom/cask; # Install cask
brew cask install fontforge; # Install fontforge