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smith is a Python-based framework for building, testing and maintaining WSI (Writing Systems Implementation) components such as fonts. It is based on waf. Smith orchestrates and integrates various tools and utilities to make a standards-based open font design and production workflow easier to manage.

Building a font involves numerous steps and various programs, which, if done by hand, would be prohibitively slow. Even working out what those steps are can take a lot of work. Smith uses a dedicated file at the root of the project (the file is python-based) to allow the user to describe how to build the font. By chaining the different build steps intelligently, smith reduces build times to seconds rather than minutes or hours, and makes build, test, fix, repeat cycles very manageable. By making these processes repeatable, including for a number of fonts at the same time, your project can be shared with others simply, or - better yet - it can be included in a CI (Continuous Integration) system. This allows for fonts (and their various source formats) to truly be libre/open source software and developed with open and collaborative methodologies.

Smith is Copyright (c) 2011-2024 SIL International ( and is released under the BSD license. (based on waf Copyright (c) 2005-2011 Thomas Nagy)


The standard pip install . will install just the smith packages and commands, but will not all the other font tooling which smith will search for when smith configure is run.

To get the complete toolchain, follow the more descriptive step-by-step guide on (to be updated)

Docker image and helper script

A Docker image containing the whole toolchain is available both to provide a base for CI systems and for local interactive use.

You need to install Docker along with the helper script called anvil.

All the low-level details on building the Docker image yourself (not using anvil, the recommended approach) are described in


The manual (including a step-by-step tutorial) is in docs/smith.