Fontforge binaries…

A couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with Mario Moura. We started talking about the typography class he teaches at the Editorial Design master at the Fine Arts Faculty of Porto, and soon we were talking about font developing software.

I have this conversation from time to time with different people. It’s about the strategies and tools adopted in the different design learning contexts (this topic of discussion actually started a few years ago with Mario himself).  One thing led to another, and, at a given point, he reported students were having trouble finding the necessary files to install Fontforge in the Mac OSX. They still seem to find it difficult, although George Williams has dedicated a significant amount of effort into documenting all the necessary steps. I’ve also tried to simplify it before.

Even when they can understand the necessary steps, there’s always the need to download X11, or to have XCode and the necessary libraries on the system. Other issues include the need to have MacPorts download the gigabytes of ports and dependencies needed to build Fontforge from the source files…I know from my personal experience that this can be very frustrating.

So, if you need to use it in classes, or you can’t build it on your system, here’s quick-fix solution to it (you still need to have install permissions):

  1. Download and install XQuartz, an alternative open source X window system for the Mac OSX;
  2. Download and install the necessary dependencies;
  3. Download and install the latest Fontforge release (20110222).

That’s all there is to it! Now you only have to start XQuartz, then type “fontforge” into the terminal and start editing your fonts.

I’ve pre-compiled Fontforge and almost all the dependencies on OSX 10.6. Somehow I managed to build and install libjpeg and libtiff from source. I think they’ve been included into this build, but I couldn’t create the .dmgs for them with the port command. Nevertheless, everything should be working except the EPS import. As I have only one Mac OSX system, I can’t really test if everything is working as it should, so I’m making this available “as is”…

As a final note, I urge you to check all the necessary license agreements before using these builds. Here’s Fontforge’s license:

Copyright 2000,2001,2002,2003,2004,2005,2006,2007,2008,2009,2010,2011 by George Williams. Redistribution and use in source and binary forms, with or without modification, are permitted provided that the following conditions are met:

Redistributions of source code must retain the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer.

Redistributions in binary form must reproduce the above copyright notice, this list of conditions and the following disclaimer in the documentation and/or other materials provided with the distribution.

The name of the author may not be used to endorse or promote products derived from this software without specific prior written permission.


42 thoughts on “Fontforge binaries…

  1. Pingback: Installing Fontforge in Snow Leopard « Typeforge

  2. Pingback: Instalar o Fontforge em 3 passos… « DESIGNLAB

  3. Michael Haeusler

    FYI: the Python installer doesn’t work, but you can install/extract the files manually using Pacifist. However, FontForge doesn’t immediately launch under 10.6.8. (Maybe it’s just an error on my system.) Here’s the xterm output from XQuartz:

    bash-3.2$ /opt/local/bin/fontforge
    dyld: Library not loaded: /opt/local/lib/libintl.8.dylib
    Referenced from: /opt/local/bin/fontforge
    Reason: image not found
    Trace/BPT trap

    When I add the library, e.g. from VLC or other software packages, it is missing yet another library: dyld: Library not loaded: /opt/local/lib/libXi.6.dylib

    After that it’s missing libXext.6.dylib etc. and so on. Many of these dylibs are in /opt/X11/lib instead of /opt/local/lib/

    I copied the missing ones (roughly a dozen) to the local lib folder, and then FontForge works. Thank you!

    Question: Will there be a version for 10.7?

  4. pedamado Post author

    Thanks for the feedback!
    About a new version for OS X Lion… I don’t know any details… But I think by running it on X it is independent from the OS. The only concern is that Apple keeps supporting X11 on the new OS. ;)

  5. rango

    Any chance this will updated for mac os Lion as this version definitely does not work, taking in consideration that apple dropped rosetta support in lion.

  6. pedamado Post author

    Hello Rango!
    I’ll be updating my own computer to OSX 10.7 Lion this week. I’ll try to figure this out soon ;)

  7. Adrien

    I followed all the instructions in this article and had the same error as mentioned above about missing libraries. (For example: “Library not loaded: /opt/local/lib/libintl.8.dylib”)

    Many of those librairies were simply in /opt/X11/lib. But I was still missing libxkbui.1.dylib.

    I am running Lion on a brand new Mac. (Lion was pre-installed)

  8. Gordon Barker

    I just did an install on Lion from the package on MacPorts. Lion, itself, was a clean install. Everything seems fine so far.

    Remember to update MacPorts after the first install, though.

  9. Pingback: How to Quickly Make a Font for Free | mox & fodder

  10. Andres

    I also followed all the instructions and I get the following error:

    dyld: Library not loaded: /opt/local/lib/libintl.8.dylib
    Referenced from: /opt/local/bin/fontforge
    Reason: image not found
    Trace/BPT trap: 5

    I can’t find the libintl.8.dylib lybrary
    Lion installed from scratch.

  11. Andres

    I installed gettext and solve the problem with the libraries.

    dyld: Library not loaded: /opt/local/lib/libxkbui.1.dylib
    Referenced from: /opt/local/bin/fontforge
    Reason: image not found
    Trace/BPT trap: 5

    I can’t find this one. I tried “sudo port install fontforge” but doesn’t solve this.

  12. Alec

    This is the story of how I got FontForge to work on my clean-ish Lion install:
    I installed all typeforge’s very kindly created packages
    Installed macports, then “sudo port install gettext xorg-libxkbui”
    And then, as if by magic, it worked.
    Best of luck to y’all.

  13. pedamado Post author

    Hi Rebecca:
    Although I don’t quite approve your methods, although the video, by itself, is quite explanatory of a fast tracing process… In the future, you should use your own drawings.

  14. thomboy

    Thanks for pointing out that EPS import does not work on this 2011 0222. Thats the one thing I really need. Suppose I have to go back to my 2008 110 build, where EPS import works. By the way, those builds are easy to install. Just download, install and start X11.

  15. Pingback: FF 21 | ZigzagAnimal

  16. Alfred Scheepers

    I got fontforge installed on my G5. No problem .dmg file. And the X11 was, it seems rightly installed. It was just like every other professional program. So George Williams is able to do it.

    Is it that he does not want his program being used now?

    I got this torture with Knut and ended with InDesign. Is that the meaning of OpenSource. Only the Nerds are allowed to use it?

    Can anyone provide me with a file ending with .dmg. That just starts the program?

  17. pedamado Post author

    I share your disappointment with many (great) OpenSource programs…

    But I must remind you (and myself in the process) that these (free) Open Source packages aren’t completely free. They’re produced and compiled by someone that invests precious development hours (days, months, years?) into them.

    In the end, someone is paying for them…. In the end, great universal, beautifully design software packages like Firefox are able to be used on every platform, and every person (not only computer nerds), because someone (many people actually) helped to develop it. I think it’s our obligation to help out Fontforge also. Even if it means to wave the universal and easy interface issues…

    BTW, the easy way to start the program is just to create an alias (shortcut) to it, like it’s been done since I can remember… No nerd science here. The .dmg I provided you with must ‘ve already created it in the Applications folder. If not, you can always use Spotlight to search for “Fontforge” to locate the bin, or the .app file and drag it to the dock. It should be located in /usr/local/bin/fontforge

    P.S.: If you compile it with MacPorts, it automatically creates an alias for you…

  18. harin

    Hi. I ve installed fontforge .I want to know how to create a gallery of fonts using fontforge .

  19. godo

    How to solve the problem on Lion 10.7.3:
    dyld: Library not loaded: /opt/local/lib/libintl.8.dylib

    Install VLC first,
    after open Terminal and type (copy commands):

    sudo cp -a /Applications/ /opt/local/lib/
    sudo cp -a /opt/X11/lib/libXi.6.dylib /opt/local/lib/
    sudo cp -a /opt/X11/lib/libXext.6.dylib /opt/local/lib/
    sudo cp -a /opt/X11/lib/libxcb.1.dylib /opt/local/lib/
    sudo cp -a /opt/X11/lib/libxkbui.1.dylib /opt/local/lib/
    sudo cp -a /opt/X11/lib/libXt.6.dylib /opt/local/lib/
    sudo cp -a /opt/X11/lib/libSM.6.dylib /opt/local/lib/
    sudo cp -a /opt/X11/lib//libICE.6.dylib /opt/local/lib/
    sudo cp -a /opt/X11/lib/libxkbfile.1.dylib /opt/local/lib/
    sudo cp -a /opt/X11/lib/libX11.6.dylib /opt/local/lib/
    sudo cp -a /opt/X11/lib/libXau.6.dylib /opt/local/lib/
    sudo cp -a /opt/X11/lib/libXdmcp.6.dylib /opt/local/lib/

    thats all,
    run XQuartz, command N, and type:


  20. pedamado Post author

    Hi Godo!

    Thanks for the input! I haven’t tried it, but I hope it works for the rest of the people. Please let me know if it worked out for anyone! ;)

  21. RoboBobo

    I tried Godo’s steps, except you cannot just download any copy of VLC.

    At first I went to VideoLan’s website and downloaded version 2.0.1 of VLC, but it doesn’t have the libintl.8.dylib file.

    So then I went to Sourceforge and downloaded the 1.1.10.dmg (I think the latest is 1.1.12, I just didn’t happen to find that immediately).

    From there I had a copy of VLC that had the needed copy.

    However, that didn’t solve the problem and I went into an endless loop of trying to install tings – said my copy of libiconv was outdated, downloaded the libiconv source, but that said an executable couldn’t be created, so on and so forth.

    Where I work they block the port that macports uses, so I don’t have access to macports.


  22. Pablito


    Forgive me for not having a clue what I am doing, but I really struggle to understand half of what has been said on this page. It’s not that I am thick, it’s just all another language to me.

    I want to make my own font but don’t have hundreds of pounds to do it and font forge sounds like the best way forward. I have a mac with lion, so if I follow steps 1 to 3 at the beginning of this page, will that work for me?

    And if I don’t get most of what has been said here (I have no idea what open source really means and have only opened terminal on a couple of occasions) would I even be able to use font forge if I did get it working?


  23. pedamado Post author

    Not to worry… I’ve been through what your are feeling right now. The best way would be to learn a commercial tool like TypeTool (only 99$), or a professional one like Fontlab, Robofont or Glyphs.

    But if you think this is worth pursuing (the knowledge you gain from this is worth the effort), follow the steps here and read the documentation on Fontforge’s website!…

    There is also a great book that has explains many features (with an old version):

    Good luck, and remember that nothing is achieved without effort…

  24. Thiago


    i follow all steps and I have a message :
    “bash: fontforge: command not found”

    when I white “fontforge” on the window’s terminal of Xquartz.

    i’m running mac lion 10.7.5, and i have installed Xquartz + all little dependecies of second package. Someone has fond the same problem?

    Thanks Pedro and all others.

  25. pedamado Post author

    mmhhh… strange. It seems it didn’t register in bash. It looks like a bash/xquartz problem…
    1) Try to google it. I am not a savvy Unix user. The closest I got was this:

    2) Create a shortcut to the binary. It should be either on your usr/bin, or on the general bin folder (that’s what I’ve done).

    Sadly, I don’t have fontforge currently installed, so I can’t say for sure what to do.

  26. Thiago

    thanks for your speed reply mister.
    I reinstall lion (and reset it all) and i lost my previously verrsion of fontforge.

    Yesterday I tried a lot of thinks, others tips from others sites. i don’t understand these codes instructions. I will find a hacker friend for help me! ;)

    nice blog, i start to follow your RSS flux!

  27. Pingback: Fontes Libres: FontForge et Inkscape » ci*diguente

  28. peet

    Hi pedamado

    Thanks for providing this blog. Its the only one I could find that made any sense to me!

    I’m on Mac OSX 10.6.8. I followed your instructions above, downloaded and installed everything. I typed ‘fontforge’ into XTerm, and got the following message:

    bash-3.2$ fontforge
    dyld: Library not loaded: /opt/local/lib/libXi.6.dylib
    Referenced from: /opt/local/bin/fontforge
    Reason: no suitable image found. Did find:
    /usr/local/lib/libXi.6.dylib: stat() failed with errno=13
    Trace/BPT trap

    Prior to your blog, I downloaded the latest source and complied it myself. That didn’t work either. It really important to me, as I need to convert a few fonts for a client. I also see this as a worthy addition to my graphic tools. I’ve been at it for over five hours and I’m still struggling to get FontForge to work.

    If anyone has any advice to set me on the correct path, I would greatly appreciate it. Obviously I’m not looking to purchase a costly alternative. Plenty of Mac users have successfully installed FontForge. So even though I’m savvier than the average user, I’m so stumped!

    Thanks in advance!

  29. Marie


    I have absolutely no clue about anything terminal-related, so I’ve been blindly copy-and-pasting stuff to install fontforge on Snow Leopard. After “brew install fontforge” I get

    configure: error: cannot run C compiled programs.
    If you meant to cross compile, use `–host’.
    See `config.log’ for more details.

    Googling this leads me to nerdy forums that seem to be in an entirely different language :-). Suspiciously often, these forums suggest a clean install of my OS, which scares me. Any ideas what I could do to fix this?

  30. pedamado Post author

    Hi Marie:

    You should be scared. I don’t mean to be rude, but you should really read the instructions carefully before messing with your system… You can do some serious damage with the unix terminal.
    Have you been using Homebrew? Then read the install instructions first!

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again — I am not an Unix-savvy user. I always have to google may way out of these kind of problems too… So I’m sorry, but I can’t help you with this matter.

    Word to the wise—someone once described Mac OSX of being as much of scalpel (an elegant precision tool) as it is a a hammer drill (a very powerful tool). On the right skillful hands it can accomplish many things. On the wrong ill-informed hands… well… you can guess the rest…
    So, my advice to you is: use a proper commercial, stable and specific OS recommended solution like Fontographer, Fontlab, Glyphs, or Robofont to name a few. They’re not expensive (personal license) and the forums provide lots of help.

    If you still want to pursue this, try reading Dave Crossland’s manual:

    Best of luck!

  31. Warkgnall

    My issue was that a lot of lib files were missing, so what I did was search my mac for files starting with “libX” and copied all of them into /opt/local/lib/. Then I tried to run fontforge and when it said it couldn’t find “libxxxx.dylib” I just searched my mac for it and copied it in.
    I hope this helps.
    Best wishes,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>