setfont(8) — Linux manual page


SETFONT(8)               System Manager's Manual              SETFONT(8)

NAME         top

       setfont - load EGA/VGA console screen font

SYNOPSIS         top

       setfont [-O font+umap.orig] [-o font.orig] [-om cmap.orig] [-ou
       umap.orig] [-N] [ ...] [-m cmap] [-u umap] [-C console]
       [-hH] [-f] [-v] [-V]

DESCRIPTION         top

       The setfont command reads a font from the file and loads
       it into the EGA/VGA character generator, and optionally outputs
       the previous font.  It can also load various mapping tables and
       output the previous versions.

       If no args are given (or only the option -N for some number N),
       then a default (8xN) font is loaded (see below).  One may give
       several small fonts, all containing a Unicode table, and setfont
       will combine them and load the union.  Typical use:

              Load a default font.

       setfont drdos8x16
              Load a given font (here the 448-glyph drdos font).

       setfont cybercafe -u cybercafe
              Load a given font that does not have a Unicode map and
              provide one explicitly.

       setfont LatArCyrHeb-19 -m 8859-2
              Load a given font (here a 512-glyph font combining several
              character sets) and indicate that one's local character
              set is ISO 8859-2.

       Note: if a font has more than 256 glyphs, only 8 out of 16 colors
       can be used simultaneously. It can make console perception worse
       (loss of intensity and even some colors).

FONT FORMATS         top

       The standard Linux font format is the PSF font.  It has a header
       describing font properties like character size, followed by the
       glyph bitmaps, optionally followed by a Unicode mapping table
       giving the Unicode value for each glyph.  Several other
       (obsolete) font formats are recognized.  If the input file has
       code page format (probably with suffix .cp), containing three
       fonts with sizes e.g. 8x8, 8x14 and 8x16, then one of the options
       -8 or -14 or -16 must be used to select one.  Raw font files are
       binary files of size 256*N bytes, containing bit images for each
       of 256 characters, one byte per scan line, and N bytes per
       character (0 < N <= 32).  Most fonts have a width of 8 bits, but
       with the framebuffer device (fb) other widths can be used.

FONT HEIGHT         top

       The program setfont has no built-in knowledge of VGA video modes,
       but just asks the kernel to load the character ROM of the video
       card with certain bitmaps. However, since Linux 1.3.1 the kernel
       knows enough about EGA/VGA video modes to select a different line
       distance. The default character height will be the number N
       inferred from the font or specified by option. However, the user
       can specify a different character height H using the -h option.

CONSOLE MAPS         top

       Several mappings are involved in the path from user program
       output to console display. If the console is in utf8 mode (see
       unicode_start(1)) then the kernel expects that user program
       output is coded as UTF-8 (see utf-8(7)), and converts that to
       Unicode (ucs2).  Otherwise, a translation table is used from the
       8-bit program output to 16-bit Unicode values. Such a translation
       table is called a Unicode console map.  There are four of them:
       three built into the kernel, the fourth settable using the -m
       option of setfont.  An escape sequence chooses between these four
       tables; after loading a cmap, setfont will output the escape
       sequence Esc ( K that makes it the active translation.

       Suitable arguments for the -m option are for example 8859-1,
       8859-2, ..., 8859-15, cp437, ..., cp1250.

       Given the Unicode value of the symbol to be displayed, the kernel
       finds the right glyph in the font using the Unicode mapping info
       of the font and displays it.

       Old fonts do not have Unicode mapping info, and in order to
       handle them there are direct-to-font maps (also loaded using -m)
       that give a correspondence between user bytes and font positions.
       The most common correspondence is the one given in the file
       trivial (where user byte values are used directly as font
       positions).  Other correspondences are sometimes preferable since
       the PC video hardware expects line drawing characters in certain
       font positions.

       Giving a -m none argument inhibits the loading and activation of
       a mapping table.  The previous console map can be saved to a file
       using the -om file option.  These options of setfont render
       mapscrn(8) obsolete. (However, it may be useful to read that man


       The correspondence between the glyphs in the font and Unicode
       values is described by a Unicode mapping table.  Many fonts have
       a Unicode mapping table included in the font file, and an
       explicit table can be indicated using the -u option. The program
       setfont will load such a Unicode mapping table, unless a -u none
       argument is given. The previous Unicode mapping table will be
       saved as part of the saved font file when the -O option is used.
       It can be saved to a separate file using the -ou file option.
       These options of setfont render loadunimap(8) obsolete.

       The Unicode mapping table should assign some glyph to the
       `missing character' value U+fffd, otherwise missing characters
       are not translated, giving a usually very confusing result.

       Usually no mapping table is needed, and a Unicode mapping table
       is already contained in the font (sometimes this is indicated by
       the .psfu extension), so that most users need not worry about the
       precise meaning and functioning of these mapping tables.

       One may add a Unicode mapping table to a psf font using

OPTIONS         top

       -h H   Override font height.

       -d     Doubles the size of the font, by replicating all of its
              pixels vertically and horizontally.  This is suitable for
              high pixel density (e.g. "4k") displays on which the
              standard fonts are too small to be easily legible.  Due to
              kernel limitations, this is suitable only for 16x16 or
              smaller fonts.

       -m file
              Load console map or Unicode console map from file.

       -o file
              Save previous font in file.

       -O file
              Save previous font and Unicode map in file.

       -om file
              Store console map in file.

       -ou file
              Save previous Unicode map in file.

       -u file
              Load Unicode table describing the font from file.

       -C console
              Set the font for the indicated console. (May require root

       -f     Force-load unicode map: Setfont`issues the system call to
              load the unicode map even if the specified map is empty.
              This may be useful in unusual cases.

       -v     Be verbose.

       -V     Print version and exit.

NOTE         top

       PC video hardware allows one to use the "intensity" bit either to
       indicate brightness, or to address 512 (instead of 256) glyphs in
       the font. So, if the font has more than 256 glyphs, the console
       will be reduced to 8 (instead of 16) colors.

FILES         top

              The default font directory.

              The default directory for Unicode maps.

              The default directory for screen mappings.

       The default font is a file default (or default8xN if the -N
       option was given for some number N) perhaps with suitable
       extension (like .psf).

SEE ALSO         top

       psfaddtable(1), unicode_start(1), loadunimap(8), utf-8(7),

COLOPHON         top

       This page is part of the kbd (Linux keyboard tools) project.
       Information about the project can be found at 
       ⟨⟩.  If you have a bug report for this
       manual page, send it to  This page was
       obtained from the project's upstream Git repository
       ⟨⟩ on 2023-12-22.  (At that
       time, the date of the most recent commit that was found in the
       repository was 2023-12-13.)  If you discover any rendering
       problems in this HTML version of the page, or you believe there
       is a better or more up-to-date source for the page, or you have
       corrections or improvements to the information in this COLOPHON
       (which is not part of the original manual page), send a mail to

kbd                            11 Feb 2001                    SETFONT(8)

Pages that refer to this page: psfaddtable(1)psfgettable(1)psfstriptable(1)psfxtable(1)unicode_start(1)unicode_stop(1)ioctl_console(2)console_codes(4)vconsole.conf(5)charsets(7)loadunimap(8)mapscrn(8)resizecons(8)showconsolefont(8)systemd-vconsole-setup.service(8)