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mf, mf-nowin, inimf - Metafont, a language for font and logo design


mf [options] [commands]


Metafont reads the program in the specified files and outputs font rasters (in gf format)
and font metrics (in tfm format). The Metafont language is described in The Metafontbook.

Like TeX, Metafont is normally used with a large body of precompiled macros, and font
generation in particular requires the support of several macro files. This version of
Metafont looks at its command line to see what name it was called under. Both inimf and
virmf are symlinks to the mf executable. When called as inimf (or when the -ini option is
given) it can be used to precompile macros into a .base file. When called as virmf it
will use the plain base. When called under any other name, Metafont will use that name as
the name of the base to use. For example, when called as mf the mf base is used, which is
identical to the plain base. Other bases than plain are rarely used.

The commands given on the command line to the Metafont program are passed to it as the
first input line. (But it is often easier to type extended arguments as the first input
line, since UNIX shells tend to gobble up or misinterpret Metafont's favorite symbols,
like semicolons, unless you quote them.) As described in The Metafontbook, that first
line should begin with a filename, a \controlsequence, or a &basename.

The normal usage is to say

mf '\mode=<printengine>; [mag=magstep(n);]' input font

to start processing font.mf. The single quotes are the best way of keeping the Unix shell
from misinterpreting the semicolons and from removing the \ character, which is needed
here to keep Metafont from thinking that you want to produce a font called mode. (Or you
can just say mf and give the other stuff on the next line, without quotes.) Other control
sequences, such as batchmode (for silent operation) can also appear. The name font will
be the ``jobname'', and is used in forming output file names. If Metafont doesn't get a
file name in the first line, the jobname is mfput. The default extension, .mf, can be
overridden by specifying an extension explicitly.

A log of error messages goes into the file jobname.log. The output files are jobname.tfm
and jobname.<number>gf, where <number> depends on the resolution and magnification of the
font. The mode in this example is shown generically as <printengine>, a symbolic term for
which the name of an actual device or, most commonly, the name localfont (see below) must
be substituted. If the mode is not specified or is not valid for your site, Metafont will
default to proof mode which produces large character images for use in font design and
refinement. Proof mode can be recognized by the suffix .2602gf after the jobname.
Examples of proof mode output can be found in Computer Modern Typefaces (Volume E of
Computers and Typesetting). The system of magsteps is identical to the system used by
TeX, with values generally in the range 0.5, 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 and 5.0. A listing of gf
numbers for 118-dpi, 240-dpi and 300-dpi fonts is shown below.

MAGSTEP 118 dpi 240 dpi 300 dpi
mag=magstep(0) 118 240 300
mag=magstep(0.5) 129 263 329
mag=magstep(1) 142 288 360
mag=magstep(2) 170 346 432
mag=magstep(3) 204 415 518
mag=magstep(4) 245 498 622
mag=magstep(5) 294 597 746

Magnification can also be specified not as a magstep but as an arbitrary value, such as
1.315, to create special character sizes.

Before font production can begin, it is necessary to set up the appropriate base files.
The minimum set of components for font production for a given print-engine is the plain.mf
macro file and the local mode_def file. The macros in plain.mf can be studied in an
appendix to the Metafontbook; they were developed by Donald E. Knuth, and this file should
never be altered except when it is officially upgraded. Each mode_def specification helps
adapt fonts to a particular print-engine. There is a regular discussion of mode_defs in
TUGboat, the journal of the TeX Users Group. The local ones in use on this computer
should be in modes.mf.

The e response to Metafont's error-recovery mode invokes the system default editor at the
erroneous line of the source file. There is an environment variable, MFEDIT, that
overrides the default editor. It should contain a string with "%s" indicating where the
filename goes and "%d" indicating where the decimal linenumber (if any) goes. For
example, an MFEDIT string for the vi editor can be set with the csh command
setenv MFEDIT "vi +%d %s"

A convenient file in the library is null.mf, containing nothing. When mf can't find the
file it thinks you want to input, it keeps asking you for another file name; responding
`null' gets you out of the loop if you don't want to input anything.


Metafont can use most modern displays, so you can see its output without printing.
Chapter 23 of The Metafontbook describes what you can do. This implementation of Metafont
uses environment variables to determine which display device you want to use. First it
looks for a variable MFTERM, and then for TERM. If it can't find either, you get no
online output. Otherwise, the value of the variable determines the device to use: hp2627,
sun (for old SunView), tek, uniterm (for an Atari ST Tek 4014 emulator), xterm (for either
X10 or X11). Some of these devices may not be supported in all Metafont executables; the
choice is made at compilation time.

On some systems, there are two Metafont binaries, mf and mf-nowin. On those systems the
mf binary supports graphics, while the mf-nowin binary does not. The mf-nowin binary is
used by scripts like mktexpk where graphics support is a nuisance rather than something


This version of Metafont understands the following command line options.

-base base
Use base as the name of the base to be used, instead of the name by which Metafont
was called or a %& line.

Print error messages in the form file:line:error which is similar to the way many
compilers format them.

Disable printing error messages in the file:line:error style.

This is the old name of the -file-line-error option.

Exit with an error code when an error is encountered during processing.

-help Print help message and exit.

-ini Be inimf, for dumping bases; this is implicitly true if the program is called as

-interaction mode
Sets the interaction mode. The mode can be one of batchmode, nonstopmode,
scrollmode, and errorstopmode. The meaning of these modes is the same as that of
the corresponding commands.

-jobname name
Use name for the job name, instead of deriving it from the name of the input file.

-kpathsea-debug bitmask
Sets path searching debugging flags according to the bitmask. See the Kpathsea
manual for details.

-maketex fmt
Enable mktexfmt, where fmt must be mf.

-no-maketex fmt
Disable mktexfmt, where fmt must be mf.

-output-directory directory
Write output files in directory instead of the current directory. Look up input
files in directory first, the along the normal search path.

If the first line of the main input file begins with %& parse it to look for a dump
name or a -translate-file option.

Disable parsing of the first line of the main input file.

-progname name
Pretend to be program name. This affects both the format used and the search

Enable the filename recorder. This leaves a trace of the files opened for input
and output in a file with extension .fls.

-translate-file tcxname
Use the tcxname translation table.

Print version information and exit.


See the Kpathsearch library documentation (the `Path specifications' node) for the details
of how the environment variables are use when searching. The kpsewhich utility can be
used to query the values of the variables.

If the environment variable TEXMFOUTPUT is set, Metafont attempts to put its output files
in it, if they cannot be put in the current directory. Again, see tex(1).

Search path for input and opening files.

MFEDIT Command template for switching to editor.

MFTERM Determines the online graphics display. If MFTERM is not set, and DISPLAY is set,
the Metafont window support for X is used. (DISPLAY must be set to a valid X
server specification, as usual.) If neither MFTERM nor DISPLAY is set, TERM is
used to guess the window support to use.


A number of utility programs are available. The following is a partial list of available
utilities and their purpose. Consult your local Metafont guru for details.

gftopk Takes a gf file and produces a more tightly packed pk font file.

gftodvi Produces proof sheets for fonts.

gftype Displays the contents of a gf file in mnemonics and/or images.

pktype Mnemonically displays the contents of a pk file.

mft Formats a source file as shown in Computer Modern Typefaces.

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