MetaFont allows you to create your own fonts, and most TeX users will never need to use it — modern (La)TeX systems contain rather few MetaFont fonts of any significance, and when MetaFont output is needed the font generation is done, automatically, “on the fly”.
If you find you have some special requirement that the system doesn’t satisfy, you need to know about MetaFont in rather more detail. MetaFont, unlike TeX, requires customisation for each output device: such customisation is conventionally held in a “mode” associated with the device. Modes are commonly defined using the mode_def convention described on page 94 of The MetaFontbook (see TeX-related books). Your distribution should provide a file, conventionally called local.mf, containing all the mode_defs you will be using. In the unlikely event that local.mf doesn’t already exist, Karl Berry’s collection of modes (modes.mf) is a good starting point (it can be used as a ‘local.mf’ without modification in a modern implementation of MetaFont). Settings for new output devices are added to modes.mf as they become available.
Now create a plain base file using mf (in “initialisation” mode), plain.mf, and local.mf:
This will create a base file named plain.base (or something similar; for example, it will be PLAIN.BAS on MSDOS systems). Move the file to the directory containing the base files on your system, and run texhash as necessary.% mf -ini This is METAFONT... **plain # you type plain (output) *input local # you type this (output) *dump # you type this Beginning to dump on file plain... (output)
Now you need to make sure MetaFont loads this new base when it starts up. If MetaFont loads the plain base by default on your system, then you’re ready to go. Under Unix (using the default texlive (and earlier) distributions this does indeed happen, but we could for instance define a command plainmf †† On the grounds that a command plain could be misconstrued as a reference to Plain TeX which executes ‘mf -base=plain’ (or, in more traditional style ‘mf &plain’) which loads the plain base file.
The usual way to create a font with MetaFont (with an appropriate base file loaded) is to start MetaFont’s input with the line
in response to the ‘**’ prompt or on the MetaFont command line. (If\mode=
; mag= ; input
Note that under Unix the \ and ; characters must usually be quoted or escaped, so this would typically look something likemf \mode=epson; mag=magstep 1; input cmr10
If you need a special mode that isn’t in the base, you can put its commands in a file (e.g., ln03.mf) and invoke it on the fly with themf '\mode=epson; mag=magstep 1; input cmr10'
\smodecommand. For example, to create cmr10.300gf for an LN03 printer, using the file
(note the absence of the mode_def and enddef commands), you would type% This is ln03.mf as of 1990/02/27 % mode_def courtesy of John Sauter proofing:=0; fontmaking:=1; tracingtitles:=0; pixels_per_inch:=300; blacker:=0.65; fillin:=-0.1; o_correction:=.5;
This technique isn’t one you should regularly use, but it may prove useful if you acquire a new printer and want to experiment with parameters, or for some other reason are regularly editing the parameters you’re using. Once you’ve settled on an appropriate set of parameters, you should use them to rebuild the base file that you use.mf \smode="ln03"; input cmr10
Other sources of help are discussed in our list of MetaFont and MetaPost Tutorials.
This answer last edited: 2011-09-04