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How to Install an Open Source Font

Have a great font but you're not sure how to install it? It's easy!

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Close-up of a blue desktop folder icon.
Image © Jakub Steiner

There are tons of great open source fonts out there ready for you to download and install, but if you're not sure how exactly to get them working on your computer, below are some easy-to-follow steps.

It only takes a minute to get things set up, so don't shy away from adding new fonts to your system -- just make sure that you're getting them from a reliable (and legal) source. Whether you're looking to send a love note, invitations to a Halloween party, or wireframes to a client, the open source font world has a lot to offer. So, don't waste another second ... get those fonts installed and start creating!

Note: The instructions below cover only Microsoft Windows and OS X. If you're trying to install a font on Linux, be sure to check out the Linux site on About.com. Your exact instructions will vary depending on which distribution and desktop environment you use.

If You're Using Microsoft Windows 8 or Windows 7

  1. Download the font.
  2. Extract the font if it's part of a zipped folder. (If you don't already have software installed to unzip a file, check out PeaZip, a free, open source tool for Microsoft Windows).
  3. Open the folder, and find the font files. (The two most popular file extensions are .otf and .ttf).
  4. Right click on the font file name and select "Install" from the pop-up menu. Windows will finish installing your font from here, and it should be available in your list of fonts the next time you open a program.

Tip: If you want to install more than one font at the same time, you can also drag-and-drop multiple font files into the Fonts directory, which you can get to by either typing "fonts" in the Start Menu's search box or through the Control Panel --> Appearance and Personalization menu.

And, once you're done installing your font, don't forget to move your zipped folder and extracted files to your Recycle Bin -- you don't need them anymore.

If You're Using OS X Lion

  1. Download the font.
  2. Extract the font if it's part of a zipped folder by double-clicking on the folder icon. (If you don't already have software installed to unzip a file, check out The Unarchiver, a free, open source tool for OS X).
  3. Open the folder, and find the font files. (The two most popular file extensions are .otf and .ttf).
  4. Double-click on the font file name you want to install, and you should see a small pop-up windows appear with a sample of the font displayed. In the lower right-hand corner, there's a button that says "Install Font" -- click on that button, and you're done. OS X will finish installing your font from here, and it should be available in your list of fonts next time you open a program.

Tip: If you want to install more than one font at the same time, you can highlight all the font files you want to install by highlighting them in the extracted folder and double-clicking on one of them. A window will pop up for each font style, so just click on the "Install Font" button for each font, and you're all set.

And, once you're done installing your font, don't forget to move your zipped folder and extracted files to your Trash -- you don't need them anymore.

Now, once you have your new fonts installed, don't forget to check out our list of open source design programs, and whenever you're ready, find out how designers can contribute to the open source movement!

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