I recently updated my Fedora Rawhide system, and after doing so, fonts in Firefox (now 31) are ugly. But... not all of them. I traced it down to some fonts being rendered as "Helvetica" (the element inspector in Firefox tells me so), and this being rendered with no anti-aliasing.

I don't think there is an open-source Helvetica, so something is being substituted. How can I:

  1. figure out what font is actually being used,
  2. discover why it isn't rendered nicely, and
  3. fix the problem?
  • The default Firefox inspector (in Firefox 30 atleast) has a fonts tab - that could be used to identify the font name and possibly where it comes from.
    – Wilf
    Jul 21, 2014 at 13:17
  • @Wilf Yes, I'm using that -- it says Helvetica Regular, and under that, smaller, "system"
    – mattdm
    Jul 21, 2014 at 13:24

1 Answer 1


I had the same problem with Helvetica bitmap fonts. To avoid it, I have a file ~/.config/fontconfig/fonts.conf with:

<?xml version="1.0"?>
<!DOCTYPE fontconfig SYSTEM "fonts.dtd">
<alias binding="same">

EDIT: to find which font corresponds to Helvetica:

$ fc-match Helvetica
helvR12-ISO8859-1.pcf.gz: "Helvetica" "Regular"

This is a bitmap font. After the change in ~/.config/fontconfig/fonts.conf, I get:

$ fc-match Helvetica
Arial.ttf: "Arial" "Normal"

a TrueType font, i.e. antialiased.

  • Perfect! Although substituting Arial for Helvetica might count as blasphemy; I went with MgOpen Moderna instead.
    – mattdm
    Jul 21, 2014 at 13:29
  • Yes, I suppose I used the easiest solution at that time (Arial was already installed for another reason). I've also found free Helvetica fonts in OpenType format (I don't know which meaning of "free"). I haven't tried. You may need to modify the fonts.conf file if fc-match doesn't return the right one.
    – vinc17
    Jul 21, 2014 at 13:37

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