I have both Debian Squeeze and Ubuntu 10.04 machines; the font rendering in 10.04/10.10 is beautiful out of the box but Squeeze is still ugly even after hours and hours of messing with configuration. (IMO - I realize this is subjective.)

Obviously Ubuntu is doing something right. Can I simply install a few packages from Ubuntu on my Debian box and have it work? If so, which are the relevant packages (cairo, freetype, xft are the libraries which seem to keep getting mentioned)? And which is the right version of Ubuntu to pull from? I'm currently on Lenny but I could upgrade to Squeeze.

Alternately, are there patches I can pull from the Ubuntu deb sources that I can apply to to the corresponding Debian versions and rebuild?

  • Right or wrong is subjective. xft fonts can be awfully slow. What is right, fast or pretty? You should try to figure out what the exact problem is and fix that instead of randomly installing incompatible software packages. I use Debian and the fonts are as pretty as in Ubuntu, there is no reason to install Ubuntu packages.
    – Marco
    Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 8:47
  • Also, isn't Lenny approaching end-of-life? Squeeze has been out for ages and Debian is currently in freeze mode to work on the next major release... Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 11:25
  • Not just approaching EOL, more than a year past. Commented Mar 28, 2013 at 11:37

2 Answers 2


Before you do anything else, upgrade your Debian distribution to at least Squeeze. Squeeze has been the active stable tree for a long time now (and will likely be superseded by Wheezy sometime this year) and Lenny is more than a year past its end-of-life date.

What that means is that not only is all of its software dangerously outdated, it hasn't been receiving security updates for at least that long.

If that doesn't solve your problem outright (Ubuntu tends to be a bit ahead of Debian stable because it's much less rigorous about what they consider acceptable for a stable release) I'd still recommend you look at Debian backports before you start trying to graft ubuntu packages onto a debian system, especially where libraries are concerned.


Have you had a look at Subpixel-hinting and Font-smoothing?

It might help in regard to what you describe, - at least from their description under the heading.

Have to admit I find the text somewhat ambiguous if the "Patching and rebuilding of Cairo packages are not needed any more." Is not meant for Squeeze, or not, due to the sentence:

"A lot of things about the cairo package has changed recently in wheezy and unstable which have brought almost the same font setup to Debian (But not Squeeze or old) but you have to set it up to your liking."

(As I can't leave comments, this stands as an answer.)

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