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


mf [ options ] [ commands ]


\*(MF reads the program in the specified files and outputs font rasters (in gfformat) and font metrics (in tfmformat). The \*(MF language is described in "The \*(MFbook" .

Like \*(TX, \*(MF 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 \*(MF 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

R inimf (or when the

-ini option is given) it can be used to precompile macros into a .basefile. When called as

virmf it will use the plainbase. When called under any other name, \*(MF will use that name as the name of the base to use. For example, when called as

mf the mfbase is used, which is identical to the plainbase. Other bases than plainare rarely used.

The commandsgiven on the command line to the \*(MF 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 \*(MF's favorite symbols, like semicolons, unless you quote them.) As described in "The \*(MFbook" , 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 \*(MF from thinking that you want to produce a font called mode . (Or you can just say mfand give the other stuff on the next line, without quotes.) Other control sequences, such as batchmode(for silent operation) can also appear. The name fontwill be the ``jobname'', and is used in forming output file names. If \*(MF 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 modein 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, \*(MF will default to proofmode which produces large character images for use in font design and refinement. Proof mode can be recognized by the suffix .2602gfafter the jobname. Examples of proof mode output can be found in "Computer Modern Typefaces"(Volume E of "Computers and Typesetting" ). The system of magstepsis identical to the system used by \*(TX, with values generally in the range 0.5, 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, 4.0 and 5.0. A listing of gfnumbers for 118-dpi, 240-dpi and 300-dpi fonts is shown below.

c c c c
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.mfmacro file and the local mode_deffile. The macros in plain.mfcan be studied in an appendix to the "\*(MFbook" ; they were developed by Donald E. Knuth, and this file should never be altered except when it is officially upgraded. Each mode_defspecification helps adapt fonts to a particular print-engine. There is a regular discussion of mode_def s in TUGboat , the journal of the \*(TX Users Group. The local ones in use on this computer should be in modes.mf .

The eresponse to \*(MF '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.


\*(MF can use most modern displays, so you can see its output without printing. Chapter 23 of "The \*(MFbook"describes what you can do. This implementation of \*(MF 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:

R hp2627 ,

sun (for old SunView),

R 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 \*(MF executables; the choice is made at compilation time.

On some systems, there are two \*(MF binaries,

mf and

R 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 helpful.


This version of \*(MF understands the following command line options.

  • -base  base
        .rb Use baseas the name of the base to be used, instead of the name by which \*(MF was called or a %&line.


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


    .rb Disable printing error messages in the file:line:errorstyle.


    .rb This is the old name of the

-file-line-error option.


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


    .rb Print help message and exit.


    .rb Be

R inimf , for dumping bases; this is implicitly true if the program is called as

R inimf .

  • -interaction  mode
        .rb 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
        .rb Use namefor the job name, instead of deriving it from the name of the input file.
  • -kpathsea-debug  bitmask
        .rb Sets path searching debugging flags according to the bitmask. See the Kpathseamanual for details.
  • -maketex  fmt
        .rb Enable mktex fmt , where fmtmust be mf .
  • -no-maketex  fmt
        .rb Disable mktex fmt , where fmtmust be mf .
  • -output-directory  directory
        .rb Write output files in directoryinstead of the current directory. Look up input files in directoryfirst, the along the normal search path.


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

-translate-file option.


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

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


    .rb 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
        .rb Use the tcxnametranslation table.


    .rb 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, \*(MF attempts to put its output files in it, if they cannot be put in the current directory. Again, see

R tex (1).

        Search path for inputand openinfiles.
        Command template for switching to editor.
        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 \*(MF guru for details.


    Takes a gffile and produces a more tightly packed pkfont file.


    Produces proof sheets for fonts.


    Displays the contents of a gffile in mnemonics and/or images.


    Mnemonically displays the contents of a pkfile.


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


  • "mf.pool"
        Encoded text of \*(MF's messages.
  • *.base
        Predigested \*(MF base files.
  • $TEXMFMAIN/metafont/base/plain.mf
        The standard base.
  • $TEXMFMAIN/metafont/misc/modes.mf
        The file of mode_def s for your site's various printers


This manual page is not meant to be exhaustive. The complete documentation for this version of \*(MF can be found in the info manual "Web2C: A TeX implementation" .

10. BUGS

On January 4, 1986 the ``final'' bug in \*(MF was discovered and removed. If an error still lurks in the code, Donald E. Knuth promises to pay a finder's fee which doubles every year to the first person who finds it. Happy hunting.


Donald E. Knuth, "The \*(MFbook"(Volume C of "Computers and Typesetting" ), Addison-Wesley, 1986, ISBN 0-201-13445-4.
Donald E. Knuth, "\*(MF: The Program"(Volume D of "Computers and Typesetting" ), Addison-Wesley, 1986, ISBN 0-201-13438-1.
Donald E. Knuth, Computer Modern Typefaces(Volume E of "Computers and Typesetting" ), Addison-Wesley, 1986, ISBN 0-201-13446-2.
TUGboat(the journal of the \*(TX Users Group).


Warning: ``Type design can be hazardous to your other interests. Once you get hooked, you will develop intense feelings about letterforms; the medium will intrude on the messages that you read. And you will perpetually be thinking of improvements to the fonts that you see everywhere, especially those of your own design.''


R gftopk (1),

R gftodvi (1),

R gftype (1),

R mft (1),

R pltotf (1),

R tftopl (1).


\*(MF was designed by Donald E. Knuth, who implemented it using his \*(WB system for Pascal programs. It was originally ported to Unix by Paul Richards at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This page was mostly written by Pierre MacKay.