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Font rendering has always been a huge problem on Ubuntu. I am hoping someone has a real solution to this problem. I have a laptop with a 17" (382x215 mm) display running at 1920x1080, approximately 128 PPI (DPI). I wish to get Ubuntu set up properly on this display. This means that when I select a 72-point font, capital letters will be exactly 1" (2.54 cm) high, and applications such as LibreOffice will display documents with true-to-life measurements when scaled to 100%.

I have tried:

  • Starting X with -dpi 128 (by modifying /etc/lightdm/lightdm.conf), no apparent effect
  • Adding my display dimensions to my xorg.conf file, no apparent effect
  • Setting the DPI with xrandr --dpi 128, no apparent effect
  • Setting org.gnome.desktop.interface.text-scaling-factor to 1.33 (128/96), fonts get bigger, but are still not large enough

Increasing the text-scaling-factor to 1.93 displays fonts in the correct size (72pt M in character map measures 1 inch tall), however this makes the whole UI wacky, and requires to reduce my UI font sizes to 5-6 in order to be usable. Unfortunately Unity itself does not pick up on these changes, and so searches in the dash, etc. have absurdly huge fonts.

In addition to all this, the non-font UI elements are still too large. I feel like I need to set com.ubuntu.user-interface.scale-factor to 7 (scale for menus and title bars = 0.875), which of course requires increasing the text-scaling-factor accordingly, and everything just looks like a mess.

Why is this so difficult? Calibrating one's screen should be a simple, basic task that every user does when first installing Ubuntu. What I am asking here is, how can I achieve the perfect setup, where fonts appear correctly sized, the UI isn't too huge, and layouts of Unity and other applications are all appropriate?

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For LibreOffice, I just found a simple solution.

Click on Tools > Options > LibreOffice > View

Adjust the scaling figure (default 100%) to the size you need. For me setting it to 106% meant that when LibreOffice says a document is displayed at 100% it really is the width of the paper.

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    That's not what the question asks though. Sure, you can manually scale the document until fonts show up the way you like them on the screen, but OP wants his system (and LibreOffice) to know the pixel density of the screen so it chooses an appropriate scaling itself. -1 – David Foerster Mar 31 '17 at 7:37
  • It's a good work-around, but that's what I'm already doing. It shouldn't be necessary if Unity/GTK/GNOME didn't force everything to be based on 96 dpi like broken Windows. – hackel Apr 5 '17 at 19:06

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