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I noticed that the font packages within the postscript psnfss (universal to all TeX distributions) aren't listed in the LaTeX Font Catalogue. It seems that the ones in the Catalog have replacements for the ones inside psnfss,

The packages are different, for example, the catalog has Palladio (a clone of Palitino, which is in psnfss) Other examples are, for New Century Schoolbook: \usepackage{fouriernc} listed in the Catalog, Vs \usepackage{newcent} listed in psnfss. And, for Utopia, \usepackage{fourier} vs \usepackage{utopia}. And, for Charter: \usepackage{bitstream-charter} vs \usepackage{charter}

Helvitica and Avant Garde (both sans fonts) are included in the psnfss set of font packages, but not even listed in the Catalog.

Here's how ctan discribes psnfss

The base set of text fonts cov­ered by PSNFSS are: Avan­tGarde, Book­man, Courier, Hel­vetica, New Cen­tury School­book, Palatino, Sym­bol, Times Ro­man and Zapf Ding­bats. In ad­di­tion, the fonts Bit­stream Char­ter and Adobe Utopia are cov­ered (those fonts were con­tributed to the Public Do­main by their com­mer­cial foundries).

I figure the font packages listed in the Catalog are superior or have had additional work and refinements applied. Is that the case and should I use the alternatives from the Catalog rather than from psnfss?

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They are the same fonts. That is, the Font Catalogue also lists alternatives and extensions etc., but the basic fonts it lists are the ones you already get.

What PSNFSS actually provides are clones of the fonts listed unless you have installed alternatives and configured your installation to use them. More specifically, the packages support either clones from URW or versions from Adobe, depending on your font configuration.

For example, mathpazo essentially sets the font family ppl for the default serif. Now, formally this would give you Adobe Palatino, but, in practice, you probably don't have this font available. So what you actually get is URW Palladiol, upl.

Which fonts are used for the 35 PostScript fonts is configured in your TeX installation. But the default is to use the clones which are part of TeX installations. If you wanted to use Adobe's Palatino, you'd need to obtain it, install it and reconfigure your TeX installation's font configuration appropriately.

In TeX Live, at least, this configuration is set in updmap.cfg. Here is the relevant section:

# LW35
#
# Which fonts for the "Basic 35 Laserwriter Fonts" do you want to use and
# how are the filenames chosen? Valid settings:
#   URW:     URW fonts with "vendor" filenames (e.g. n019064l.pfb)
#   URWkb:   URW fonts with "berry" filenames (e.g. uhvbo8ac.pfb)
#   ADOBE:   Adobe fonts with "vendor" filenames (e.g. hvnbo___.pfb)
#   ADOBEkb: Adobe fonts with  "berry" filenames (e.g. phvbo8an.pfb)
#
LW35 URWkb

This shows that I am using the default configuration which is URW fonts with 'berry' file names i.e. upl substitutes for Palatino.

Many font packages use different combinations of these base fonts. Either they may use them directly or they may use 'virtual' fonts which are TeX fonts which combine characters from different base fonts. The Font Catalogue tends to list packages which provide more complete support e.g. which combine a particular choice of serif with a complementary sans and a configuration for matching maths.

So, in general, the Font Catalogue will give you a 'best practice' method for enabling a font. But the improvement is not in the fonts used - these are often identical - but, rather, in the way those fonts are configured and accessed.

Moreover, in many cases, the recommendations in the Font Catalogue are to use packages from PSNFSS e.g. mathpazo. In others, the packages from PSNFSS are not generally the best way to access the font because a more complete solution is now provided by a newer package e.g. mathdesign or fouriernc.

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