# how much is Metafont used these days?

Is it really all about TeX (and friends) these days, or does MetaFont still enjoy some use---even if that's in limited contexts? It seems that for all intents and purposes, we're essentially at version $e$ for MetaFont, while TeX may still get a few more digits before (regrettably) reaching $\pi$.

• I have never used MF to make any fonts, but I still use it's more general purpose cousin, MetaPost, to create technical illustrations every day. – Thruston Feb 13 '17 at 20:12
• You may enjoy reading about the development of the Nara typeface: typotheque.com/articles/nara_-_the_typeface_that_never_existed – Thérèse Feb 13 '17 at 20:14
• I should perhaps add that this type of question runs a risk of getting closed on this site, because any answer is likely to be opinion based... – Thruston Feb 13 '17 at 20:15
• @Thruston yeah, maybe, I know the rules; and also know that interpreting them is in the eye of the beholder, i.e., community. :-) Perhaps TeX.SE has the luxury of being a touch more flexible than SO? – Ðаn Feb 13 '17 at 20:20
• This could be regarded as a 'piece of string' question, but one might also argue that the relative number of questions here (and elsewhere) is a guide ... I would point to the fact that for use in PDFs, vector-based fonts are significantly advantageous. – Joseph Wright Feb 13 '17 at 20:32

## 1 Answer

your supposition that metafont's current use is in "limited" or specialized contexts is borne out by the relatively recent tugboat articles that indicate in either the title or the synopsis in the "annotated index" that metafont is a key component.

these articles are so listed:

Computer Modern Roman fonts for ebooks, Martin Ruckert, 37:3 (2016), 277-280

Corrections for slanted stems in Metafont and MetaPost, Linus Romer, 37:3 (2016), 311-316

Obyknovennaya Novaya (Ordinary New Face) in Metafont, Basil Solomykov, 35:3 (2014), 276

Why didn't Metafont catch on?, Dave Crossland, 29:3 (2008), 418-420

Meta-designing parameterized Arabic fonts for AlQalam, Ameer Sherif and Hossam Fahmy, 29:3 (2008), 435-443

Parameterized Arabic font development for AlQalam, Ameer Sherif and Hossam Fahmy, 29:1 (2008), 79-88

Tsukurimashou: A Japanese-language font meta-family, Matthew Skala, 34:3 (2013), 269-278

Writing Gregg Shorthand with Metafont and LaTeX, Stanislav Jan Šarman, 29:3 (2008), 458-461

Writing Pitman shorthand with Metafont and LaTeX, Stanislav Jan Šarman, 30:3 (2009), 107-111

regarding your comment that metafont is "essentially at version $e$", knuth is still (on his own schedule) accepting bug reports for metafont, so it may well get some more digits. additional digits for tex will only be bug fixes, so you could say about tex that it is essentially at version $\pi$.

• My, presumption is that a few more TeX bug-fixes will add some digits, while MF gets so little use it's unlikely to change before DEK's demise. Of course, the counter-argument might be that since TeX is so heavily used, there aren't many (important) bugs to be found/fixed. – Ðаn Feb 13 '17 at 21:04
• @Dan - While it's true that Knuth-TeX may not have been changing (and improving) all that much in recent years, that's not the whole story. The eTeX extensions were an important advance, as was pdfTeX. Plus, don't forget XeTeX and especially LuaTeX. – Mico Feb 13 '17 at 21:21
• @Mico no argument; I'm referring to the canonical WEB versions of TeX/MF. – Ðаn Feb 13 '17 at 21:32
• if i'm not mistaken, there has already been a reported possible bug for metafont that is being held in the queue for his next review. (granted, that's quite rare, but non-zero.) i know that there are tex reports in the queue. (and even "non-important" changes do add digits to the version number.) – barbara beeton Feb 13 '17 at 22:14