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Improving SimVision Fonts for Ubuntu

Comments(1)Filed under: System Design and Verification, Incisive, SystemC, Ubuntu, virtual platforms, Virtual System Platform, VSP, Ubuntu 12.04

This article is a follow-up on an early 2012 article about using Incisive and Virtual System Platform on the Ubuntu operating system. Although the feedback has been positive, the one area that was not covered very well is the look of SimVision. When I wrote the original article I used Ubuntu 11.10, and the fonts in SimVision seemed to get worse when Ubuntu 12.04 arrived. This article will shed some light on how to make SimVision look better with Ubuntu 12.04. I'm not an expert on GUI programming and fonts, but I managed to come up enough information to improve the SimVision look.

The first clue there is a font problem will be in the splash screen. Since it goes away quickly use the Help -> About SimVision box. The fonts are choppy and strange.

Previously, I recommended installing the package ttf-mscorefonts-installer to get some extra fonts. With Ubuntu 12.04 this might be useful, but not enough to make SimVision look better. I found it very difficult to understand which fonts are available in Ubuntu. There are many packages that contain more fonts, but I really had no clue about which fonts are needed to make SimVision look better.

After some searching and downright guessing, I found the package gsfonts-x11 seems to fix the ugly fonts on the splash screen and on the menus. Here is a new screenshot after installing the package:

$ sudo apt-get install gsfonts-x11

You may want to install more font packages. There many of them and it's not very clear what they contain. The other issue is that a reboot seems necessary to actually update the fonts. I tried various forms of fc-cache with no luck.

Now the menus look better, but I still had an issue with the font in the ncsim and SimVision console. It was also choppy and hard to read. For this I tried a different approach to solve the problem.

Xdefaults file

SimVision doesn't provide any control over the fonts that are used from the Edit -> Preferences menu, but there is a way to control the fonts used by SimVision.

Here is a picture of the problem. The console font is hard to read.

The same thing occurs in the Source Browser windows for debugging SystemC and Embedded Software Code. Here is how to change the fonts.

First, copy a file called SimVision to become the Xdefaults file:

$ cp `ncroot`/share/cdssetup/simvision/app-defaults/SimVision ~/.simvision/Xdefaults

Now, you can edit the Xdefaults file to adjust the fonts you would like to use. For example, there is a global section at the top of the file. This controls many of the fonts.

To increase the size of the font change the 12 to 16, save the file, and restart SimVision. You will see many of the fonts, including the menus are now much larger. You will also see the sub-menus are not bigger than before. The sub-menu font is controlled by another entry in file.

If you search for "font" in the Xdefaults file you will find many entries for various fonts. They all have the same format with dashes and stars. Changing the font size from 12 to 16 is easy, but what about the other parts of the font specification.

I found a pretty good explanation of how to use xlsfonts to list the fonts installed, and xfontsel to see the fonts and try different values to see what they look like. I found a good tutorial on what the individual parts of the font lines mean. It also seems clear many of the fonts used are Helvetica, which probably explains why finding that font is key to making the menus look and splash screen look better.

With this knowledge, let's get back to the problem. The SimVision console and source browser fonts look bad. The solution is to edit the Xdefaults file until you get a font that is clear and easy to read.  After trying different values with xfontsel, I decided to use the font called "fixed". I just replaced all of the courier lines with fixed in the Xdefaults file and tried SimVision again. Here is a section dealing with the console font.

 Here is the new screenshot of the console.

There are many combinations to try, and maybe somebody can even change the main gray and red colors of SimVision using the Xdefaults file to better match the default Ubuntu color scheme, but hopefully this basic info about how to get more fonts and how to change fonts will be enough to get you going in the right direction to make SimVision readable.

Jason Andrews


By Giuseppe Di Guglielmo on January 13, 2013
How can I set the fonts size and type for cdnshelp? This tutorial works for SimVision but I did not succeed with Cadence Help.

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