Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Sign up
Here's how it works:
  1. Anybody can ask a question
  2. Anybody can answer
  3. The best answers are voted up and rise to the top

I am using xterm on OS X 10.5. If I do:

xterm -fa "Monaco" -fs 10

it creates a xterm with much bigger fonts than w/ Monaco 10 point font. In fact, I have to downsize xterm to -fs 8 or so to match the window sizes. And then the 8 point font is less readable.

Shouldn't a 10 point font be a specific absolute size (i.e. proportional to 10/72 inches) no matter whether displayed in Terminal or xterm?

The terminals are both 80x24 and not anti-aliased. Also, I ran iTerm for Mac OS X and the window almost perfectly overlayed the window. The width was the same but the height was a little shorter. vs. xterm

share|improve this question
Perhaps some images would be helpful. – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Jul 6 '11 at 4:21
I have an image that shows the problem pretty clearly, but can't post it until I have reputation 10. – Jason Waldrop Jul 6 '11 at 4:47
Post the URL as a comment. – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Jul 6 '11 at 4:48
The URL to the image. And use . – Ignacio Vazquez-Abrams Jul 6 '11 at 5:18
Hopefully this helps. Thanks. – Jason Waldrop Jul 6 '11 at 5:23
up vote 1 down vote accepted

I resolved the issue. There is an option you can place in .Xdefaults to set the apparent dots per inch:

Xft.dpi: 99

Of course this doesn't really change the true display device dots per inch as that is fixed by the hardware. Apparently, this number is used to "scale" the fonts.

It appears that Mac OS X runs at about 72 dpi and the default setting on xterm is 99 dpi.

The font glyphs and the windows are nearly the same size (within 1/16") when you set both term apps to 72 dpi.

share|improve this answer

Your Answer


By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.