HarfBuzz (loose transliteration of Persian حرف‌باز harf-bāz, meaning “open type”)[2][3] is a software development library for text shaping, which is the process of converting Unicode text to glyph indices and positions. The newest version, New HarfBuzz, targets various font technologies while the first version, Old HarfBuzz, targeted only OpenType fonts.[2][4]

Original author(s)The FreeType Project
Developer(s)Behdad Esfahbod
Stable release2.6.4 (29 October 2019 (2019-10-29)[1]) [±]
Written inC++
Operating systemUnix-like, Windows
TypeSoftware development library


HarfBuzz evolved from code that was originally part of the FreeType project. It was then developed separately in Qt and Pango. Then it was merged back into a common repository with an MIT license. This was Old HarfBuzz, which is no longer being developed, as the path going forward is New HarfBuzz.[2] In 2013, Behdad Esfahbod won the O’Reilly Open Source Award for his work on HarfBuzz.[5]

Important milestones happened after versions 0.91, 1.0 includes Universal Shaping Engine concepts from Microsoft, 1.4 with OpenType font variation support, 1.6 with Unicode 10 support, 1.8 with Unicode 11 support, 2.0 with Apple Advanced Typography (AAT) shaping support.[6][7][8][9][10] In Version 2.1 are color fonts support, and improved major AAT Shaping features.


Most applications don’t use HarfBuzz directly, but use a UI toolkit library that integrates with it. HarfBuzz is used by the UI libraries of GNOME, KDE, Chrome OS, PlayStation 4,[11] Android,[2] Java,[12] and Flutter;[13] and directly by applications Chromium, Firefox, LibreOffice (from version 4.1 on Linux only,[14] from 5.3 on all platforms[15]), Scribus,[16] and Inkscape.

See also

  • Graphite (SIL) a programmable Unicode-compliant smart-font technology and rendering system developed by SIL International.
  • Uniscribe and DirectWrite two APIs that provide similar functionality on Microsoft Windows platform (HarfBuzz can be used instead of them on Windows also)
  • Core Text an API provides similar functionality on OS X (HarfBuzz can be used instead of it on OS X also)


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