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Kpathsea goes to some lengths to minimize disk accesses for searches (see section 3.3.6 Subdirectory expansion). Nevertheless, at installations with enough directories, searching each possible directory for a given file can take an excessively long time (depending on the speed of the disk, whether it's NFS-mounted, how patient you are, etc.).
In practice, a font tree containing the standard PostScript and PCL fonts is large enough for searching to be noticeably slow on typical systems these days. Therefore, Kpathsea can use an externally-built "database" file named `ls-R' that maps files to directories, thus avoiding the need to exhaustively search the disk.
A second database file `aliases' allows you to give additional names to the files listed in `ls-R'. This can be helpful to adapt to "8.3" filename conventions in source files.
The `ls-R' and `aliases' features are implemented in the source file `kpathsea/db.c'.
3.4.1 `ls-R' The main filename database. 3.4.2 Filename aliases Aliases for those names. 3.4.3 Database format Syntax details of the database file.
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