Teaching and Learning with Technology

Computing With Accents and Foreign Scripts

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Avoid Using the FONT FACE tag

With the advances in Unicode technology, this option is not only unnecessary, but could actually exclude users.

The Old Technique

Years, ago Web developers would specify FONT FACE= and select an "exotic" font (such as the font Symbol for Greek text) to display foreign language material. Some sites would provide a free font, but even so, there were problems including:

  1. If the user can't download the right font on their machine, the site is unreadable. Most public labs, including the CLC Student Computing Labs prohibit installation of fonts.
  2. Fonts are not cross-platform. The same "font" could be be missing characters on one platform (Mac or Windows) or be encoded differently. See the following section for details. Unless you can guarantee that a user has exactly the same font file, there may be problems.

Unicode or some other encoding is available for most modern language scripts, so should be implemented whenever possible.

Problem Fonts

Times New Roman and Arial

In the Windows version of the Times New Roman font actually includes Cyrillic characters, Central European characters (e.g. Polish and Romanian) Greek characters and other blocks,

In the Macintosh version, only Western European letters may be included (no Cyrillic, Central European or Greek) Therefore, if you just specify "Times New Roman", and use non-Western characters, the site may be unreadable on a Macintosh.

The same note applies to other Windows fonts like Arial, Georgia, Verdana and other Microsoft fonts.

Symbol Font

If you are typing mathematical symbols, using the Symbol font is no longer a safe option.

New versions of Symbol are Unicode compliant, while older versions are not. Thus, a font specification style like <span style="font-family:Symbol">S</span> could be rendered as either sigma (Σ) or capital S depending on which type of Symbol font is on a user's machine.

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  1. Encode the page properly, then point users to a freeware Web font. See Alan Wood's Unicode Font pages for some links to freeware fonts. Only ancient languages may not have Unicode support, but some like Linear B ARE supported.
  2. Use PDF files.
  3. Use images for short passages
  4. Use ASCII substitution for unusual characters

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Last Modified: Tuesday, 28-Mar-2017 15:02:51 EDT