Display of international text over the web is a subject of great interest. It is complicated by issues ranging from page encoding to availability of fonts at the display end. As the World Wide Web has matured, various standards such as CSS and technology such as Dynamic Fonts have been developed to deal with preserving the aesthetics of web page presentation.

Paper Description

This paper is the "next step" from the Dynamic Fonts paper that I gave for the 12th and 13th Unicode Conferences.

This paper moves away from the technology of dynamic fonts to discuss the problems and solutions to typographic problems related to the Word Wide Web. Specifically, it looks a HTML 4.0, CSS, and Dynamic Fonts as various means for dealing with typographical and layout issues in international web pages.

The first section of the paper focuses on HTML 4.0 and the various tags and attributes that can be used to address international layout and font issues (e.g. <Q>, <FONTFACE>, <DIR>), and why some of those tags (<FONTFACE>) can be harmful from an internationalization standpoint.

The second part of the paper focus on Dynamic Fonts and how that technology can be used to address differences between the fonts installed on the viewers machine versus the fonts installed on the developers machine. Some of the tools available for font-file development are examined, and particular attention is paid to handling non-Roman content on latin based systems.

The final part of the paper looks at the latest developments in CSS, and how CSS can be used to control the selection of fonts in particular document. The various fallbacks and priorities for determining a font are covered as well.


As the World Wide Web matures, more emphasis will be placed on the aesthetics of web presentation. We are moving out of the operability stage (browsers being able to display text in various languages) to the publishing stage -- where users are expecting to be able to duplicate the functionality of their desktop publishing software on the web. Standards and technology like Dynamic Fonts and CSS are essential to moving web typography into the next step.

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27 January 1999, Webmaster