Re: Character identities

From: John Hudson (
Date: Mon Oct 28 2002 - 22:38:05 EST

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    At 18:37 10/28/2002, Doug Ewell wrote:

    >It seems to me, as a non-font guy, that calling a font a "Unicode font"
    >implies two things:
    >1. It must be based on Unicode code points. For True- and OpenType
    >fonts, this implies a Unicode cmap; for other font technologies it
    >implies some more-or-less equivalent mechanism. The point is that
    >glyphs must be associated with Unicode code points (not necessarily
    >1-to-1, of course), not merely with an internal 8-bit table that can be
    >mapped to Unicode only through some other piece of software.

    My only ammendment to that would be:

    'The point is that those glyphs that are intended to represent the default
    form of the characters supported by that font must be associated with
    Unicode codepoints, whether directly or indirectly, not merely...'

    Not every glyph in a font needs to be encoded, and in general glyph
    variants and things like ligatures should not be, unless standard Unicode
    codepoints happen to be available for them (even then, it would be
    legitimate to leave them unencoded and access them only via glyph
    processing features).

    >2. The glyphs must reflect the "essential characteristics" of the
    >Unicode character to which they are mapped. That means a capital A can
    >be bold, italic, script, sans-serif, etc. A small a can also be
    >small-caps (or even full-size caps), but I think this is the only
    >controversial point.

    Yes, I would agree with that, with the caveat that the A-ness of an A isn't
    necessarily something that can be defined: it can only be recognised.

    >Of course, the term "Unicode font" is also often used to mean "a font
    >that covers all, or nearly all, of Unicode." Font technologies
    >generally don't even allow this, of course, and even by the standards of
    >"nearly" we are still limiting ourselves to things like Bitstream
    >Cyberbit, Arial Unicode MS, Code2000, Cardo, etc. Right or wrong, this
    >is a commonly accepted meaning for "Unicode font."

    I really think we should all do what we can to bury this use of the term.
    It is singularly unhelpful, and the idea in the minds of some customers
    that they *need* a font that covers all of Unicode has not done anyone any
    good. Sure some font developers made some money making these ridiculously
    huge grab-bag fonts, but their time could have been much better spent.

    John Hudson

    Tiro Typeworks
    Vancouver, BC

    It is necessary that by all means and cunning,
    the cursed owners of books should be persuaded
    to make them available to us, either by argument
    or by force. - Michael Apostolis, 1467

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