From: Dean Snyder (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Date: Sat Dec 18 2004 - 13:52:53 CST
Can anyone recommend common and/or cross-platform technologies that
render Unicode ruby text in ways other than simply enclosing it within
trailing parentheses (in other words, technologies that would place it
above the annotated text and in a smaller font size, as is typically done
traditionally)? By technologies I'm thinking of things like internet
browsers, email clients, word processors, desktop publishing programs,
computer operating systems, and cross-platform programming platforms
So far I've only checked on Mac OS X 10.3.6 and found the following:
Safari, Firefox, Internet Explorer, and OmniWeb all display Unicode ruby
in parentheses. (Internet Explorer does, however, display *HTML* ruby
above and smaller.)
Nisus Writer Express, Mellel, and TextEdit all display Unicode ruby in
parentheses. I don't know about the latest Microsoft Word, which I
understand does some Unicode, but the previous one, of course, didn't
even do Unicode at all.
PowerMail and Apple Mail use parentheses.
Adobe InDesign, Photoshop, and Illustrator (all CS) use parentheses.
Computer Operating Systems
I can only assume, based on application behavior, that the Mac OS X
default rendering of Unicode ruby is with parentheses, but I haven't
explicitly checked the API documentation for this yet. I am not qualified
to comment on Windows XP or Linux.
I haven't checked the various Java virtual machines yet, but plan to do so.
I would be very interested if anyone could provide similar information
for Windows and Linux.
Frankly I am disappointed with the results so far. It seems like everyone
has taken the easy and ugly way out. I'm particularly surprised and
disappointed by InDesign, a great page layout and desktop publishing
application. But I would also have thought that the browsers would have
been motivated to do better; even Internet Explorer, which shows that it
is both doable and desirable by implementing it for html ruby, punted
when it came to Unicode ruby.
Isn't this basically just unacceptable for Japanese readers? Do we really
put out computer operating systems localized for Japanese users without
OS support for super-posed ruby?
Anyway, my interest is in applying the ruby mechanism to cuneiform text,
where, similar to Japanese, there is a one-to-many relationship between
any given single (ideographic) character and its many possible context-
free realizations. It would be important not to clutter the visual
cuneiform text with roman-transliterations in parentheses after every
I know custom software can handle ruby any way it wants to, and I am
working on such software, but at the same time it is very important that
operating systems and major software do the right thing here - users do
not want to keep their text isolated in custom applications. And, anyway,
shouldn't this already be in place and ubiquitous given the importance of
properly supporting the Japanese script?
An interesting aside: it is particularly felicitous to note that the
typical practice of rendering ruby text in smaller font sizes than the
text it annotates happens to be a PERFECT match for the needs of
rendering annotated cuneiform plain text. All one needs to do is to look
at the visual complexity of cuneiform glyphs to realize that, in order to
be distinguishable on foreseeable display technologies, cuneiform glyphs
need to be rendered in relatively larger font sizes than, say, Roman
text. And exactly analogous to the Japanese situation, the secondary
glyphs used for annotation of cuneiform happen to be glyphically simpler
that the primary glyphs thereby permitting the reduction in size that
emphasizes their secondary nature. A nice coincidence the benefits of
which cuneiformists will simply inherit - no work request will be added
to anybody's agenda (any implementor that does the right thing for
Japanese will, by definition, be doing the right thing for cuneiform).
It's always nice when such unforeseen things happen.
Dean A. Snyder
Assistant Research Scholar
Manager, Digital Hammurabi Project
Computer Science Department
Whiting School of Engineering
218C New Engineering Building
3400 North Charles Street
Johns Hopkins University
Baltimore, Maryland, USA 21218
office: 410 516-6850
cell: 717 817-4897
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