RE: Unicode Ruby

From: Murray Sargent (
Date: Sun Dec 19 2004 - 10:42:57 CST

  • Next message: Peter Constable: "RE: Unicode Ruby"

    Couple of notes on Word's support. Word has been based on Unicode since
    Word '97, although it certainly didn't support all of Unicode at that
    time. Word has displayed ruby in built-up form for several versions now
    (the name for it is under Asian formatting and called "phonetic guide").


    -----Original Message-----
    From: [] On
    Behalf Of Dean Snyder
    Sent: Saturday, December 18, 2004 11:53 AM
    To: Unicode List
    Subject: Unicode Ruby

    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 (like Java).


    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.)

    Word Processors
    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.

    Email Clients
    PowerMail and Apple Mail use parentheses.

    Desktop Publishing/Graphics
    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

    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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