Re: Accessing alternate glyphs from plain text (from Re: Draft Proposal to add Variation Sequences for Latin and Cyrillic letters)

From: William_J_G Overington (
Date: Sat Aug 07 2010 - 07:58:39 CDT

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    Thank you for replying.
    On Friday 6 August 2010, John H. Jenkins <> wrote:
    > This is another case of a solution in search of a problem.
    No, the problem is that one cannot at present, as far as I know, access alternate glyphs of an advanced format font from a plain text file.
    > It isn't Unicode's business to advance typography, and in any event, typesetting plain text isn't the path to good typography.
    Those are interesting claims.
    I hope that if Unicode can advance typography by providing a facility such as I am suggesting that it would be pleased to do so.
    > Other technologies, such as OpenType, AAT, and Graphite, *do* have the job of making good typography easy and accessible.
    Fonts are an important part of the whole process.
    > And, mirabile dictu, they can already do what you are suggesting here for plain text.
    I am unaware of how an application program using an OpenType font can be made to display alternate glyphs requested from a plain text file. Can it be done?
    > Unicode's responsibility is to deal with existing needs.
    Well, for me it is a need to be able to request the display of an alternate glyph of an advanced format font from a plain text file.
    > If it is common for poets to use various letter shapes at the end of words to convey some semantic meaning, and if they do this in their emails or tweets, or if they're complaining that this is something that they want to do but can't, then Unicode and plain text provide a proper way to help them.
    Alas, a paradox. If the facility becomes available, they might well use it. Yet, unlike a ROASTED SWEET POTATO glyph becoming available on some mobile telephones then later becoming encoded in Unicode because it was available on some mobile telephones, it is not, as far as I am presently aware, possible for that to happen in relation to requesting an alternate ending glyph for a letter e from a plain text file whilst still producing an ordinary e if that request cannot be fulfilled by the particular font being used.
    Fonts themselves are used to convey semantic meaning. I am unsure of quite how it all works, yet it seems to work partly by association with cultural knowledge of where fonts or handwriting or signwriting of that type have been used previously and partly with design aspects of the font, such as angularity or smoothness or ornateness and perhaps other factors as well.
    William Overington
    7 August 2010

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