Re: Ways to show Unicode contents on Windows?

From: Doug Ewell <>
Date: Sun, 14 Jul 2013 19:39:38 -0600

Richard Wordingham wrote:

>> It's not clear to me what you're asking, or why you are asserting
>> that "there is no way to show Unicode contents on Windows".
> What Ilya wants is automatic fallback to a supporting font if there is
> one.

Yes, that seems correct.

> If I use Word 2002 (quite possibly a later version will do better),
> and type Tai Tham text into it, I have to select the Tai Tham font
> manually, or else I just get boxes for undefined glyphs. Similarly
> with Notepad. If I use OpenOffice 3.3.0, it finds one of the fonts
> and uses it. Ilya reports that Firefox *used* to have a similar
> capability by default - it would search all the fonts installed on the
> machine until it found one that supported the characters (or script?).

This shows that the problem is not that Windows is unable to display
arbitrary Unicode text, or inherently cannot support font fallback, but

(a) Complete font fallback in Windows is not automatic, and users or
developers often must supply additional knowledge of which fonts support
which scripts (like the "Composite Font Mappings" feature in Andrew
West's BabelPad).

(b) Some Windows apps apply their own fallback strategy, which may be
better or worse than the default strategy, depending on the situation.

For a recent project, I was harshly reintroduced to the way MS Word maps
fonts. I needed to generate Word documents using the PUA, but even
though I specified a font that covered all my characters, Word silently
substituted another font that covered none of them (and did not change
the name of my selected font on the ribbon). I was forced to use
OpenOffice and generate .odt documents instead, since OO doesn't
override my font choices in such a destructive way. This was running
Office Professional Plus 2013 under Windows 8 Pro, so it has nothing to
do with outdated versions. For someone who regularly defends MS software
against its detractors, this was tough to swallow.

Doug Ewell | Thornton, CO, USA | @DougEwell  
Received on Sun Jul 14 2013 - 20:47:18 CDT

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