Re: Single Unicode Font

From: John Jenkins (
Date: Mon May 21 2001 - 21:40:39 EDT

On Monday, May 21, 2001, at 03:38 PM, Tom Gewecke wrote:

> On 04/18/2001 09:49:40 AM John Jenkins wrote:
>> At the same time, none of the people involved in defining TrueType --
>> Adobe, Apple, and Microsoft -- believe that it is really a good idea to
>> have a single font covering all of Unicode. Microsoft provides one
>> because there has been a strong push from people demanding it, but it
>> still isn't a good idea.
> I'm curious what the disadvantages of such a font are, other than
> size. It
> seems like it would be rather useful in any setting where one might
> want to
> be able to read or use a large variety of languages with minimal admin
> effort, for example in a university or other public facility open to
> people
> of varied backgrounds and language needs.

There are two main objections.

One is simply size. Having a pan-Unicode font takes up a great deal of
system resources, and for most users there's no real benefit. (Just
think of all those ideographs on the system of someone who speaks
English only.) Depending on the system, it may actually be worse to
have a single font that covers everything (and is always being used)
than to have a number of smaller fonts (most of which go unused most of
the time).

Single monolithic fonts are also inherently more difficult to produce,
because existing type design tools don't handle collections of tens of
thousands of glyphs as readily as they do a couple of hundred glyphs.
Even existing tools for CJK aren't really designed for something as big
as a single pan-Unicode font. The QA and development work involved in a
single really big font file is probably more than the QA and development
work on a suite of smaller fonts.

Secondly, there are esthetic objections to the idea that a single type
design can encompass all of the varied scripts of Unicode. Most people
would probably balk at that as an objection, but it is a big deal for
type designers.

Mind, I personally like having pan-Unicode fonts and realize that other
people like or need them, too. But it really is silly IMHO to ask for
them to be a standard part of an installed system.

John H. Jenkins

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