Unicode typefaces

Unicode typefaces

Unicode typefaces (also known as UCS fonts and Unicode fonts) are typefaces containing a wide range of characters, letters, digits, glyphs, symbols, ideograms, logograms, etc., which are collectively mapped into the standard Universal Character Set, derived from many different languages and scripts from around the world. Unlike most conventional computer fonts, which are specific to a particular language or legacy character set and contain only a small subset of the UCS characters, these fonts attempt to include many thousands of possible glyphs, so that they can be used as a single typeface across multi-lingual documents.

The Unicode standard does not specify the typeface (a collection of graphical shapes called glyphs) itself, but rather instead, it defines the abstract characters as a specific number (known as a "codepoint") and also defines the required changes of shape depending on the context the glyph is used in (e.g., Combining characters, precomposed characters and letter-diacritic combinations). The choice of font, which governs how the abstract UCS characters are converted into a bitmap or vector output that can be viewed on a screen or printed, is left up to the user. If a font is chosen which does not contain a glyph for a codepoint used in the document, typically a question mark ("?"), a box, or some other Substitute character is displayed.

Currently ("August, 2008"), no single "Unicode font" includes all the characters defined in the present revision of the ISO 10646 (Unicode) standard. In fact, it would be impossible to create such a font in any common font format, as Unicode includes over 100,000 characters, while no widely-used font format supports more than 65,535 glyphs. So while one could make a set of related fonts to cover all of Unicode, a single Unicode font is not possible at this time.

Many Unicode fonts are continually updated to incorporate characters which were previously omitted or which were added in a newer version of the standard. Additionally, fonts may be updated to correct errors in past versions.

The UCS has over 1.1 million code points, but only the first 65,536 (the Plane 0: Basic Multilingual Plane, or BMP) had entered into common use before 2000. (See the Mapping of Unicode characters article for more information on other planes, including Plane 1: SMP, Plane 2: SIP, Plane 14: SSP, Plane 15 and 16: reserved for PUA.)

The first Unicode font (with very large character set, and supporting many Unicode blocks) was Lucida Sans Unicode, it was developed by Charles Bigelow & Kris Holmes' in March, 1993 (Shipped with Windows NT 3.1). The second was Unihan font, developed by Ross Paterson in 1993. The third was Everson Mono Unicode font, released in 1995, developed by Michael Everson.


There are typographical ambiguities in Unicode, so that some of the unified Han characters (seen in Chinese, Japanese, and Korean) will be typographically different in different regions. For example, Unicode point U+9AA8 (骨) is typographically different between simplified Chinese and traditional Chinese. This has implications for the idea that a single typeface can satisfy the needs of all locales. [Ken Lunde, "CJKV Information Processing", O'Reilly Inc, 1999. Page 128, "CJKV character form differences"]

Application of Unicode typefaces

Beside all the issues, Unicode is now the base character set for many new standards and protocols, and is built into the architecture of operating systems (Microsoft Windows, Apple Mac OS X, and many versions of Unix), programming languages (Ada, Perl, Python, Java, Common LISP, APL), and libraries (IBM International Components for Unicode (ICU) along with the Pango, Graphite, Scribe, Uniscribe, and ATSUI rendering engines), font formats (TrueType and OpenType) and so on. Many other standards are also getting upgraded to Unicode compliance, day by day.

Utility software

Utility software can be used to see exactly which characters are included inside a font file:

* Character Map applet included with Windows
* Font Book application included with Mac OS X
* [http://gucharmap.sourceforge.net/ gucharmap] for GNOME
* [http://kcharmap.sourceforge.net/ kcharmap] for KDE
* MainType (by HighLogic, commercial)
* BabelMap (by Andrew West, free, donation-ware)
* Unicode Font Viewer (by Mike Lischke, freeware)
* Quick Key (by Nathanael Jones, opensource, free)

List of Unicode fonts

Of the many Unicode fonts available, the few are listed below are the most commonly used by a majority of users around the world on mainstream computing platforms. More Unicode fonts can be found in the (List of typefaces) article's "Unicode fonts" section.




ee also

* Free software Unicode typefaces
* Unicode fallback font
* Comparison of Unicode encodings
* List of typefaces
* Typographic unit
* Foundries
* Calligraphy
* Font-management program

* Unicode Consortium
* Alt codes
* Input method editor (IME)
* Chinese input methods for computers
* Korean language and computers
* Japanese input methods
* List of input methods for UNIX platforms
* Keyboard layout
* Code page


External links

* [http://anubis.dkuug.dk/JTC1/SC2/WG2/ ISO/IEC JTC1/SC2/WG2] , the working group in charge of ISO 10646
* [http://www.unicode.org/onlinedat/resources.html#1 Fonts and Keyboards] at Unicode.org
* [http://www.unifont.org/fontguide/ Unicode Font Guide For Free/Libre Open Source Operating Systems] - A huge index of high quality free fonts.
* [http://www.alanwood.net/unicode/fonts.html Alan Wood's Unicode Resources - Unicode fonts for Windows computers] - Index of free and commercial Unicode fonts.
* [http://www.microsoft.com/typography/unicode/cs.htm Character sets - Ken Fowles, Microsoft, 1997.] - Enable Unicode for applications.
* [http://www.microsoft.com/typography/fonts/default.aspx Microsoft Typography - Fonts and Products] - Reference for determining which fonts are supplied with Microsoft products.
* [http://www.ascendercorp.com Ascender Corporation] - Reseller of many Microsoft-licensed fonts.

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