Windows symbol font with a very large number of glyphs

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FontFan
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Windows symbol font with a very large number of glyphs

Post by FontFan » Wed Mar 29, 2006 5:55 pm

Hello everybody,

for a specific project, I would need one symbol font for the Windows platform with a great many glyphs: around 10,000 symbols. All I know about MS symbol fonts comes from FontCreator's online help (which, IMHO, is a great piece of informationen about fonts and an outstanding documentation). Basically it says that one symbol font can contain up to 224 glyphs and that the Unicode range is 0xF000 - 0xF0FF.

So I am wondering:
1. Would it be possible to create a normal font (instead of a symbol font) and put all 10,000+ glyphs in there?
2. Are there limitations in FontCreator that would prevent such a project?
3. What is the "special meaning" of Windows' symbol fonts? In what way are they treated differently?

I would appreciate it very much if an experienced forum member had some ideas.

Thanks in advance
FontFan

Bhikkhu Pesala
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Post by Bhikkhu Pesala » Wed Mar 29, 2006 6:42 pm

Symbol fonts do not form words so line breaks can occur after any character code. A spell checker should not check symbol font-formatted material.

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As far as I know 10,000 glyphs should present no special problems. Try opening a very large Unicode font like MS Arial Unicode. Titus Cyberbit Basic is certianly no problem to work with and that contains over 8,000 glyphs — none of them composites.

Do look at using composites to reduce file sizes and work-load. Symbols often use repetitive elements. See the Miscellaneous symbols for Trigems in my Odana Unicode font, for example.

Open Times New Roman or Arial, and from the Insert Character, add the entire Enclosed Numeric characters set (9312-9450 decimal). Then use Complete Composites to see how much work that could save you if you needed Enclosed Alphanumerics. Apply the same principle to your symbol fonts.

Another easy way to create composites is to select two or more glyphs in the overview window, copy them to the clipboard, and paste them into the glyph edit window of an empty glyph.

Perhaps some of your symbols are covered by Unicode. If not, probably you would be working in the Private Use Area. As the name implies, mapping of glyphs in this area can use any convention you wish to use.
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Post by Dick Pape » Thu Mar 30, 2006 7:45 am

1. How will you know where a character is located? Do you have some encoding scheme to let you find a specific symbol?

2. Be aware some symbols have large numbers of points and some symbol fonts fonts approach 600kb with only a hundred or so characters.

A "full-bodied" symbol font could be gigantic and impossible to process.

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Post by William » Sat Apr 01, 2006 1:43 pm

Bhikkhu Pesala wrote:
....

As far as I know 10,000 glyphs should present no special problems.

....

Perhaps some of your symbols are covered by Unicode. If not, probably you would be working in the Private Use Area. As the name implies, mapping of glyphs in this area can use any convention you wish to use.
The plane 0 Private Use Area has 6400 code points.

As the need is for 10000 glyphs it may be better to make the font as structurally a Unicode font yet use some of the Unicode code points for the non-Unicode code symbols.

The problem then arises that the application program using the font could react in the expectation that it is using a Unicode font.

For example, if the characters use the code points of Arabic Script, then the application program may try to display the characters from right to left.

If the characters use the code points of the Surrogates, then strange results may result.

If possible, would it be possible to post some information on the application of a font with 10000 symbols please as it may perhaps be possible to try and think of another solution, such as using the higher Private Use Areas or some way of structuring the information such that less than 10000 symbols are needed.

William Overington

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Re: Windows symbol font with a very large number of glyphs

Post by William » Sat Apr 01, 2006 2:19 pm

FontFan wrote:
3. What is the "special meaning" of Windows' symbol fonts? In what way are they treated differently?
I never use them but it appears that the font allows one to use a normal keyboard yet within the font the characters occupy some of the code points within the Unicode Private Use Area. The Private Use Area is from U+E000 to U+F8FF and symbol fonts, which are nothing to do with the Unicode specification, but something to do with Microsoft (using its right to use the Private Use Area as it wishes), using some of the code points in the range U+F000 to U+F0FF. That right is the same right as anyone else has to use the Private Use Area as he, she or it (that is "it" for a corporation) wishes. However, if one is using a Microsoft product, that exercise of the right by Microsoft could affect one.

Information about symbol fonts can be difficult to find. For example, Unicode do not even mention it as far as I know: that being because it is regarded as just one use of the Private Use Area and they will not record details of any such usage. This makes it very difficult for people learning typography to find out about the Private Use Area! I always avoid using the Private Use Area range from U+F000 to U+F0FF (except as noted below) just in case a Microsoft program using the font starts acting in some "Microsoft use of the Private Use Area way". I cannot say that I know that it will, but I cannot be sure that it won't! It is what I call a software unicorn situation.

http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~ngo/euto0008.htm

http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~ngo/euto2001.htm

The time when I do use U+F001 and U+F002 is when producing fi and fl ligatures in a font. I do not know the history of it. The two ligatures are in regular Unicode at U+FB01 and U+FB02, but so as to avoid any problems with any legacy data which may be around, I also map the ligatures to U+F001 and U+F002. The template that Font Creator 5.0 provides for a new font includes those mappings for the fi and fl ligatures.

It may be that Windows symbol fonts are useful. However, when I want a font with special symbols accessed from the keyboard, I just make a font which is structurally a Unicode font yet which has glyphs which are those of the symbols.

For example, the following font, which is intended to be used to produce Art deco style graphics for use with my Style font.

http://www.users.globalnet.co.uk/~ngo/STYLEART.TTF

William Overington

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