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Old 11-24-2007, 11:25 AM   #1
Steve Rindsberg
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Join Date: Nov 2004
Posts: 6,713
Default Interesting font oddity (Windows)

A fellow posted a problem in another forum that turned out to be interesting.

He's a linguist and was including examples of several different writing systems in a PowerPoint presentation. Among others, he had samples of Sanskrit/Devanagari and Ethiopic, both in one text box. In order to enter the Ethiopic, he had installed an Ethiopic IME which came with its own fonts. He used these at first.

But prior to moving the presentation to a different computer that wouldn't have the Ethiopic IME or fonts installed, he sensibly decided to select the text in this multilingual text box and convert it to Arial Unicode MS, which would likely be installed on other computers, and if not, he could embed the font in the PowerPoint file.

After selecting all the text and converting it to ArialUniMS, everything looked fine. The glyphs changed a bit in appearance but were all correct.

On another computer, though, the Sanskrit and several other unusual fonts appeared as expected, but the Ethiopic font turned into Windows' standard "What the hell is THIS" empty square boxes.

So why, when Ethiopic apparently rendered correctly on his system, did it go walkabout elsewhere, even though the Arial Unicode MS font was available (we did check on this)?

I did some poking at the file and found that all the text in question WAS Arial UniMS, as far as PowerPoint was concerned, but the character numbers for the Ethiopic glyphs were in a range that wasn't included in Arial UniMS.

But as soon as I downloaded and installed an Ethiopic Unicode font, bingo, all was well in the presentation file. I didn't even have to restart PowerPoint or close and reopen the file.

My best guess, then, is that somewhere under the hood, Windows was getting a request for Arial Unicode MS, Unicode Character Number 4707 (to give one example) and coming up empty handed; so it went rooting around, found a font that had characters in the requested range and displayed them instead.

On the one hand, you have to give Windows points for going to these lengths to make the right glyphs appear. On the other hand, it can sure lead to confusion when you're trying to figure out why it works one place and not another.

Since the real problem was making sure that it worked on other computers w/o extreme measures, I explained how to convert the text to a bitmap. In theory, he could embed the needed font but any attempt to do that with the font I'd downloaded just crashed PPT.

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