Blog Archives

Which Unicode characters can you depend on?

Unicode is supported everywhere, but font support for Unicode characters is sparse. When you use any slightly uncommon character, you have no guarantee someone else will be able to see it. I’m starting a Twitter account @MusicTheoryTip and so I

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Posted in Typography

Unicode to LaTeX

I’ve run across a couple web sites that let you enter a LaTeX symbol and get back its Unicode value. But I didn’t find a site that does the reverse, going from Unicode to LaTeX, so I wrote my own.

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Posted in Typography

Letters that fell out of the alphabet

Mental Floss had an interesting article called 12 letters that didn’t make the alphabet. A more accurate title might be 12 letters that fell out of the modern English alphabet. I thought it would have been better if the article

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Posted in Typography

Draw a symbol, look it up

LaTeX users may know about Detexify, a web site that lets you draw a character then looks up its TeX command. Now there’s a new site Shapecatcher that does the same thing for Unicode. According to the site, “Currently, there

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Posted in Typography

The disappointing state of Unicode fonts

Modern operating systems understand Unicode internally, but font support for Unicode is spotty. For an example of the problems this can cause, take a look at these screen shots of how the same Twitter message appears differently depending on what

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Posted in Typography

Unicode function names

Keith Hill has a fun blog post on using Unicode characters in PowerShell function names. Here’s an example from his article using the square root symbol for the square root function. PS> function √($num) { [Math]::Sqrt($num) } PS> √ 81

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Posted in Science, Software development

Sharps and flats in HTML

Apparently there’s no HTML entity for the flat symbol, ♭. In my previous post, I just spelled out B-flat because I thought that was safer; it’s possible not everyone would have the fonts installed to display B♭ correctly. So how

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Posted in Typography

Shorter URLs by using Unicode

Tinyarro.ws is a service like tinyurl.com and others that shorten URLs. However, unlike similar services, Tinyarro.ws uses Unicode characters, allowing it to encode more possibilities into each character. These sub-compact URLs may contain Chinese characters, for example, or other symbols

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Posted in Uncategorized

How to insert graphics in Twitter messages

I saw a couple interesting messages from John Udell on Twitter yesterday. Apparently Bill Zeller had the clever idea of using Unicode characters to put sparklines in Twitter messages. It didn’t occur to me that Twitter would accept Unicode. I’m

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Posted in Computing

PowerShell output redirection: Unicode or ASCII?

What does the redirection operator > in PowerShell do to text: leave it as Unicode or convert it to ASCII? The answer depends on whether the thing to the right of the > operator is a file or a program.

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Posted in PowerShell

Entering Unicode characters in Linux

I ran across this post from Aaron Toponce explaining how to enter Unicode characters in Linux applications. Hold down the shift and control keys while typing “u” and the hex values of the Unicode character you wish to enter. I tried

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Posted in Computing

Three ways to enter Unicode characters in Windows

Here are three approaches to entering Unicode characters in Windows. See the next post for entering Unicode characters in Linux. (1) In Microsoft Word you can insert Unicode characters by typing the hex value of the character then typing Alt-x. You

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Posted in Computing

Multiple string types: BSTR, wchar_t, etc.

This morning I listened to a podcast interview with Kate Gregory. She used some terms I hadn’t heard in years: BSTR, OLE strings, etc. Around a decade ago I was working with COM in C++ and had to deal with

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Posted in Software development

Why Unicode is subtle

On it’s surface, Unicode is simple. It’s a replacement for ASCII to make room for more characters. Joel Spolsky assures us that it’s not that hard. But then how did Jukka Korpela have enough to say to fill his 678-page book Unicode Explained?

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Posted in Computing