Thursday, December 01, 2005

Website Etiquette

Here is something I have been wondering for some time. Should one try to make a post display well in more than one browser? I have been using Internet Explorer most of the time. I installed Firefox a couple of months ago and have used it whenever I visited a site with too many empty boxes. Fairly frequently actually.

I have had the philosophy so far that I should try to make my own posts display well in IE. This means that I always checked which font displayed all the characters that I wanted to use and then defined the font. This only applies for polytonic Greek and Extended Latin as far as I know. All the complex scripts like Tamil and Syriac seem to display without a problem.

However, when I went to post the transcriptions for Syriac I could not find a font, already bundled in Windows, that had both U+02BF : MODIFIER LETTER LEFT HALF RING and U+1E6D : LATIN SMALL LETTER T WITH DOT BELOW. COMBINING DOT BELOW 0323 does occur in Lucida Sans Unicode but it is significantly out of position.

Therefore, I am unable to properly display the transcription for Syriac in my post unless I recommend that the post be viewed in Firefox, or that the viewer download a special font. Of course, this is what others have been doing all along. I somehow thought that it wouldn't be necessary for this blog.

The question now is whether one should post these characters at all knowing that others might be in a position to view only empty boxes. I will chose not to for now since this is not a specialist blog on Syriac.

I haven't really tried to display a transcription for Tamil either. When it comes to working with transcriptions the computer does not compare to good old pencil and paper.

4 Comments:

Anonymous Simos said...

You can follow the tutorial at w3.org,
http://www.w3.org/International/O-MissCharGlyph

For missing fonts in the system, you may specify a Webfont (downloaded dynamically) or even use SVG fonts.

The new version of Mozilla Firefox 1.5 was releaseda few days ago and it probably is the first browser with SVG support. Have a look at the sample page with SVG fonts, at
http://www.carto.net/papers/svg/samples/text.shtml

6:44 PM  
Anonymous Tim May said...

Well, this is something everyone has to decide for themseves, I suppose. Personally, I'd be inclined to use any characters that seem appropriate and not be too concerned about boxes. If you have some text that's otherwise worth including, and it's not possible, or not practical, to convert it into a more accessible form*, it's hard to see how "no text" is better than "text that may not display correctly in all cases". I don't see who benefits from just leaving it out, unless people are a lot more bothered by boxes aesthetically than I'd expect.

The difference here between Firefox and IE, as I understand it, is that Firefox does font substitution on a character-by-character basis, and IE apparently doesn't (I don't have a recent version to check this myself). Most modern browsers do font substitution between scripts, so the Syriac text, for example, should show up even if you don't specify a Syriac font, as long as there's a suitable font on the system. But they won't all change to a different font to display characters in the same script** which are missing the font in use, as for the half-rings in Latin text. Firefox will do that, but not IE. And not Konqueror, which is what I generally use in Linux.

Incidentally, I'd be able to see more if the CSS for Abecedaria didn't specify a font (Georgia), because that overrides my default font, which is chosen to have pretty good coverage of Latin Unicode. I don't know if that's a common situation, though.


*E.g., by using a less demanding transcription, or making images of all problematic text.


**I'm not sure exactly what the relevant unit of "script" is here, whether it's Unicode ranges or something else.

5:50 PM  
Anonymous Suz said...

More to think about. So Konqueror is no better.

Thanks for that tip about the CSS and Georgia font. I had another remark (complaint) about the font in my blog today so I should probably think of what to do about it.

And I appreciate your opinion about just posting characters anyway - all tips are appreciated.

12:04 AM  
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