Course Genie and Unicode: A–

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Since my day job is online course developer, I get to work with a lot of academic tools, including my newest tool the Course Genie (or Wimba Create) Word plugin.

This is a tool which takes a Word file "injected" with the right styles and converts a long Word manuscript into a set of well-formed HTML documents complete with table of contents page and page navigation. Even if you don't insert any self-test quizzes, this is a major time saver. But...can it do Unicode?

For once, this is a real issue since the course I'm working on is symbolic logic and uses plenty of specialized symbols like ∪,∩,∃x,∀x and so forth. So far I've been pleasantly surprised to discover that the CourseGenie planners did think ahead and implemented decent Unicode strategies.

The good news is that if your instructor (aka subject matter expert) hands you a Word file including these symbols, you may not have to do much other than make sure that the symbols are inserted from the Character Map and not from an old custom font. Course Genie by default will either convert these to numeric codes...or if you select a special UTF 8 theme, even include the UTF-8 meta tag.

For most modern browsers this is sufficient. The only gotcha is that it sets everything to Verdana text (even the symbols) and IE 5/6 acts a little strange when fonts for special characters are pre-specified for Arial Unicode.

The other complaint is that that most theme settings insert the ISO-8859-1 Latin-1 encoding meta tag instead of UTF-8...EVEN THOUGH the base XML file is UTF-8. Unless you know to select a UTF-8 theme, you won't get meta tag. Not only does this make me nervous on principle, but it means that you have to be extra careful if you ever edit the files in another program like Dreamweaver.

About The Blog

I am a Penn State technology specialist with a degree in linguistics and have maintained the Penn State Computing with Accents page since 2000.

See Elizabeth Pyatt's Homepage (ejp10@psu.edu) for a profile.

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