Microsoft Word ∧ Logic: Inserting the Right Code Point

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The Insert Symbol Tool in Word

As I said last entry, I'm working on a symbolic logic course and am learning new quirks for dealing with with Unicode logic symbols...and one of them apparently is the Microsoft Word Insert Symbol tool (this is found by going to Insert » Symbol in most versions of Word.

Like the Windows Character Map and Mac Character Palette, the Insert Symbol tool lets you insert single characters into a document so you can change "P implies Q" to the logical formulation P ⊃ Q or P → Q depending on your symbolism (and you can also switch between "P and Q," P & Q or P ∧ Q).

But...unlike the Windows Character Map/Mac Character Palette, the Insert Symbol tool can take you on a little detour out of standard Unicode and into the Microsoft Private Use Area block - or the block where vendors can define their own characters. For instance, when I tried to insert the character ∩ (union) into a document, I noticed that the Insert Symbol palette gave a code point of U+F0C7 instead of the expected U+2229, and yes the U+F0 code is a sign that you are in the Private Use Area.

InsertMathSymbolMac.png

First I should say that there is a rationale for this. You'll notice that the font in the graphic is set to "Symbol" which is an older pre-Unicode font which was used to insert lots of special mathematical symbols. The Private Use set-up undoubtedly prevents a lot older documents from breaking.

So What?

If all you're doing is using with Word, the Insert Symbol tool may still be working for you. But these days, more and more documents are actually destined for the Web or some other format...and not all tools recognize the Microsoft Private Use codes.

The way I first noticed that the logic symbols weren't standard Unicode was that some logic symbols did not "convert" well to HTML in Course Genie but mysteriously became things like "(". The ones I had inserted properly converted, but not the ones inserted with the Word Symbol tool. Ugh.

The use of proper Unicode versus an older format does have a real world impact.

Summary

To avoid the Private Use function in new Word documents just always use the WWindows Character Map and Mac Character Palette. On Windows, you may need to switch the font to Arial Unicode.

Or if you're especially insane, you can develop your own logic symbol keyboard utility.

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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