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Armenian Font Woes


* Note: This entry was published elsewhere in 2006.

There's still one gap in Unicode implementation. Quality fonts featuring characters with exotic accents or lesser used scripts are not widely available yet, leaving us with more generic fonts which vary in quality depending on the expertise of the font designer.

A few weeks ago I was gently chided by a very polite Armenian speaker who informed me that the Penn State Armenian Unicode chart had incorrect character forms for the punctuation. Sure enough, when I looked at the Unicode PDF chart for Armenian and compared it with some common fonts, I found out there were significant differences.

The problem was I couldn't fix it. The most common fonts for Armenian have the incorrect forms. Although I could specify a correct Armenian font in my CSS, there is no guarantee that the user will have the correct font. Even worse, some browsers like Safari won't allow you to select alternate fonts for "exotic scripts" even if you have them. In the case of Safari, you may be stuck with the Apple Lucida Unicode font which is complete, but definitely has a utilitarian look.

If I wanted fix the character, I would have to use images or PDF files - thus defeating the goals of Unicode to send data as simple text. In this case, I kept the chart as is, but pointed users to the Unicode PDF chart.

Incidentally if you are a font designer or need to make sure your font is correct, then you can use the Unicode PDF charts as a reference. The PDF fixes the character shapes so what they make is what you will see.

By the way, if you do want specialized Armenian fonts, then see theGallery of Unicode Fonts ( or and ArmenianUnicode Org. Thanks to Sarkis Baltayian for this information.


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 ( for a profile.


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