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NRSI: Computers & Writing Systems

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You are here: Rendering > Resources > Font FAQ
Short URL: http://scripts.sil.org/FontFAQ_IncorrectBehavior

Incorrect Behavior of SIL legacy fonts in Word 97/2000/2002/2003 – FAQ

Please note:

This FAQ addresses issues related to SIL legacy fonts such as SIL IPA93, SIL Galatia, and SIL Ezra in Microsoft Word for Windows. Other FAQ documents that may address your questions are available here.

Question: Is it possible to use the SIL IPA, Greek, and Hebrew fonts in Microsoft Word 1997 and newer?

Answer: See below.

Question: In Word 2000 (and newer) I find that spaces typed in SIL Galatia, SIL Ezra, and SIL IPA93 do not operate as spaces – so word wrap and word selection operate inconveniently. What might I be doing wrong?

Answer: See below.

Question: We find when typing with the IPA fonts that words will break suddenly at the end of sentences. Is there some way to ensure that words do not break?

Answer: The problem you are experiencing with the SIL legacy fonts (SIL IPA, SIL IPA93, SIL Galatia, SIL Ezra) is because they are encoded as symbol fonts, rather than normal text (UGL) fonts. Fonts for Windows may be encoded either as symbol fonts or UGL fonts. Most fonts containing alphabetic characters (e.g., Times New Roman, Arial) are encoded as UGL fonts. Fonts containing symbols (e.g. Wingdings) are typically encoded as symbol fonts. Although the SIL legacy fonts contain alphabetic characters, they are encoded as symbol fonts because doing so enables more characters to be included in the font.

I assume you are using the fonts with Microsoft Word 97, 2000, 2002, or 2003. At the time the SIL legacy fonts were developed, Word treated UGL fonts and symbol fonts in the same way. You could use the spell-checker and thesaurus, move the cursor to the beginning and end of a word with keyboard shortcuts, and lines would break at spaces. But beginning with Word 95 (Word 7), Word began handling UGL fonts and symbol fonts differently. Although Word 95 still recognized word boundaries as previously, you could no longer use the spell-checker or thesaurus on text formatted with a symbol-encoded font. Beginning with Word 97, the characters in a symbol-encoded font are assumed to be symbols, not words, and Word makes no assumptions about what constitutes a word.

If the SIL legacy fonts were UGL fonts, Word would assume they have the standard Windows character set, and would “know” which characters are word-building characters and which are not. But since they are symbol fonts, Word 97/2000 doesn’t try to guess what characters are in the fonts.

Specifically, the following restrictions apply:

  • The spell-check and thesaurus will not work.
  • Word will break the line whenever it has enough characters to fill the line, without regard to whether that line break is in the middle of a word. In other words, all characters formatted with a symbol font are regarded as word-breaking.
  • Due to other changes in the way Word 97/2000 handles fonts, if the text is subsequently formatted with another (non-symbol) font, the characters will be displayed as empty boxes.
  • Also, exporting text to another format (e.g., as plain text) will cause the text to be converted to question marks, losing all the content.

For solutions to these and other problems related to symbol fonts, please see Display Issues – FAQ



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