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SIL’s Private Use Area (PUA)

Lorna A. Priest, Kent Spielman, 2006-10-09


The SIL PUA committee is no longer functioning. If you wish to see the latest files related to the SIL PUA and the status of encoding in Unicode please visit the new home  for the SIL PUA.

Approximately 248 characters, supporting orthographies in many minority languages, have been approved for assignment to the SIL corporate PUA. Many technical linguistic characters have also been approved. Many of these characters are already supported in current versions of the Encore fonts (SIL fonts) although the Doulos SIL font is the first to contain these in a Unicode encoded font. Future versions will include additional approved characters.

SIL Corporate PUA Documentation

SIL Corporate PUA Assignments Lorna Evans, 2021-08-16
Reference information on Unicode private-use character assignments used within SIL International. Revised for Unicode 14.0

A strategy for deprecating SIL PUA characters Bob Hallissy and Lorna Priest, 2007-11-07
A strategy for deprecating SIL PUA character assignments once characters have been accepted into Unicode.

Requesting Additions to SIL’s Private Use Area

SIL Private Use Area Registration Form Lorna Evans, 2020-06-03
The Private Use Areas in the Unicode encoding are a limited resource which needs to be managed carefully. SIL International has chosen to maintain a central information repository to ensure consistency of field data and the ability to share and archive data within SIL and cooperating agencies. This page allows for SIL Entities and FOBAI member organizations (requests from persons outside these parameters will not be accepted) to make requests to add characters that are not in the Unicode standard to the SIL Corporate PUA.

Procedure for Registration of SIL Entity Private Use Area Assignments Peter Constable, 1999-05-14
This document describes what the SIL Entity PUA character registration process consists of and provides a description of procedures for SIL entities to follow in submitting to the NRSI registrations of the Entity portion of the PUA.

About the PUA and SIL

The Private Use Area (PUA) is a range of codepoints that are reserved in the Unicode for private-use by software developers and end users who need a special set of characters for their own purposes. There are 6400 PUA code points available in the Basic Multilingual Plane. Unicode also reserves the so-called “supplementary planes” 15 and 16 for private use. The supplementary planes consist of an additional 128K codepoints, but require twice as many bits of information to access them. Click here to go to the SIL PUA Fact Page for additional information.


Although 6400 codepoints may seem like a lot of “code space,” delegates to the 1998 Computer Technical Conference (CTC) realized that this area needs to be managed so that BMP codepoints do not run out in the long term. CTC requested WSTech (which was then known as the NRSI: Non-Roman Script Initiative) to develop a plan for entities to follow. The NRSI’s draft recommendation presented at that conference allows entities to make free use of the lower portion of the PUA range, while the NRSI manages the upper portion for corporation-wide use. The goal of this strategy is to maximize the freedom of SIL field entities to implement needed characters while maintaining a central information repository to ensure consistency of field data and the ability to share and archive data within SIL.

Because of the far-reaching effects of its decisions, the NRSI requested that a committee be set up to provide input from other SIL domains. The PUA Committee was chartered in 2004 to be that advisory body to the NRSI. The committee is made up of members representing various academic domains within SIL. The committee is also the point of contact for SIL members and entities, and other organizations regarding the PUA. The PUA Committee’s goals and responsibilities are officially detailed in the Terms of Reference for the SIL Private Use Area Committee, is operating within the guidelines of the  Unicode Technical Committee (UTC) and aims to work in tandem with the UTC.

Contact the PUA committee at: .

Fonts which support the characters in the PUA

Andika Annie Olsen, 2014-10-28
Andika is a sans serif, Unicode-compliant font designed especially for literacy use, taking into account the needs of beginning readers. The focus is on clear, easy-to-perceive letterforms that will not be readily confused with one another.

Charis SIL NRSI staff, 2014-10-28
Charis SIL is a Unicode-encoded serif font. Besides having a comprehensive inventory of glyphs needed for almost any Roman- or Cyrillic-based writing system, it also contains the entire inventory of the International Phonetic Alphabet. It has built-in “smart-font” capabilities, so diacritics are properly placed.
Charis is similar to Bitstream Charter, one of the first fonts designed specifically for laser printers. It is highly readable and holds up well in less-than-ideal reproduction environments. It also has a full set of styles - regular, italic, bold, bold italic - and so is more useful in general publishing than Doulos SIL. Charis is a serif, proportionally-spaced font optimized for readability in long printed documents.

Doulos SIL NRSI staff, 2014-10-28
28 Oct 2014 — New Update!
Doulos SIL is a Unicode-encoded serif font similar to Times New Roman. Besides having a comprehensive inventory of glyphs needed for almost any Roman- or Cyrillic-based writing system, it also contains the entire inventory of the International Phonetic Alphabet. It has built-in “smart-font” capabilities, so diacritics are properly placed.
Doulos is very similar to Times/Times New Roman, but only has a single face - regular. It is intended for use alongside other Times-like fonts where a range of styles (italic, bold) are not needed.

Gentium — a typeface for the nations Victor Gaultney, 2014-10-28
Home page for the Gentium, Gentium Basic and Gentium Plus fonts.
Gentium is a typeface family designed to enable the diverse ethnic groups around the world who use the Latin script to produce readable, high-quality publications. It supports a wide range of Latin-based alphabets and includes glyphs that correspond to all the Latin ranges of Unicode.

Industry and the PUA

Handling of PUA Characters in Microsoft Software Peter Constable, 2003-04-25
This article discusses certain issues regarding handling of PUA characters in Microsoft products that users should be aware of.

Use of the Unicode Private Use Areas by Others Peter Constable, 2012-01-04
Information regarding the use of the Unicode private use area by commercial software vendors.

PUA Use in the Adobe Glyph List Peter Constable, 2003-04-24
This page documents PUA code points associated with Postscript Glyph Names in the Adobe Glyph List

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