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E.A. Draffan

Alphabets, scripts and other writing systems when using Board Builder

Localisation and making sure we can increase the number of languages available on Global Symbols and Board Builder is a challenge when considering the way alphabets and scripts can be coded so they do not look like squares or erroneous characters when viewed. We have encountered problems with Adobe Acrobat PDF (portable document format) output on some browsers and operating systems as well as simply showing them accurately as symbol labels. As anyone working with many different platforms and browsers knows they all have their own quirks!

So this month we have been exploring the isssues in more depth, as we update Board Builder and have to say 'thank you' to those who have got in touch to explain what they are seeing on their browsers.

We need to think beyond a collection of single letters making up words as we aim to include logographic writing systems such as Chinese and Japanese with hanzi, kanji, hiragana and katakana characters. The characters require specific fonts to portray them accurately. In the past we have also found that Cyrillic scripts have not been viewed correctly and symbol labels with accents can cause problems when exported.

Getting these writing systems working in the way that is useful is important as less than half the world's population use the alphabet you can see in this blog. According to Conrad H. McGregor who has built the website: "A quick calculation shows that about 2.6 billion people (36% of the world population) use the Latin alphabet, about 1.3 billion people (18%) use the Chinese script, about 1 billion people (14%) use the Devanagari script (India), about 1 billion people (14%) use the Arabic alphabet, about 0.3 billion people (4%) use the Cyrillic alphabet and about 0.25 billion people (3.5%) use the Dravidian script (South India)."

But there are many more scripts such as Thai, Korean, Amharic, Bangla etc. that do not necessarily fall into the main groupings or work with the usual viewers. sample scripts

Solving the problem has meant using the Noto font which overcomes the problem of "tofu"! We've improved the PDF engine to increase our coverage of Cyrillic, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Bengali and Ethiopic scripts. Instead of seeing "tofu" square boxes, you should now see actual characters. But please keep contacting us, so we can continue to improve the site and all our resources. tofu fonts