Unicode Issues



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As the etymology
of the name implies, Unicode fonts use the same code for each character or glyph as all other Unicode fonts do.  Whereas in non-Unicode fonts, like the SIL Galatia font in my translation documents, the font I use for Greek text, if you select the text in my document in that font, and change the font to say, Times New Roman, the text will become gibberish.  That is because the two fonts assign different glyphs to each numeric code.

But the most important trait of Unicode fonts is that they can hold a far higher number of glyphs.  Non-Unicode fonts have glyphs numbered up to 255, but Unicode fonts can contain thousands of glyphs.  So with some of the Unicode fonts I have, with one single font  you can type English, Latin, Russian, Greek and Coptic, with all of the polytonic variables of Greek included like the different combinations of a vowel with smooth or rough breathing, mixed with the three different accents and iota subscript.  And if I type a Word 97 document in a Unicode font which I have on my computer, and you download it, even if don't have that same font, you can just select / highlight the text of my document and change it to a Unicode font included with your word processor or operating system, and the Greek still displays correctly, with all the accents and breathing marks etc.  On this page I will list most of the Unicode fonts that exist for Greek, and what software includes them.

To give you an actual comparison of glyphs available, I viewed the Cardo font, a Unicode font, with a program that displays a glyph pallette showing all the glyphs in that font. It says the Cardo font has 2,881 glyphs. Compare that to Times New Roman and Arial, which both have 239 glyphs.  THAT is the most important difference between legacy 7-bit fonts and 16-bit Unicode fonts- their ability to handle a language like Chinese that has many glyphs, or handle many languages with one font.  Here is the official page of Unicode 4.0 that lists all the glyphs possible.The purpose of the change is so that there can be one code agreed upon by all software makers and web page writers as to the code for any character in any major language or commercially important language in the world. The Unicode standard for fonts is developed in close parallel with HTML and a new universal character set for HTML pages, ISO-10646.

So now because of Unicode fonts, on my Windows XP computer, I can have the name of a file in Greek characters, with full diacritics, because of the Unicode capability of the operating system.  One important reason I like Unicode for Greek is that in Word, you can paste a fully accented Greek word into Word's "find" window, and Word can with Unicode, find any other instances of that exact inflection of that word, elsewhere in the document, even in the whole Septuagint or Greek New Testament.  This is a huge advantage over old legacy fonts.  In addition, now a URL can now have complex accented languages in the address.  (However, since not all computers can see every Unicode character, this can be used by site-spoofers, who have already figured out a way to add a Unicode character that won't be seen in their domain name, and that domain name is only one character off from say Paypal.com.  So those whose computers can't see the extra Unicode character on the domain name, go to that spoofer's domain and think they are actually on Paypal's site.)

Can you see this?

First of all, I am going to place some text in polytonic Greek here, so you can see if your browser and operating system can display it correctly.

 πέμψαντός μεἐν τῇ ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ "he who sent me in the last day"

Both the Greek and the English text in the previous line are in Palatino Linotype font.  Palatino Linotype is an excellent Unicode font designed in the 1950s by Hermann Zapf, which comes included with the following Microsoft products: Office Professional Edition 2003, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows XP Service Pack 2.  If you have any of the above, which I think at least half of computer users do, you should be able to see the accented Greek with the iota subscripts under the words as well.  If you can see the Greek correctly, you can check out my Bible Versions Comparisons page that utilizes Unicode for fully polytonic Greek text.

What if you don't see it right?  Like, do you see some empty boxes where a character should be, or gibberish, or a question mark?  You may have a Unicode-capable operating system, but not have that font.  Like a Windows NT workstation, or Windows 98.  Those operating systems do include a Unicode font called Lucida Sans Unicode.  See if you can read the following characters.  The first one is the Hebrew letter aleph:

 א Σ Ξ ɧ ʣ ɖ ʖ

These are glyphs you might need for Greek New Testament apparatus, or the International Phonetic Alphabet.  These are all in Lucida Sans Unicode font.  If you can see all of them correctly, your operating system and browser do support Unicode. 

If you still don't see it right, that does not mean that your software does not support it.  Try the following steps. 

1.  Set your default browser font to a fully Unicode font.  If you have any of the following three, Windows 2000, Windows XP, or Office 2003, you do have the Unicode font I used for the Greek text above, Palatino Linotype.  Click the "start" button on the lower left of your screen, then put your mouse pointer over "Settings," and then over "Control Panel," then choose the one called "Internet Options."  Once you are in the Internet Options control panel, first click the "accessibility" button.  Then in that dialog box, make sure all the options are NOT checked.  Close that, and then in the same Internet Options panel, click the "fonts" button.  For the language script: "Latin based" choose the font named "Palatino Linotype" in the scroll box of fonts.  If you do not have that font, choose another font that is Unicode.  Click OK to close the window.

2. Enable more language options in the control panel.  In Windows XP, it is called "Regional and Language Options" control panel. In 2000, called "Regional Options."  In Windows 98, you might try the control panel called "Add/Remove Programs," and then click the Windows Setup tab, and under that click and install "multi-language support."  My Windows 98 machine displays Unicode with that unchecked, however, and I do not know why.

3. If you have an older version of Windows, install the most recent version of usp10.dll in folder containing your browser and also in the folder containing your word processor, and in the system for system-wide use.  The link above contains the latest .dll, as well as two different documents with instructions how to do it.

4. For Windows 95/98/ME, update your RichEdit.

5. In Windows 98, in Microsoft Internet Explorer, pull down the "view" menu, and go to "encoding" and then "more," and choose "Unicode (UTF-8)" encoding.

6.  Here is a page showing with pictures how to enable other languages in Windows 2000/XP.  It is about Farsi, but the same method works for others.

7. Use Mozilla Firefox as your browser, the best browser for Windows.  (The Safari browser on Macintosh is good too.)  Firefox is faster, and supports Unicode, and has better security.  In the options menu in firefox, you can choose your default character preference, by bringing down the "tools" menu, and choosing "options."  Then, in the "content" tab, and then down below where it says, "fonts and colors," clicked the "advanced" button.  Then choose your option.  There are several Unicode options, and many language options. 

8.  Here is a web page with instructions on how to configure each browser for polytonic Greek.

Operating Systems That Support Unicode

Microsoft Windows

Unicode is supported at least some by Windows 95, Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows 2000, Windows XP, Windows XP sp2

Windows 95, Windows 98 and Windows Me do not fully support Unicode 3.0. The following language (and possibly others) are not supported on these platforms: Devanagari, Bengali, Gurmukhi, Gujarati, Oriya, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Sinhala, Thai and Lao. NOTE installing a font for one of these languages on Win9x may result in Windows no longer being able to use any font reliably. Note also that although Persian scripts are supported on these platforms (e.g. Pashto, Sindhi, Sorani, Urdu, etc), you may need to update certain system components. See the following Microsoft knowledge base article for further details.  Here is a page about how to get Windows 98 to display languages of India.  I also have links farther down this page to keyboard utilities and fonts for Indian languages.  Here is another page with instructions on using Unicode with Windows 95.

In Windows 98, in Microsoft Internet Explorer, pull down the "view" menu, and go to "encoding" and then "more," and choose "unicode (UTF-8)" encoding.

Windows NT and Windows 2000 with IE 5.0 and IE 5.5 support parts of Unicode 3.0. IE6.0 supports Unicode 4.0. You may update your system to support Unicode 3.0 by downloading and upgrading Uniscribe (usp10.dll) with the version of this dll that comes with VOLT.

I have two Windows computers, one running Windows 2000 and another running Windows XP sp2, both with Internet Explorer 6.  IE6 even on Windows 2000, updated from Microsoft, does support Unicode 4.0, the latest version.

Microsoft Internet Explorer does not handle Unicode as well as Opera and Firefox do, see below.

Opera 8.5 supports Unicode 4.0 in Windows, OSX and Linux

The Mozilla Firefox browser supports unicode.  It is free to download.  It comes in many languages and has versions for Windows, Mac and Linux.

Latest version of Netscape for Windows, 8.0

Download and install Microsoft's "Font Properties Extension," which once installed, will enable you to right click on a font file and view all its properties.

If you have Windows XP, I highly recommend you turn on ClearType.  Microsoft's instructions for that are here. Or better yet, download the ClearType PowerToy utility.

Apple Macintosh

Macintosh OSX 10.2 on supports Unicode.  The browser Safari should be able to display the above Unicode glyphs.  Here is the newest browser for Macintosh, OSX 10.3 or later, Camino. Camino 1.5 is a universal binary and runs natively on both PowerPC- and Intel-based Macs. Macintosh OS 8.5 through 9 theoretically support Unicode, but you have to install a few pieces of software from the install CDs, like Language Kits and Unicode script.  The only web browser for classic Mac operating systems that handles Unicode fonts is Opera.  The text editor, WorldText or WorldWrite?, that comes with OS 9, can handle Unicode fonts.  However, I have not found OS 9 to be of any use for typing polytonic Greek in unicode, because when you can finally manage to get it to accept Unicode, you have to type one character at a time, see these instructions.  You can, however, manage to get OS 9 to let you type Chinese or Arabic for example, since language kits are supplied for those and other languages.  But not polytonic Greek.  I am mainly discussing on this page the Unicode fonts and software that support Biblical language scholarship, such as polytonic Greek, fully cantillated Hebrew, and special symbols used in the footnote apparatus of the current Greek New Testament editions.  Therefore I declare that, even though I love Mac OS 9 and earlier, it is time to move on, to OSX, or Microsoft Windows.  I am pleased to say, however, that my Apple Laserwriter Select 360 printer that I bought in 1991 still works well, and even prints all the Unicode fonts from my Windows XP machine.  It hesitates a little, probably needing more printer RAM, since I only have 1 MB in the printer.  But it works.

Here is a fine page with instructions for Macintosh.

A free Mac OSX keyboard layout editor, called Ukelele, version 1.7 released August 2006, but earlier versions from Sept 2004.

UnicodeChecker for Mac OS X is an application that displays information for every code point from the Unicode Standard 4.1. For a given number, UnicodeChecker will display that character along with its UTF-8, UTF-16 and UTF-32 encodings, XHTML entity, Unicode Name, mapping information and much more.

The latest and final version of Internet Explorer for Mac OS 8.5 - 9

The latest and final version of Internet Explorer for Mac OSX

Opera for Mac OSX  or this link.

The Mozilla Firefox browser supports unicode.  It is free to download.  It comes in many languages and has versions for Windows, Mac and Linux.

Why use the Camino browser for Macintosh?

"Camino 1.5 is a universal binary and runs natively on both PowerPC- and Intel-based Macs. Requires Mac OSX 10.3 or later. The Camino Project has worked to create a browser that is as functional and elegant as the computers it runs on. The Camino web browser is powerful, secure, and ready to meet the needs of all users while remaining simple and elegant in its design.

Camino combines the awesome visual and behavioral experience that has been central to the Macintosh philosophy with the powerful web-browsing capabilities of the Gecko rendering engine. Built and tested by thousands of volunteers, Mozilla’s Gecko brings cutting-edge innovations and capabilities to users in a standards-friendly and socially responsible form."

The latest version of Netscape for Mac Classic


RedHat 7.0 and higher support Unicode.  Linux with XFree86 4.x, or BeOS 5.  I don't know much about Linux, but here is a page that treats the issue of Unicode and Linux extensively.

The Mozilla Firefox browser supports unicode.  It is free to download.  It comes in many languages and has versions for Windows, Mac and Linux.

Opera browser is available free for Linux.

Word Processors That Support Unicode


Microsoft Office 97 for Windows and later, do support Unicode.  However, Word 2000 and earlier have minor trouble with a few supplementary characters used in textual criticism and mathematics, in that they assign two spaces to them.  Later versions of Word though do display them correctly.  So does LedIt!, to which I give a link below.

WordPad that came with my Windows XP service pack 2 handles Unicode perfectly.

Microsoft Works 5 and later

A free text processor that displays Unicode, LedIt!  I've tried a lot of free word processors for Unicode, and this is one of the better ones.  Its main limitation is regarding footnotes.

The free Open Office Suite supports Unicode.

Heiroglyph is a free Unicode-compliant text editor, most useful for Russian and English, back and forth.

TextEdit1700, free text processor for Windows with which you can edit underlying source code of documents, including of Unicode, or html.

Another free word processor, AbiWord, does handle Unicode.

A free application called WorldPad 2.0 (15.2 MB download) handles Unicode, including Graphite capabilities.  

NOTE: Always after installing free software, sweep your computer of spyware.  Spyware is often the catch for it being free.  Small price to pay still.


Of Microsoft products for Macintosh, only Office 2004 and later support Unicode.

If you don't have Word 2004 for Mac, you can display Unicode documents with the following free applications:.

TextEdit, the simple text program that comes with OSX

Apple's "Pages" program.

A free text processor that displays Unicode, LedIt!  I've tried a lot of free word processors for Unicode, and this is one of the better ones.  Its main limitation is regarding footnotes.

Inexpensive.  OSX only.

TextEdit1700, free text processor for Mac classic OS that will accept the HexEdit keyboard utility. With TextEdit1700 you can edit underlying source code of documents, including of Unicode, or html, or rtf.

Free download.  Full-featured word processor.

Another free word processor, AbiWord, does handle Unicode on Mac OSX 10.2 - 10.4.

Here is a page that shows you how to choose what application to open a file with, bypassing the file-type association.


Many of the Word Processors under Windows above also have versions for Linux.

A free text processor that displays Unicode, LedIt!  I've tried a lot of free word processors for Unicode, and this is one of the better ones.  Its main limitation is regarding footnotes.

A free word processor for Linux, AbiWord, does handle Unicode.

Unicode Fonts Available:

I am listing these fonts not in alphabetical order, but generally in order of my preference for them.  I first list the ones for extended Greek and textual criticism apparatus.  Cardo and Code 2000 have supplementary glyphs for the latter.

For Greek Extended and Greek New Testament footnote apparatus and Hebrew, see my  fonts page, which shows the below glyphs in many other fonts.

Free download.  Available for Windows, Mac OSX, and Linux.  Serif, upright.  Medium spread-out text.  The only font with all the glyphs in my documents.  2,881 glyphs.  A very nice looking Greek font when printed out.  The English and Latin appearance is great too.  It also has all the Hebrew glyphs including cantillation and diacritics, and all the IPA glyphs.  

  ἐν τῇ ἐσχάτῃ ἡμέρᾳ "in the last day."  א𝔐Σ Ξ ɧ ʣ ɖ ʖ
 הוֹשִׁיעָה נָּא- hōšʻāh nāʼPs. 118:25

For Hebrew

In my opinon, the only Hebrew fonts worth having are Cardo98, Code2000, Titus Cyberbit Basic, and Ezra SIL/SR.  They are the only ones that do all the extras.  If you just need to do the main Hebrew consonants and vowels, the following fonts that come with the Windows 2000 and XP operating systems will work: Times New Roman and Courier New.  I show the above text in many other fonts on my fonts page.

Mechon-Mamre discussion of Hebrew unicode

For the International Phonetic Alphabet ( I PA )

Charis SIL 
Free download.  Good-looking English text, and full IPA repertoire.
Available for Windows and Mac OSX.

Cardo  You may as well have this one, since it contains the entire IPA, plus all Hebrew and Greek glyphs, as well as many other technical glyphs.

Doulos SIL 4.0.14

Code 2000

Gentium   Contains every IPA glyph except the 5 tone bars and 2 departing tone marks.  Available for Windows, Mac, and Linux.

Arial Unicode MS   This font that comes with many Microsoft products, like Office 2000 and Office 2003, contains the whole repertoire plus dozens of languages!

Lucida Sans Unicode



Unicode fonts for Syriac

Unfortunately, the Unicode panel for Syriac is not adequate.  There is no acceptable way I have found to use a Unicode font for Syriac, because you will not have glyphs for all the variations of the letters, such as all the final forms, and for letters that change form depending on what letter they follow, etc.  You may as well use the legacy font Estrangelo v. 1.1. 

But, the Unicode fonts that do display the Syriac Unicode panel, such as it is, are: Titus Cyberbit Basic, MS Sans Serif, Fixed Sys, Estrangelo Edessa, and Code 2000.


Unicode fonts and keyboards for Other Languages

Unicode Kannada font and keyboard for Macintosh

For Devanagari, Kannada, Tamil, Telugu, Gurumukhi, Gujarathi languages, the Brahmi input method for Windows. Tamil, Devanagari, Telugu, Gurumukhi, Gujarathi fonts links follow below.

Script for Word to convert Indic languages from legacy fonts or ascii over to Unicode.

Akshar free Unicode font for Devanagari, Kannada, Latin, Malayalam, Tamil, Telugu. The same site also offers an editor for these languages.

Pothana (Free unicode font for Telugu)

Jaipur Hindi Unicode NFLC and Keyman phonetic keyboard and Jaipur Unicode font

Gargi (Unicode font for Devanagari)

Devanagari font gallery

Aakar (Gujarati font)

Rekha (Gujarati font)

Saab is the first ever freely available, Unicode 4.0 compliant, OpenType, Gurmukhi (Punjabi) font. The creation of this font was a combined effort by Bhupinder Singh and Sukhjinder Sidhu to help encourage the use of Punjabi online.

More Kannada (Unicode?) fonts: Shree850, Sampige (Unicode), GISTYogeshN, Surekh

A Malayam text editor

Thoolika (Malayalam Unicode font and keyboard input software)

Sooriyan (Tamil font and keyboard)

More Tamil fonts.

Free Sans has several Indian languages.

For Gurmukhi, and Oriya, those are included in Code 2000

Some Oriya fonts.


Malithi (Sinhala web font for web pages)

More unicode fonts, which are also OpenType,  for south Asian languages, including Tibetan, Urdu

Nice set of instructions for getting old computers to handle South Asian languages

Chinese traditional

Chinese simplified

More Chinese, Japanese, Hong Kong Cantonese, Koren, Mongolian Unicode, OpenType fonts


Lao Phetsarath font

Lateef, a Unicode font for Sinhi, (some Arabic), free download.  Appropriate style for use in Sindhi and other languages of the South Asian region.  Two versions, one is OpenType for Uniscribe, ICU, Pango-based applications, the other is AAT for ATSUI applications on Mac OS X.

Scheherazade, free Unicode font for Arabic. Traditional typeface like Monotype Naskh, extended to cover the full Unicode Arabic repertoire.  Two versions, one is OpenType for Uniscribe, ICU, Pango-based applications, the other is AAT for ATSUI applications on Mac OS X.

Various Persian fonts, including for Azeri, Kazakh and Kirghiz.

FarsiWeb has Persian Unicode fonts.

Download this program to add Farsi capability to Windows 95/98/ME

Pashto fonts.

Bangla Unicode fonts.

Unicode fonts for Arabic, Thaana, Syriac, Hebrew

Here is a site with tips for non-English websites.

For Unicode fonts for other languages, see David McCreedy's Gallery of Unicode Fonts

Getting started with Unicode.

Also see each separate page on Alan Wood's excellent site.

The SIL Font List


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