Encoding on the Internet

8: Fonts and Encoding

The Role of a Font

A font matches a number in encoding system to a text character which is displayed on a monitor or printed out. On a computer, the keyboard is the usual device that allows a user to input the numeric codes that are translated as text by the font.

Different fonts allow for different character styles to be displayed. Some example fonts:

Times New Roman
Arial Black

"Properly Encoded" Fonts

A properly encoded font matches the encoding number with the character specified in the encoding scheme. A Latin-1 encoded font would always match character #65 to "A", Character #66 to "B", and so forth. In terms of a keyboard, using a Latin-1 font would mean you see "A" every time you hit the A key, even if the visual style differs from font to font.

"Dingbat" or "Print" Fonts

Fonts which generate other types of characters and symbols or "dingbats" are those in which the character is mismatched with the encoding scheme. In terms of a keyboard, when you type the A key, you might see some othecharacter. Some dingbat fonts include:

Wingdings (Wingdings)
Webdings (Webdings)
Zapf Dingbats (Zapf)

But beneath the different characters, the above are still plain Latin-1 Text. If the font is not installed on a user’s computer, he or she will likely see ASCII letters.

Font Symbols and HTML Codes
Font Text Appearance HTML Code
Verdana A B C D E F <font face="Verdana">A B C D E
Georgia A B C D E F <font face="Georgia">A B C D E F</font>
(different buildings)
A B C D E F <font face="Webdings">A B C D E F</font>

C.S.S. Version (still improperly encoded)
<span style="font-family: Webdings ">
a b c d e f</span>

(astrological symbols)
a b c d e f <font face="Wingdings">a b c d e f </font>
Zapf Dingbats
a b c d e f <font face="Zapf Dingbats">a b c d e f </font>

Older Foreign Language Fonts

Some older foreign language fonts like the 1980-90s Symbol font (for Greek) were actually dingbat fonts. A Greek text written in Symbol would not be encoded as Greek, but as Roman alphabet text.

If you do NOT have to "switch keyboards" or use or a special word processor to type in that font, then a foreign language font is likely NOT properly encoded.

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