Since Penn State is migrating to Canvas in the next few semesters, I thought I would do a run of Unicode tests. Results were generally very satisfactory, but there were a few quirks.

Test Date: Dec 21, 2015

Canvas adds new features pretty regularly, so some results may be outdated.

The Good News

The good news is that that Canvas, particularly the Rich Content Editor, supports many non-Western scripts out of the box. Just switch to your favorite text-inputting keyboard or tool and start typing. I’ve tested it for Sinhala (South Asian script), Cyrillic, Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, phonetic/logic symbols and Japanese katakana. Those usually cover the major script quirks that I am familiar with.

The Quirks

For some scenarios, you may want the HTML Editor code view within the Rich Content Editorto further adjust the text in accordance to legibility needs of a script. See specific notes below.

Override Font

The Helvetica Neue font in the Canvas interface does not support all technical symbols (e.g. some phonetic symbols or lesser known characters from Old English). If you do need to include an exotic symbol beyond Helvetica Neue, you can use add inline CSS to a SPAN or a DIV tag.

Note: Helvetica Neus does support characters for major Western languages like Spanish, French, German and Italian and also Russian and basic Greek.

Increase Font Size

This CSS technique can also be useful to resize some non-Western scripts to make the font be larger. Note that Canvas supports font sizes in ems. A font size of 1.5em may work for many scripts.

Switch Text Direction

Canvas supports the use of the dir="rtl" for right to left text layout for languages like Arabic and Hebrew.

Beyond the HTML Editor

Layout options are more limited outside the Rich Content/HTML Editor in location such as item titles. If you need to use non-English characters in Canvas, be aware that some display quirks may be seen.

It looks like Canvas may be building a theme editor, but at the moment it is not yet available for individual courses. If it does become available, it would be useful if mega fonts like Lucida Grande or Arial Unicode MS were included as options.

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