"Universal" font

Gaaaga's picture

Hello everybody !!!!

I'm looking for a font that can handles every type of characters, from the latin alphabet till the cyrillic alphabet via the asiatic alphabets (japanese, chinese, ..). I though that Lucida Grande would do it, but apparently not (when I embed this font on my appli, it doens't display correctly the characters..). With a japanese character I though that I would have manage to find it, but unfortunately the russian is craply displayed (with a huge letter-spacing)
So do you know if this magic font exist or how to find it ?

In other case, do you know how to find the character palette on the mac that would list me all the font available on my mac and which alphabet these fonts handle ?

Or maybe a website with fonts and their cover ?

Thanks a lot for any help !!!

Jongseong's picture

Depends on what you need, but the short answer is no. There is no such magic font. I've yet to come across a font with a broad coverage of different writing systems that does each of them justice. MS Arial Unicode is atrocious in this respect.

Use the mix and match approach. Choose a good multi-script font that supports a good portion of the writing systems you need as its core design. Supplement the writing systems that are missing with fonts that cover them as their core designs. If you need a font for Chinese ideographs, use a font designed specifically for Chinese or Japanese, not something like MS Arial Unicode. Ditto for Thai, Georgian, Greek, etc.

If you specify which scripts you need, then it will be easier to suggest which fonts you might use. I don't know if you'll need the Korean alphabet, but if you do, you could do worse than use Malgun Gothic, the font shipped with Windows Vista for Korean. It has comparably decent Cyrillic design (although I would like to hear from native Cyrillic readers; ditto for its Greek and Japanese components). It only supports the Russian letters, though. And it lacks Chinese characters entirely--you would have to choose a comparable sans serif font with Chinese character support.

AzizMostafa's picture

Thanks Jongseong, I was thinking of copying and pasting one of your nicely repeated answers here. You saved me time+Effort.
Flowers for the Questioner and the Replier.

Thomas Phinney's picture

These days, there are a fair number of typefaces that have decent Latin, Greek and Cyrillic in a single font.

The problem is getting East Asian support in the same font. The particularly thorny problem is dealing with the Han unification characters. Basically, for certain East Asian characters, There are quite different designs for (1) Chinese versus Japanese and (2) simplified Chinese versus traditional Chinese. Currently, the only functional way to distinguish them is to build an OpenType font with the 'locl' (locale) feature, and use apps/OSes that process that feature correctly for those languages.

I'm not sure how widespread such app/OS support is for the 'locl' feature with those languages, but I know that such fonts are pretty much non-existent in the wild. AFAIK, thus far such fonts have only been built by mad scientists in labs (pace Dr Lunde & Mr Meyer).

Because of the potential for great efficiency (space savings), I imagine we will see such fonts in the wild in the future.

Cheers,

T

Jongseong's picture

The following thread went on a lengthy tangent regarding the difference between the Chinese, Korean, and Japanese letterforms for the same characters:

http://typophile.com/node/42433

As I wished in that thread, it would be great to see a font that handles the country-specific variations of Chinese characters with the 'locl' feature. The thing is that such a font would require the coordination of an international team of experts from the different countries that use Chinese characters in addition to the ridiculous amount of man-hours needed to design the tens of thousands of glyphs. Thomas can confirm this, but I think Adobe has developed Japanese fonts that utilize OpenType features for Chinese characters, so Adobe would be a good candidate to coordinate such an effort.

Si_Daniels's picture

You talk about embedding a font in your appli(cation) - so do you plan on redistributing the universal font with your Mac based application? The cost of licensing one of the existing fonts or a custom font for redistribution would be expensive, and you're probabyl better off writing code that uses a preferred system font for each language.

Some platforms have that built in - for example WPF has the concept of a composite font, an XML file that points to different fonts for each Unicode range and language ID.

Thomas Phinney's picture

We've never shipped a hybrid CCJ or CCJK font using the 'locl' feature for glyph switching. But we've experimented along those lines a bit. I'd bet that in a decade, there will be several such fonts out there. Probably within five years, even.

Cheers,

T

Gaaaga's picture

Finally, I manage to do it, but using only one font : Arial Unicode MS, found on my mac and it can handle all the alphabet (latin, cyrillic, chinese, korean and japanese) including the accents. So I believe it was my universal font I was looking for !!
Thaks all for your help !!

sii, can you precise what you said about the licensing I didn't really get it, you mean that if I use a font found on my mac (Macintosh/Library/Fonts) I have to buy a license of it ?

Jongseong's picture

I know it's your choice, but please, please, please don't use MS Arial Unicode for Korean if you have any consideration at all for respectful typography.

The Korean portion of MS Arial Unicode is downright distracting in its ugliness and complete disregard of the Korean feel for letterform proportions. It looks so amazingly amateurish even to Koreans untrained in typography. I sincerely wish it didn't exist at all.

That was my whole point. Yes, there are fonts that provide glyphs for all those different writing systems, but they won't all be usable. Please don't sacrifice typographic sensitivity for the apparent simplicity of using a single font. You will regret it if you actually want people to read all the different scripts you set in that font.

AzizMostafa's picture

What Jongseong has thankfully commented is applicable to Arabic too.
Just Ignore it with Flowers

Thomas Phinney's picture

> it can handle all the alphabet (latin, cyrillic, chinese, korean and japanese) including the accents.

No, it can't, for the reasons given above in my and others' posts.

> So I believe it was my universal font I was looking for !!

No, it isn't. It sucks for the usage you are talking about.

T

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