Roman character sets in foreign fonts?

QwertMan's picture

Hello! I have a somewhat technical font question and I was told this website would be a good place to ask. I also posted this question in the Hebrew typeface board, but noticed that the board's latest post was two weeks ago, so I decided to post here too.

I've just begun to work with my university's student run TV station. I got an email from the graphics team leader with a supposedly all-encompassing list of the fonts available on the titling machine ( this list provided below). I noticed quickly that most of these are foreign fonts- arabic, thai, han, hebrew, etc. Only a few were roman character fonts. I responded telling her that most of those fonts aren't actually fit for our use, and was surprised at the discussion over which fonts people like more, Aharoni or David.

It seems to me that typing English sentences under one of these fonts will result in the use of a generic font, since trying that out in many of these got me thin, non-smoothed, ugly fonts. I was confused though, by the fact that they all did look slightly different, and that the Hebrew fonts, in word, didn't work (trying to format normal text as Arabic just reverted back to the default Word font).

Could someone explain exactly whether or not these fonts contain English character sets, and whether or not they're actually improper to use for English writing? I tried to do some research of my own but didn't find anything besides endless websites advertising foreign font downloads without explanation of their inner-workings.

This is the list:
Cordia New, Cordia UPC, DilleniaUPC, Dotum, Dotum Che, EucrosiaUPC, FressiaUPC, Gulim, Gulim Che, Gungsuh, GungsuhChe, IrisUPC, JasmineUPC, KodchiangUPC, LilyUPC, MS Gothic, MS Mincho, MS PGothic, MS PMincho, MS UI Gothic, Microsoft Sans Serif, MingLiU, NSimSun, P Ming Liu, SimHei, SimSun, Simplified arabic, Simplified Arabic Fixed, Tahoma, Traditional Arabic, Verdana

John Hudson's picture

I'm pretty sure that all these fonts contain at least an ASCII Latin set and possibly a Win ANSI (CP 1252) set. It is Microsoft policy to include support for at least one full 8-bit Windows codepage in every font, regardless of the targeted script(s) for the font, and all of those codepages have an ASCII 7-bit set as their core. So, for example, the Windows Hebrew codepage (CP 1255) has Latin characters and symbols in the lower half, and Hebrew characters in the upper half.

This isn't a functional requirement for most modern software, i.e. it is possible to make a font that contains only particular Unicode characters, not a full 8-bit codepage, which will work correctly in most places. But for backwards compatibility reasons it is still recommended to support at least one 8-bit codepage, and Microsoft do so even in fonts targeting scripts that never had their own Windows codepages defined. Such fonts usually contain the Win ANSI (CP 1252) set.

In many cases, as you have noted, the Latin inclusion in the fonts is 'generic' or, rather, will tend to be one of the core Windows fonts such as Times New Roman or Arial. Sometimes the Latin is scaled to better harmonise with the target script.

I would not use any of the fonts you list for setting Latin script text, since the same designs exist in fonts that probably support them more fully, e.g. with better kerning or additional characters.

Note that a few of the MS fonts targeting particular scripts have custom designed Latin inclusions that harmonise with the target script. Examples are 'Arabic Typesetting' and 'Nyala' (Ethiopic). These Latin designs are not accessible outside of those fonts, so they are sometimes used to typeset English and other Latin script languages. However, their character sets and language coverage is more limited than for most Latin script fonts on Windows, since they aim only to support one or two 8-bit codepages, and they only exist in one weight and style.

hrant's picture

{Copying my reply from your other post.}

Many Latin components of non-Latin fonts are illegitimate and/or low-quality. Except for "official" ones (like the ones that come with Windows) which are however usually very generic, hence do not match the non-Latin in style (and are rarely highly usable just for Latin anyway).

It sounds like you need some real (and non-OS) fonts. But do you do a fair amount of non-Latin as well?

BTW make sure laymen don't get to choose which fonts to use - that's what designers are for.


QwertMan's picture

Thank you both for your excellent explanations. I'll re-explain it in the others, and make an effort to get it added to the station handbook.

Tomorrow I'm going to see if I can put the Adobe CS fonts onto the machine, and I'll be browsing for decent free to use fonts to add to their collection. I don't think there has ever been any need for foreign character use on any of the shows.

Hrant, the person who came up with the list is, in fact, the lead designer, and I think she's paid too. The station is very much student run, mostly by kids with no prior experience, so the level of professionalism varies over time.

Té Rowan's picture

My personal opinion on a good subtitling font tends towards a slightly-condensed low-contrast slab serif, similar to Rockwell. Still, I think that Droid Sans or PT Sans might work. Both are available freely, by the way.

Hmm... Computer Modern Concrete is a slab serif, and you school folk may already be familiar with it through Donald Knuth's other works. Plus, if there's a good Metafont hacker on hand, (s)he could very likely customise its weight and width for your specific needs.

Karl Stange's picture

Plus, if there's a good Metafont hacker on hand, (s)he could very likely customise its weight and width for your specific needs.

I love the idea that such skill sets might just be on hand.

hrant's picture

Back when I used to do video titling I fell in love with Poppl Laudatio. There was also one specific weight of Rotis used with a specific set of parameters that produced incredible results at surprisingly small sizes (but I forget the details).


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