21 Replies Latest reply: Oct 25, 2011 1:36 PM by ereninan RSS

    Displaying International Characters

    Tad Staley Community Member
      Some users have been concerned about the fact that Buzzword does not display some international characters - ranging from Greek to Russian. This is accentuated by the fact that we have Buzzword users in well over 100 countries.

      The problem occurs when users attempt to insert some international characters - say, the Greek letter omega - and Buzzword instead displays a dot on the screen. Here's what's going on, for anyone interested:

      Like virtually all modern software, Buzzword adheres to the Unicode standard, where characters are defined with 16 bits, resulting in a total of over 65,000 possible characters.

      However, unlike most desktop software, Buzzword must use something called "embedded fonts". This means that we can't read fonts off a user's computer, but instead we have to download fonts from our server.

      This is where our challenge begins. A font family contains characters - called "glyphs" when drawn on the screen - for some portion of the 65,000 possible characters defined by Unicode. Each available character is downloaded as a small program containing instructions on how to draw the glyph. The instructions are relatively small, but each takes time to download - you can see evidence of this in our "loading fonts" progress bar.

      For Buzzword to load relatively quickly, we need to limit the number of characters downloaded with each of our seven font families. Most people use far fewer than 65,000 characters, so for our first phase of deployment, we identified a couple hundred characters to download for each font family. Because our initial market focus was North America, we chose characters from Latin-1, the Western European character set.

      The result: when a user attempts to enter the Greek letter omega, Buzzword recognizes the Unicode character but does not have the downloaded instructions to display the glyph on the screen. The little dot that is displayed instead is an indication that the requested glyph has not been downloaded with the font set.. If the user were to export the document to be read by a desktop program, the glyph would probably be displayed using the computer's fonts.

      Longer term, we'll handle this differently by downloading fonts dynamically, based on the document's contents and a user's settings. In the meantime, we apologize to everyone who uses characters outside the Western European set. We will work to get you a solution as soon as we possibly can.