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Unicode Compatibility

Note that all Microsoft and Adobe products are incompatible with Apple's Unicode rendering engine.

Unicode has been the basis of text under OS X now for many years and Apple has provided a rendering engine capable of dealing with nearly every type of writing system for nearly as many years. Nevertheless, there are still companies that refuse to incorporate this functionality into their products — most notably, Microsoft and Adobe.

There's really no excuse for this and users of Microsoft and Adobe software are encouraged to contact these companies and ask that they step up and include this support.

How can you know if an application is compatible or not? You can't know this from any of the PR stuff companies put out because they rarely mention this functionality and nothing on the spine of a retail box will indicate this either.

One of the things you will occasionally see or hear is that an application is Unicode-compatible. But this by itself is not enough information to make an accurate assessment. Typically, this means only that an application understands the character code associated with a given glyph and it usually implies that an application can display it too. But for many of the world's complex, contextual writing systems, this isn't enough.

Many of the world's writing systems require contextual forms, i.e., forms that change their appearance (shape) or position based on the glyphs around it (the 'context'). For example, in English words are spelled one letter after another, D O G, but in Tibetan the same word is spelled with the characters:

Tibetan DOG

Actually, Unicode requires a slightly different interpretation but it's not pertinent to this discussion.

To display this word correctly in Tibetan, the context requires that the second character change its shape and be written below and as part of the first character.

Tibetan DOG

Some applications that claim to be Unicode compatible can only display the first version because they don't understand the information contained in the font and can't work with it without supporting Apple's Unicode rendering engine.

A list of fully compatible applications is difficult to create because there some applications that support one feature (which may be sufficient for some scripts) but not another. I've attempted to list compatible applications that I have personally tried or that other users have informed me are compatible. The whole issue gets a little more confusing because various versions of OS X (Tiger specifically) have broken some aspects of the text rendering system. The applications listed below should work with any version of 10.3 and versions higher than 10.4.3 (earlier Tiger versions had far too many problems).

Whenever possible I recommend that you download trial or demo versions of software when available to make sure they're compatible with your computing environment. The applications listed here are in no particular order.

Although many applications still don't support Unicode (completely or correctly), we hope that most software vendors will introduce Unicode compliant versions that use Apple's Unicode imaging technology and they should be encouraged to do so by their userbase.

Nevertheless, our kits can help you create text documents, emails, web pages and more with the applications listed above.


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Unicode Syriac Support Added

December 31, 2008

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New Tibetan Unicode Font: Drepung

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Support for Mon (Unicode) added

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Support for Shan (Unicode) added

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Support for Sgaw Karen (Unicode) added

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Support for Unicode Burmese 5.1

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