Re: Symbol Font Considered Harmful

Subject: Re: Symbol Font Considered Harmful
From: "Fred Ridder" <docudoc -at- hotmail -dot- com>
To: mike -at- writestarr -dot- com, techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Fri, 03 Nov 2006 13:08:33 -0500

I have a quibble and a comment regarding this thead.

The quibble is that the lower-case mu (used to abbreviate
micro) is *not* a Unicode character. It is character 181
(0xB5) in the ISO-8859-1 character set, also known as
Windows-1252, which supports character numbers up
to 255 (0xFF). Both of these are subsets of Unicode,
so I suppose this makes the mu a Unicode character in
one sense, but Unicode encoding is *not* required to
handle a mu in any normal application that isn't restricted
(for some dumb reason) to the archaic 128-character
ASCII set.

And my comment is that I disagree with the opinion that
Symbol font is a greater evil and causes more problems
than Unicode. For example, a number of applications in
wide use (e.g. FrameMaker) do not (yet?) support
Unicode at all, which is a major issue. And if your
deliverables are PDF files that have the fonts embedded
(which should be standard practice IMO) there is no
downside to using Symbol font. I do object to the way
most recent versionf of Word automatically switch over
to Symbol font for special characters without giving
much (or any) warning. But the deliberate and appropriate
use of Symbol font is not an evil thing as far as I am
concerned. Maybe I'm missing something, though,
because I don't recall ever having received the OP's full
message--only the excerpt in Mike's reply.

My opinions only; I don't speak for Intel.
Fred Ridder
Parsippany, NJ

From: "Mike Starr" <mike -at- writestarr -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Subject: Re: Symbol Font Considered Harmful
Date: Fri, 3 Nov 2006 07:11:49 -0600

Thank you for an insightful discussion. I've been using the unicode versions of these symbols for many years but I'll certainly think twice before actually inserting anything from the Symbol font (something I typically only resort to for bullets or the like).

Mike Starr WriteStarr Information Services
Technical Writer - Online Help Developer - Website developer
Graphic Designer - Desktop Publisher - MS Office Expert
Phone: (262) 694-1028 - Tollfree: (877) 892-1028 - Fax:(262) 697-6334
Email: mike -at- writestarr -dot- com - Web:

----- Original Message -----
Message: 32
Date: Thu, 2 Nov 2006 18:17:19 -0800
From: "Andrew Warren" <awarren -at- synaptics -dot- com>
Subject: Symbol Font Considered Harmful

I have a point, but I need about three paragraphs of setup before I can
make it. Fortunately, the rest of this post is so long that by the time
you're done, you'll hardly remember that you had to wade through this

I no longer approve documents that use the Symbol font for any purpose.
I now insist that "micro-" be either spelled out or represented by the
lowercase "u", and "ohm" either gets spelled out or omitted ("4.7k
resistor" or "4k7 resistor" are both well-understood in my industry to
mean "4.7 kiloohm resistor").

Every once in a while, someone actually needs a real "micro" or "ohm"
symbol in his document. In those cases, I'm okay -- barely -- with the
use of Unicode "micro" (U+00B5, ALT-0181) and "ohm" (U+2126, ALT-8486)
or "omega" (U+03A9, ALT-0937) characters from whatever regular font he's

Of course, when those Unicode characters get stripped by an ASCII-only
email system or the document's converted to a font that doesn't contain
those Unicode glyphs, the symbols will still disappear or be converted
to an ampersand or a copyright symbol or a little black box with a
question mark in it or something... But at least they won't masquerade
as reasonable-but-totally-wrong characters that are going to cost my
company a ton of money or injure someone.


=== Andrew Warren - awarren -at- synaptics -dot- com
=== Synaptics, Inc - Santa Clara, CA

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Re: Symbol Font Considered Harmful: From: Mike Starr

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