Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Calibri and Cambria

With each new version of Windows, more and more of the fonts supplied include phonetic symbols. And the handling of diacritics is gradually improving, too.
Michael Ashby wrote to me about updating the advice we give to students of phonetics about Unicode and fonts.
Students may no longer need to download any fonts at all, since
as you know Vista and Windows 7 come with a number of Unicode phonetic fonts. Have you evaluated them at all? I don't even know for certain how many there are. The Arial, Tahoma, Cambria, and Times New Roman fonts don't look bad, and (at least with Office 2007) even the diacritics seem to behave intelligently. But in Calibri, small cap i is without its top and bottom, and a general thing about all these Microsoft fonts is that the stress marks are a bit small, and spaced too far to the left. What do you think?

With Vista (in the UK release that I have) we got IPA symbols included in five bundled fonts: Times New Roman, Arial, Tahoma, and Courier New, as well as the old Lucida Sans Unicode (which in XP days was the only bundled font with IPA). Now, with Windows 7, Calibri and Cambria have been added.

Here is what they look like, as rendered on-screen by Microsoft Office 2007. (I haven’t got Office 2010.) I have also included Doulos SIL (downloadable from www.sil.org), for comparison.
At first glance the new phonetic fonts, Calibri and Cambria, seem quite good. Look, however, at these further samples.You can see that, as Michael says, Calibri (like the font most of you will see in this blog) has a small cap i without the serifs it really needs for good legibility. It also has too much space before the stress mark, after the ɡ and after the length mark. In Cambria the serifs and stress mark are satisfactory, but the character spacing in the word ɡɑːdn̩ still leaves a lot to be desired.

David Bond wrote to me complaining that with nasalized vowel symbols the tilde appears to the right of the base character on his screen and printout, instead of centred over it. I told him that this is somtimes a matter of the browser and word processor software he uses, and that to see the diacritics properly displayed he should install newer versions. But in the case of Courier New (see sample), it is the font that is at fault.

Getting back to the fonts, perhaps for the moment it’s safer to stick to the SIL fonts. Unlike Microsoft, SIL understands how phoneticians use symbols and what they want of them.

11 comments:

  1. My Mac system already has Calibri and Cambria. However, neither font has the COMBINING VERTICAL LINE BELOW character (Unicode 0329). If I insert the character, the system substitutes the Time New Roman version — which disastrously misplaces the diacritic.

    On the other hand, both fonts have serifs for all styles of LATIN SMALL LETTER DOTLESS I (Unicode 0131).

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  2. Mac users beware! The Mac system versions of Calibri and Cambria behave differently. I did post details, but the message has disappeared.

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  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  4. David Crosbie comments:
    My Mac system already has Calibri and Cambria. However, neither font has the
    COMBINING VERTICAL LINE BELOW character (Unicode 0329). If I insert the character,
    the system substitutes the Time New Roman version — which disastrously misplaces the
    diacritic.

    On the other hand, both fonts have serifs for all styles of LATIN SMALL LETTER
    DOTLESS I (Unicode 0131).

    ReplyDelete
  5. David Crosbie says:
    My Mac system already has Calibri and Cambria. However, neither font has the
    COMBINING VERTICAL LINE BELOW character (Unicode 0329). If I insert the character,
    the system substitutes the Time New Roman version — which disastrously misplaces the
    diacritic.

    On the other hand, both fonts have serifs for all styles of LATIN SMALL LETTER
    DOTLESS I (Unicode 0131).

    ReplyDelete
  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  7. "The Mac system versions of Calibri and Cambria behave differently." Apple does not supply these fonts. They come with Mac Office.

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  8. The spacing problems in the Cambria example (and quite probably the Calibri too, although I have not checked that) appear to be rounding errors in whatever rendering environment you are using. I have posted an image of the spacing as is appears in under Windows Vista here:
    http://typophile.com/node/71983#comment-419013

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  9. Anonymous.

    Thanks for the clarification. I now learn from this Microsoft fonts page that they supply as follows:

    Office 2007 — Version 1.02
    Office 2008 (Mac) — Version 2.00
    Windows Vista — Version 5.00
    Windows 7 — Version 5.62

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  10. Oh dear!

    The information that I kept trying to post, and which still appears three times here is partly false. I misread a font name.

    Calibri version 2.00 is in fact no better than the version 5.00 that John's posting refers to when it comes to serifs on LATIN SMALL LETTER DOTLESS I.

    I was wrong. Sorry!

    It does appear to be true, though, that Version 2.00 of both Calibri and Cambria lack the COMBINING VERTICAL LINE BELOW.

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  11. Yes, versions of these fonts prior to 5.62 lack most of the specialised characters needed for phonetics work. A huge amount of characters, plus anchor positioning for combining marks, were added to the fonts for Windows 7.

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