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.