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C O M P U T I N G:
Why Unicode?


  1. Unicode allows us to show characters from several different languages, or even alphabets, on one web page (assuming, of course, that the correct font support is installed).

  2. Unicode aims to be completely cross-platform, i.e., the same document should display correctly under Windows, Linux / Unix, MacOS and other less commonly used operating systems.

  3. All the major operating systems support Unicode, albeit still rather unevenly (see 1. below).

  4. Within certain parameters you do not need to install or reconfigure software to display a wide range of characters and alphabets correctly. For example, the extended font set supplied by Microsoft as part of Win98 (or in the pan-European version of Windows 95) will support the following character sets: Central European, Baltic, Greek, Turkish, Cyrillic.

    Naturally if you wish to work in alphabets such as Georgian, Armenian, or those of the Indian Sub-continent or Pacific Rim, you will need unicode fonts that include these characters. There is, however, an enormous incentive for operating systems to move towards unicode because of its ready applicability in the Chinese, Japanese and other East Asian markets.


  1. The technology is still a little way behind the theory. Windows is now almost entirely Unicode based, as is the multimedia operating system BeOS. MacOS (for Apple computers) supports Unicode fully from v.8.5 on. Linux / Unix systems can be configured to handle Unicode correctly, but this may not be terribly straightforward, especially for the novice user. The Psion hand-held computer operating system Epoc is introducing unicode support in the newest versions. [More on operating systems].

  2. There is a limit to Unicode's backward compatibility. Some older browser versions, e.g., Netscape 3, can be persuaded to display it but they require assistance. Other browsers such as IE3 will probably not display Unicode correctly. (more on browsers). Unicode does not display correctly on on Windows 3.x or MacOS earlier than v.8.5.

  3. If your machine does not display Unicode correctly, it looks particularly ugly and makes the text almost unreadable.

More detailed information on Unicode can be found on the Unicode website.

Pages prepared by James Partridge

Any questions about language support or fonts, or suggestions on how to improve these pages? Feel free to CONTACT me.

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