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Font problems with macrons and other Unicode characters…

I had an interesting little problem to solve last night for a customer in Bath having problems getting a macron character to show in a Quark Xpress 6.5 document. Fortunately it was resolved in a few minutes using my Remote Mac Support service (after they had spent hours on the phone to various other ‘experts’).

Simply put, the problem is this. Many Type 1 Postscript fonts do not include the glyphs required to show foreign accents, such as the macron. As large numbers of designers are still using fonts from the early 90s, they are unable to take advantage of these new typographic characters, which makes publishing documents in foreign languages problematic.

The solution was simple. Using a Font Manager like FontBook we could quickly find those fonts that included the macron. We then managed the duplicate fonts so that the correct fonts was being shown in the font menu. We then sourced suitable replacement modern fonts from, checking first that they included all the required glyphs by using the Type Preview. Once we knew we had fonts that would support the characters, we then pasted the text into Quark Xpress 6.5 and selected the required typeface. Unfortunately they still did not show correctly… Darn!

A quick trip into an ancient version of InDesign confirmed that the fonts do work as expected, which roused my suspicion that Quark Xpress 6.5 was failing to display Unicode text correctly. A quick trip to downloaded a demo of Quark 8, which when installed displayed the text perfectly.

Conclusions? Quark 6.5 and earlier sucks at supporting none European languages, ancient Type 1 font libraries are increasingly problematic, and font management is still the biggest headache facing design professionals

Looking for expert Mac support in and around Bath, Bristol, Somerset and Wiltshire? Not happy with the standard of Mac support you currently receive? Why not give us a call and let’s have a chat…

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4 Responses to Font problems with macrons and other Unicode characters…

  1. John Brandt

    Some further detail, along with a bit of correction, since I happened upon your post . . .

    The macron accent on virtually all standard PostScript (PS) (Adobe Standard Western language layout) fonts, of any age, can be accessed simply on the Mac by keying these three keys simultaneously: |SHIFT|OPTION|,| (comma): ¯ . Same generally goes for TrueType (TT or TTF) and other font formats, as most follow the same layout convention. Obviously, pi (symbol or picture) fonts and foreign language fonts will likely use differing layouts, with any macron or other character not necessarily in that position, if present at all. (Unlike most common accents, the macron is not self-centering, so it must be kerned backwards to appear on top of the desired character.)

    Those “newer” fonts to which you refer are OpenType (OTF), a newish font format capable of containing over 60,000 glyphs (basically characters), whereas PostScript (old or new) can contain only 256. Similarly for TrueType, where again, age has virtually nothing to do with character accessibility (except for the Euro character, which is not present on fonts created before it existed, but is on most fonts thereafter, or the Apple logo ( |SHIFT|OPTION|k|  ), which was removed from most fonts for a period when Apple changed its mind about the efficacy of allowing its logo (now redrawn) to be so readily available to anyone.)

    Quark actually did quite well at multiple languages, considering the many Quark Passport versions of XPress developed expressly for that purpose. Yes, one needed the proper versions of fonts created for the language desired, but Quark early on created a near-worldwide publishing platform. Passport now has been integrated into the primary version of Quark XPress, but the font issue you seem to discuss relates to Quark’s inclusion of support for OpenType fonts, which happened after v6.5. InDesign included support for OpenType a version or so sooner, likely due to Adobe’s part (with others, but not Quark) in the development of the OpenType format. Both Quark and InDesign, with current versions, contain full support for the OpenType font format and all its characters and many additional features, like automatic ligatures & swashes, alternate characters, etc.

    But it is still necessary for each font desired to contain the macron (or any other character) in order to access it. Many OpenType fonts, for instance, contain only the original standard 256-character layout, most having been directly converted from their original format. More and more of the better commercial font designers and foundries, however, as you are finding, are now building in more complete character sets, allowing not only more languages with the same font, but providing options for such things as oldstyle (lower case) vs. lining (uppercase) figures and many other various types of additional glyphs. If the OpenType font you’re using contains the macron character, you can still use the same keyboard shortcut noted above to access it.

    For a far more complete look at where various characters can be found on any font (especially PostScript, but relates to all others with the standard layout also, including the base set of OpenType characters), I created a little PDF eBooklet not only showing and defining each character, but also providing Mac, PC and HTML keyboard access shortcuts. It’s a free download from the Design Tools Monthly website:

    (Flagrant plug: Although I have nothing to do with publishing Design Tools Monthly (DTM) beyond offering rare extras like the above, I heartily recommend it to everyone involved in graphic design, production or related professions. Few pubs will keep you up to date as succinctly and as well, not to mention the many goodies that come with it. You can sign up (free) on the site for a free sample. BTW, DTM’s publisher, Jay Nelson, now a well-known computer graphic expert, came out of the Apple User Group community, having been president of his local group.)

    Hope that helps.
    John Brandt

  2. Hi John, thanks for the corrections.

    Could I just make sure I understand you correctly? You insert the macron character adjacent to the character that needs it, then kern it so that it then sits above the character in question?

    If you do a search and replace in Quark, will it also copy across the manual kerning you have done to position the macron? I’m thinking of documents with hundreds of these “special” characters and the pain of manually kerning each one…

  3. John Brandt

    Yes. You have it right. There are two ways to handle global replacement in Quark. One is the painful, manual case-by-case basis you mention (a bit quicker using Find/Change). But since Quark is also capable of storing kern pairs for any font, you can set it up to happen automatically, before or after the document is created. I won’t go into the (rather simple) intricacies of how to set up automatic kern tables (which can contain many or just one kern pair), but Quark Help shows how it’s done. To get you started, in the top Quark menu, go to Utilities>Kern Table Edit. If you’re familiar with kerning tables, it’s fairly intuitive. If not, the help file can walk you through it. Note kern tables work on an individual font-by-font basis, and this mechanism only works in Quark—you cannot take the kerned font into another app with the kerning intact. In order to do that, you’d need to create new versions of any font(s) desired in Fontographer, FontLab or whatever. It’s also pretty easy in Fontographer, so email me if you have the app and want some guidance. These methods are done routinely at many large studios and agencies, just be careful if creating an entirely new version of the font to check your licensing, to avoid any undesirable run-ins with the Font Police.

  4. Excellent stuff and useful info to know.

    Having said that, earlier versions of Quark, and Quark in general are becoming an increasing irrelevance for most SMEs (in my experience), so issues with Unicode fonts are becoming less of a problem. Quark 4 was a masterpiece of focused simplicity. Since then I think they’ve lost their way rather badly and Adobe are cleaning up the pieces with InDesign…