Bringing typography to design – High-ASCII

28 Feb 2007 - 12:43pm
7 years ago
9 replies
1654 reads
Dave Cortright
2005

I recently got interested in typography and read a bunch of books on it. In
the process, I discovered that, in the standard fonts, there are a lot of
unused glyphs that simply don't get used because there is no easy way to
access them. Well, that plus I don't suppose very many designers are aware
of them as options.

There's a great Windows utility out there called AutoHotKey that – among
it's manay capabilities – let's you create auto-correct shortcuts where one
string of text is automatically replaced by another (much like the way
Office works). I created a script that gives me easy access to high-ASCII
characters, giving me more options when designing UI using text. The basic
concept is to use the grave accent as an escape character, so typing '.
gives a middle dot · and * gives a bullet • and 'x gives the multiplication
sign × and so on. I've included my latest script below if you want to download
AutoHotKey <http://www.autohotkey.com/download/> and try it out yourself.

I've found it most useful for using proper fractions like 1½, using proper
dimensions like 1024×768, using the em dash as you can see throughout this
email, and – my favorite – using a middle dot intead of a hyphen to ·
separate · items · on · a · line. I hope you find it useful.

·Dave

; high-ASCII punctuation auto-correct
; by David Cortright

#HotString C Z * ?
; punctuation and math with no escape character
::''--::—
::--::–
::1//4::¼
::1//2::½
::3//4::¾
::^0::º
::^1::¹
::^2::²
::^3::³
::^o::°
::^a::ª
::(C)::(c)
::(c)::(c)
::(R)::(r)
::(r)::(r)
::(tm)::™
::(TM)::™
::<<::«
::>>::»
::+-::±
::+'_::±
::...::…

; math, currency and punctuation
::''mu::µ
::''x::×
::''/::÷
::''.::·
::''*::•
::''+::†
::''=::‡
::''p::¶
::''P::¶
::''S::§
::''c=::€
::''C=::€
::''l-::£
::''L-::£
::''y=::¥
::''Y=::¥
::''c|::¢
::''C|::¢
::''ox::¤
::''?::¿
::''!::¡
::''''::´
::'''::''
::''"::""
::'''<::‹
::'''>::›
::''|::¦
::''_::¯
::''%::‰
::''1/4::¼
::''1/2::½
::''3/4::¾
::''0::º
::''1::¹
::''2::²
::''3::³
::''o::°

; Latin characters
::''ae::æ
::''AE::Æ
::''oe::œ
::''OE::Œ
::''TH::Þ
::''th::þ
::''D-::Ð
::''d-::ð
::''f::ƒ
::''s::ß

; tilde & ring using ~ and o
::''Ao::Å
::''ao::å
::''A~::Ã
::''a~::ã
::''N~::Ñ
::''n~::ñ
::''O~::Õ
::''o~::õ

; cedillia & stroke using , and /
::''c,::ç
::''C,::Ç
::''O/::Ø
::''o/::ø

; acute accent using '
::''A'::Á
::''a'::á
::''E'::É
::''e'::é
::''I'::Í
::''i'::í
::''O'::Ó
::''o'::ó
::''U'::Ú
::''u'::ú
::''Y'::Ý
::''y'::ý

; grave accent using '
::''A''::À
::''a''::à
::''E''::È
::''e''::è
::''I''::Ì
::''i''::ì
::''O''::Ò
::''o''::ò
::''U''::Ù
::''u''::ù

; diaeresis using :
::''A':::Ä
::''a':::ä
::''E':::Ë
::''e':::ë
::''I':::Ï
::''i':::ï
::''O':::Ö
::''o':::ö
::''U':::Ü
::''u':::ü
::''Y':::Ÿ
::''y':::&

; diaeresis using ;
::''A';::Ä
::''a';::ä
::''E';::Ë
::''e';::ë
::''I';::Ï
::''i';::ï
::''O';::Ö
::''o';::ö
::''U';::Ü
::''u';::ü
::''Y';::Ÿ
::''y';::&

; circumflex using ^
::''A^::Â
::''a^::â
::''E^::Ê
::''e^::ê
::''I^::Î
::''i^::î
::''O^::Ô
::''o^::ô
::''U^::Û
::''u^::û

; caron using v
::''ZV::Ž
::''Zv::Ž
::''zv::ž
; change § to SS and ß to ss if you turn these on
; ::''SV::Š
; ::''Sv::Š
; ::''sv::š

; escaped escape character – type a space after it
::'' ::''

Comments

1 Mar 2007 - 5:23am
Adrian Howard
2005

On 28 Feb 2007, at 17:43, David Cortright wrote:
[snip]
> I've found it most useful for using proper fractions like 1½, using
> proper
> dimensions like 1024×768, using the em dash as you can see
> throughout this
> email, and – my favorite – using a middle dot intead of a hyphen to ·
> separate · items · on · a · line. I hope you find it useful.
[snip]

The problem is, of course, that these characters are _not_ ASCII.
There are only 95 printable ASCII characters - and those ain't on the
list. What appears on your box as an em-dash might appear as garbage
characters on somebody else's screen who happen to be using different
fonts or conventions. I, for example, have no idea what your fraction
is.

Typography is a wonderful tool - but if the reader sees something
different from what you write then it's not a great deal of use :-)

See <http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/Unicode.html> for a
somewhat developer centric description of some of the issues
involved. The wikipedia entry on ASCII <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/
ASCII> is also worth a read.

Cheers,

Adrian

1 Mar 2007 - 10:34am
Dave Cortright
2005

Yes, I know they aren't base ASCII, Adrian. They are high-ASCII – or extended
ASCII <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extended_ASCII> – as I claimed in the
subject. And I realize that different OSes interpret ISO-8859-1 differently.
But how many of us are really designing content for plain-text email
messages? HTML entities
<http://www.w3schools.com/tags/ref_entities.asp>will support all of
these characters unamiguously across platforms.

So let me restate the main points to the list since apparently I wasn't
clear enough the first time:

1. Additional characters exist in all of the standard fonts
2. Designers don't tend to use these characters because they don't
know about them or because they are difficult to generate using a standard
keyboard.
3. A utility like the one I sent out will help you add these
characters to your toolbox.
4. If cross-platform is a consideration, be sure to use HTML
entities<http://www.w3schools.com/tags/ref_entities.asp>to reference
these characters in the final implementation.

·Dave

2 Mar 2007 - 9:58am
Dave Cortright
2005

*Hmm, first attempt didn't go through…*

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: David Cortright <davecort at gmail.com>
Date: Mar 1, 2007 7:34 AM
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Bringing typography to design – High-ASCII
To: discuss at ixda.org, Adrian Howard <adrianh at quietstars.com>

Yes, I know they aren't base ASCII, Adrian. They are high-ASCII – or extended
ASCII <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extended_ASCII> – as I claimed in the
subject. And I realize that different OSes interpret ISO-8859-1 differently.
But how many of us are really designing content for plain-text email
messages? HTML entities
<http://www.w3schools.com/tags/ref_entities.asp>will support all of
these characters unamiguously across platforms.

So let me restate the main points to the list since apparently I wasn't
clear enough the first time:

1. Additional characters exist in all of the standard fonts
2. Designers don't tend to use these characters because they don't
know about them or because they are difficult to generate using a standard
keyboard.
3. A utility like the one I sent out will help you add these
characters to your toolbox.
4. If cross-platform is a consideration, be sure to use HTML
entities<http://www.w3schools.com/tags/ref_entities.asp>to reference
these characters in the final implementation.

·Dave

2 Mar 2007 - 12:25pm
cfmdesigns
2004

>From: David Cortright <davecort at gmail.com>
>
> 2. Designers don't tend to use these characters because they don't
> know about them or because they are difficult to generate using a standard
> keyboard.

It's seldom stated as one of the plusses, but for people who need to use such characters, the Mac is a major step up from Windows, making it about as easy as possible to use an accented é or “curly quotes” or a true… ellipsis. (This message © 2007.) You have to remember what keys some of them are mapped to, of course, but it's sure easier than accessing the numeric keypad and refering to some other list for the alt+4873 code (whatever character that might hit).

(And some Windows apps steal the alt-numerics. iTunes, notably, swipes several of them, so Character Map has to be resorted to to create special characters in playlists and such.)

And as a flip side of that, when the characters are easier to access, people learn to use them as a result, which promotes their use further.

-- Jim
Seattle
On a Mac now, Windows later <frown>

2 Mar 2007 - 5:09pm
Juan Lanus
2005

David,

Thanks for sharing your script. I'll give it a try soon.

In my Spanish Windows I write accented letters the same as in old
typewriters: a "dead" key resembles the accent keys on the TWs, keys that
print the accent but do not advance the printing position.
My PC can set the acute accent and the diaeresis prior to entering the
letter. As a plus, holding Alt.Gr, it also can set a grave accent or a
circumflex accent.
The usefulness of the script would be for entering other glyphs like the
multiplication sign. Every now and then I enter one of these using the
Windows character map, a horrible program where you have to find yout
character among more than 1200 symbols.

Being the grave a dead key in Spanish KBs poses a hurdle for entering many
grave accents. I have to hold Alt-Gr, type the grave (nothing happens: it's
a dead key) and press the spacebar. Then the grave appears. But it's three
keystrokes ...
This means I should have to change the script to use other escape key, for
example the vertical bar | also called "pipe." In my LA-type keyboard this
character is just below the Esc key, which is very convenient.
You can see an LA keyboard here: http://www.cyrillic.com/kbd/latin.gif
The key to the right of the "P" is for the usual Spanish accents.

Thanks again
--
Juan Lanus

4 Mar 2007 - 4:47am
Adrian Howard
2005

On 2 Mar 2007, at 14:58, David Cortright wrote:
[snip]
> Yes, I know they aren't base ASCII, Adrian. They are high-ASCII –
> or extended
> ASCII <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extended_ASCII> – as I claimed
> in the
> subject.

And as the wikipedia page says "The use of the term has sometimes
been criticized, because it can be mistakenly interpreted that the
ASCII standard has been updated to include more than 128 characters
or that the term unambiguously identifies a single encoding, both of
which are untrue"

I fall into that camp :-)

> And I realize that different OSes interpret ISO-8859-1 differently.
> But how many of us are really designing content for plain-text email
> messages?

<raises hand>

... and SMS messages, and ANSI terminal interfaces with only ASCII
available, and...

> HTML entities
> <http://www.w3schools.com/tags/ref_entities.asp>will support all of
> these characters unamiguously across platforms.

It allows them to be unambiguously expressed - which is obviously
good thing. As to whether they'll appear legibly on all platforms,
that's a different matter.

> So let me restate the main points to the list since apparently I
> wasn't
> clear enough the first time:
>
> 1. Additional characters exist in all of the standard fonts

True. Of course they often appear in different places in those fonts.
Witness the incredibly common Yen symbol vs backslash problems.

> 2. Designers don't tend to use these characters because they don't
> know about them or because they are difficult to generate using
> a standard
> keyboard.

Possibly :-)

> 3. A utility like the one I sent out will help you add these
> characters to your toolbox.

Certainly.

> 4. If cross-platform is a consideration, be sure to use HTML
> entities<http://www.w3schools.com/tags/ref_entities.asp>to reference
> these characters in the final implementation.

Don't get me wrong. Typography is very important. Spending the effort
to use typography appropriately is worth the effort.

Unfortunately I often see people assuming the presence of certain
font faces, character sets and encodings to produce stuff that is
completely incomprehensible for chunks of their user based that don't
happen to be using a standard Windows box (or whatever).

Cheers,

Adrian

4 Mar 2007 - 11:43am
Dave Cortright
2005

Yes, Adrian, as with any design tool, there will be examples where it
cannot or should not be applied. (You've listed quite a few in your previous
mail.) But if we're being pragmatic, there are *many* *more* situations
where design using high-ASCII will work fine.

Of course the stated goals and constraints of any given design problem will
tell you if this tool is an appropriate one to use. I personally would
rather push the limits of what is possible with my design tools rather than
over-constrain myself and always end up with a lowest-common-denominator
design.

This is a tool I happen to use, and I simply wanted to share it with the
community. I expect each designer to make up their own mind if this is
something they might like to add to their toolbox. If you don't feel
comfortable using it – that's OK.

·Dave

4 Mar 2007 - 8:22pm
Dave Cortright
2005

Yes, Adrian, as with any design tool, there will be examples where it
cannot or should not be applied. (You've listed quite a few in your previous
mail.) But if we're being pragmatic, there are *many* *more* situations
where design using high-ASCII will work fine.

Of course the stated goals and constraints of any given design problem will
tell you if this tool is an appropriate one to use. I personally would
rather push the limits of what is possible with my design tools rather than
over-constrain myself and always end up with a lowest-common-denominator
design.

This is a tool I happen to use, and I simply wanted to share it with the
community. I expect each designer to make up their own mind if this is
something they might like to add to their toolbox. If you don't feel
comfortable using it – that's OK.

·Dave

5 Mar 2007 - 2:24pm
Dave Cortright
2005

*Sheesh, I don't know why my original messages aren't going through. I'll
blame GMail :-)*

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: David Cortright <davecort at gmail.com>
Date: Mar 4, 2007 7:19 AM
Subject: Re: [IxDA Discuss] Bringing typography to design – High-ASCII
To: Adrian Howard <adrianh at quietstars.com>

Yes, as with any design tool, there will be examples where it cannot or
should not be applied. (You've listed quite a few in your previous mail.)
But if we're being pragmatic, there are *many* *more* situations where
design using high-ASCII will work fine.

Of course the stated goals and constraints of any given design problem will
tell you if this tool is an appropriate one to use. I personally would
rather push the limits of what is possible with my design tools rather than
over-constrain myself and always end up with a lowest-common-denominator
design.

This is a tool I happen to use, and I simply wanted to share it with the
community. I expect each designer to make up their own mind if this is
something they might like to add to their toolbox. If you don't feel
comfortable using it – that's OK.

·Dave

Syndicate content Get the feed