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Many characters not on the standard computer keyboard will be useful—even necessary—for projects in a non-Latin-alphabet language. This page contains recommendations for which characters are safe to use and how to enter them.



Most current browsers have some level of Unicode support but some do it better than others. The most commonly encountered problem is that browsers running on Windows XP rely on preconfigured font links in the registry rather than actually searching for a font that can display the character in question. This means that the browser often had to be forced to use particular fonts. On English Wikipedia there are a set of templates to do this. For example, {{IPA}} for the International Phonetic Alphabet. The stuff in Windows Glyph List 4 should be safe to use without such special measures.

Windows 7Edit

Unicode support is extended through installing the optional standalone Windows Update package KB2729094,[1] available for both 32-bit and 64-bit versions of Windows 7 SP1 from the Microsoft Download Center. This backport from Windows 8 updates the Segoe UI font by adding browser support for Emoji and other symbols to Windows 7.

Displaying special charactersEdit

To display Unicode or special characters on web page(s), one or more of the Unicode fonts need to be present or installed in your computer, first. For proper working functionality, setup or configuration or settings from the web page viewing browser software also needs to be modified.

Special symbols should display properly without further configuration with Konqueror, Opera, Safari and most other recent browsers. An optional step that can be taken for better (and correct) display of characters with ligature forms, combined characters, after the previously mentioned steps were followed, is to install a rendering engine software.

To use one of the available Unicode fonts for displaying special characters inside a table or chart or box, specify the class="Unicode" in the table's TR row tag (or, in each TD tag, but using it in each TR is easier than using it in each TD), in wiki table code, use that after the (TR equivalent) |- (e.g., |- class="Unicode").

For displaying individual special characters HTML decimal or hexadecimal numeric entity codes can be used in the place of the char. If a paragraph with lots of special Unicode characters needs to be displayed, then, <p class="Unicode"> ... </p>, or, <span class="Unicode"> ... </span> can also be used.

The class="Unicode" is to be used in web page(s), HTML or wiki tags, where various characters from wide range of various Unicode blocks need to be displayed. If the special characters that need to be displayed on web page(s) are mostly covering fewer Unicode blocks, related to Latin scripts, then class="latinx" can be used. For special characters or symbols related to International Phonetic Alphabet, class="IPA" can be used. For polytonic (Greek) characters or related symbols, class="polytonic" can be used.

Changing Google Chrome's default fontEdit

Google Chrome allows the user to set default fonts for normal, serif, sans-serif and monospace display modes. Any font that is currently installed on the system may be used. To access this setting, click the three-dot options icon on the top right of the browser window and select Settings. Scroll down to the bottom and click Show advanced settings. Scroll to the Web content section, and click Customize fonts. Here you can select any fonts on your system to use as defaults.

  Note: Many web sites (including Wikimedia sites) default to serif or sans-serif fonts depending upon the page element (e.g. headings may default to serif, and body text to sans serif) so it may be necessary to use custom CSS styling if you wish to override this and force a certain font.

Changing Mozilla Firefox's default fontEdit

With Mozilla Firefox, the default setting must be changed. To do that, click on Options in the Tools menu and select the Content icon. On that menu click Advanced under Fonts and Colors. Uncheck the default box allow pages to choose their own fonts, and choose one of the Unicode options (for example, "Unicode (UTF-32BE)") or "Arabic (ISO-8859-6)" in the Default character encoding box. An alternative is to switch font to 'Arial Unicode MS'. Then the default box can be left checked.

Changing Internet Explorer's (IE) default fontEdit

The default font for Latin scripts in older versions of the Internet Explorer (IE) web browser for Windows is Times New Roman. Older editions of the font don't include many Unicode blocks. To properly view special characters in IE, you must set your browser font settings to a font that includes many Unicode blocks of characters, such as TITUS Cyberbit Basic and GNU Unifont, which are freely available.

From the IE menu bar, follow this path:  Tools > Internet Options > (General tab >) Fonts > Webpage Font:
to a scrolling list of fonts. As indicated above, the default selection for Windows is Times New Roman. For viewing of many special characters, select a different font, such as Lucida Sans Unicode, and then select OK.

Fonts for specific writing systemsEdit

Ancient scriptsEdit

e.g. Phoenician alphabet, Old Italic alphabet, Linear B, etc.

Windows users

Please download and install one of these freely licensed fonts

Linux users

If using a Debian-based Linux (e.g. Ubuntu, Linux Mint), please download and install deb package ttf-ancient-fonts by entering in terminal:

sudo apt-get install ttf-ancient-fonts

Shavian textEdit

  • Copyleft font is available from here.

Glagolitic textEdit

  • MPH 2B from here.
  • Menaion Unicode from here.

IPA symbolsEdit

Most IPA symbols are not included in the most widely used form of Times New Roman (though they are included in the version provided with Windows Vista), the default font for Latin scripts in Internet Explorer for Windows. To properly view IPA symbols in that browser, you must set it to use a font which includes the IPA extensions characters. Such fonts include Lucida Sans Unicode, which comes with Windows XP; Gentium, Charis SIL, Doulos SIL, DejaVu Sans, or TITUS Cyberbit, which are freely available; or Arial Unicode MS, which comes with Microsoft Office.

On this page, we have forced Internet Explorer to use such a font by default, so it should appear correctly, but this has not yet been done to all the other pages containing IPA. This also applies to other pages using special symbols. Bear this in mind if you see error symbols such as "຦" in articles.

Special symbols should display properly without further configuration with Mozilla Firefox, Konqueror, Opera, Safari and most other recent browsers.

What character encoding is Wikipedia using?Edit

From MediaWiki 1.5, all projects use Unicode (UTF-8) character encoding.

Until the end of June 2005, when this new version came into use on Wikimedia projects, the English, Dutch, Danish, and Swedish Wikipedias used Windows-1252 (they declared themselves to be ISO-8859-1 but in reality browsers treat the two as synonymous and the MediaWiki software made no attempt to prevent use of characters exclusive to windows-1252). Pre-upgrade wikitext in their databases remains stored in Windows-1252 and is converted on load (some of it may also have been converted by gradual changes in the way history is stored). Edits made since the upgrade will be stored as UTF-8 in the database. This conversion on load process is invisible to users. It is also invisible to reusers as Wikimedia now uses XML dumps rather than database dumps.

Unicode (UTF-8)
  • a variable number of bytes per character
  • special characters, including CJK characters, can be treated like normal ones; not only the webpage, but also the edit box shows the character; in addition it is possible to use the multi-character codes; they are not automatically converted in the edit box.
ISO 8859-1
  • one byte per character
  • special characters that are not available in the limited character set are stored in the form of a multi-character code; there are usually two or three equivalent representations, e.g. for the character € the named character reference &euro; and the decimal character reference &#8364; and the hexadecimal character reference &#x20AC;. The edit box shows the entered code, the webpage the resulting character. Unavailable characters which are copied into the edit box are first displayed as the character, and automatically converted to their decimal codes on Preview or Save.
  • the most common special characters, such as é, are in the character set, so code like &eacute;, although allowed, is not needed.

Note that Special:Export exports using UTF-8 even if the database is encoded in ISO 8859-1, at least that was the case for the English Wikipedia, already when it used version 1.4.

To find out which character set applies in a project, use the browser's "View Source" feature and look for something like this:

<meta http-equiv="Content-type" content="text/html; charset=iso-8859-1" />


<meta http-equiv="Content-type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" />

See alsoEdit


External linksEdit