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Character representation

Different people write their languages in different ways. Computers have a number of incompatible ways for dealing with all of the different letters in the various languages. However, the scheme that seems to be prevailing is called Unicode. This method of representing characters allows all of the world's characters exist in a single document.

Because the original puzzle generator did not take into account Unicode, there has been a lot of tweaks to make everything work, and occassionally there is still a problem that shows through, but in general the puzzle creator can create puzzles in any language.

Character sets are different from fonts. It's possible to have have a document written in English, and displayed in an American Sign Language fingerspelling font or a more traditional font. In a similar fashion, some fonts don't represent all characters. An example is that the American Sign Language font doesn't have representations for a German umlaut over a 'U' character.

If you stick with typical characters of a language, and typical fonts, you will probably get a puzzle that has all of the characters represented in a way that looks reasonable. If you create a puzzle with Japanese words and try to represent it with a sign language font, then nothing useful will happen.

Another attribute of character sets and fonts is that HTML (the language of the web) is handled by the user's web browser. So if they can enter a character and can display that character on their computer, the puzzles should end up looking fine. If they select an alternate font that doesn't exist on their computer, it is likely that the web browser will do something that is more or less reasonable.

However, the PDF output is different. Everything is based upon the fonts that I have installed on the web server. For several reasons, I don't have every possible font installed on the web server. So it's possible that a puzzle that looks fine in HTML has missing characters in the PDF output. If you see that, let me know the puzzle you're looking at, and I'll see if I can find a reasonable font to cover the characters that you're using.

While working on these puzzle generators, I have come across a number of interesting issues.

  • I had a person in Europe ask me for a sign language fingerspelling font. So I found one and told him it was ready. He thanked me, and then asked for a description of the sign language because it wasn't one that he knew about. There are a number of sign language presentations, some use one hand, some use two hands. So I added a sign language font that he was used to, and solved his problem. I haven't added all possible fonts, so there are still holes left.
  • The crossword puzzle has a way of specifying a language so the "Across" and "Down" labels come out in the language of the user's choice. I had someone who knows Welsh metion that certain pairs of characters are considered a single character and should both be placed in a single cell of a crossword puzzle (or presumably a wordsearch puzzle as well). None of my programs are set up to handle this possibility, so that didn't work out perfectly.


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