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<h1>Typography and the Web</h1>
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<img src="../../../../Scratch/img/blog/Typography-and-the-Web/first_sc_screenshot.png" alt />
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<div class="intro">
<p><span class="sc"><abbr title="Too long; didn't read">tl;dr</abbr>: </span> Web typography sucks and we’ll have to wait forever before it will be fixed.</p>
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<p>I stumbled upon <a href="http://opentypography.org/">open typography</a>. Their main message is:</p>
<blockquote>
<p>«There is no reason to wait for browser development to catch up. We can all create better web typography ourselves, today.»</p>
</blockquote>
<p>As somebody who tried to make my website using some nice typography features and in particular <em>ligatures</em>, I believe this is wrong.</p>
<p>I already made an automatic system which will detect and replace text by their ligatures in my blog. But this I never published this on the web and this is why.</p>
<p>First, what is a ligatures?</p>
<div>
<img src="../../../../Scratch/img/blog/Typography-and-the-Web/ligatures.png" alt />
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<p>What is the problem between the Web and ligatures? The first one is: you cannot search them. For example, try to search the word “first”:</p>
<ul>
<li>first ← No ligature, no problem<a href="#fn1" class="footnote-ref" id="fnref1"><sup>1</sup></a></li>
<li><span class="red"></span>r<span class="red"></span> ← ligature nice but unsearchable</li>
</ul>
<p>The second one is the rendering, for example, try to use a ligature character with small caps:</p>
<ul>
<li><sc>first</sc></li>
<li><sc><span class="red"></span>r<span class="red"></span></sc></li>
</ul>
<p>Here is a screenshot of what I see:</p>
<div>
<img src="../../../../Scratch/img/blog/Typography-and-the-Web/first_sc_screenshot.png" alt />
</div>
<p>The browser isn’t able to understand that the ligature character “<span class="red"></span>” should render as <sc>fi</sc> when rendered in small caps. And one part of the problem is you should choose to display a character in small caps using <span class="sc">css</span>.</p>
<p>This way, how could you use a ligature Unicode character on a site on which you could change the <span class="sc">css</span>?</p>
<p>Let’s compare to <span style="text-transform: uppercase">L<sup style="vertical-align: 0.15em; margin-left: -0.36em; margin-right: -0.15em; font-size: .85em">a</sup>T<sub style="vertical-align: -0.5ex; margin-left: -0.1667em; margin-right: -0.125em; font-size: 1em">e</sub>X</span>.</p>
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<img src="../../../../Scratch/img/blog/Typography-and-the-Web/first_latex_screenshot.png" alt />
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<p>If you take attention to detail, you’ll see the first “first” contains a ligature. Of course the second render nicely. The code I used were:</p>
<div class="sourceCode" id="cb1"><pre class="sourceCode latex"><code class="sourceCode latex"><a class="sourceLine" id="cb1-1" title="1"><span class="fu">\item</span> first</a>
<a class="sourceLine" id="cb1-2" title="2"><span class="fu">\item</span> {<span class="fu">\sc</span> first}</a></code></pre></div>
<p><span style="text-transform: uppercase">L<sup style="vertical-align: 0.15em; margin-left: -0.36em; margin-right: -0.15em; font-size: .85em">a</sup>T<sub style="vertical-align: -0.5ex; margin-left: -0.1667em; margin-right: -0.125em; font-size: 1em">e</sub>X</span> was intelligent enough to create himself the ligatures when needed.</p>
<p>The “<span class="red"></span>” ligature is rare and not rendered in <span style="text-transform: uppercase">L<sup style="vertical-align: 0.15em; margin-left: -0.36em; margin-right: -0.15em; font-size: .85em">a</sup>T<sub style="vertical-align: -0.5ex; margin-left: -0.1667em; margin-right: -0.125em; font-size: 1em">e</sub>X</span> by default. But if you want you could also render rare ligature using <span style="text-transform: uppercase">X<sub style="vertical-align: -0.5ex; margin-left: -0.1667em; margin-right: -0.125em; font-size: 1em">Ǝ</sub>L<sup style="vertical-align: 0.15em; margin-left: -0.36em; margin-right: -0.15em; font-size: .85em">a</sup>T<sub style="vertical-align: -0.5ex; margin-left: -0.1667em; margin-right: -0.125em; font-size: 1em">e</sub>X</span>:</p>
<div>
<img src="../../../../Scratch/img/blog/Typography-and-the-Web/xelatex_ligatures.jpg" alt="XeLaTeX ligatures" />
</div>
<p>I took this image from the excellent article of <a href="http://nitens.org/taraborelli/latex#rare">Dario Taraborelli</a>.</p>
<p>Clearly fix the rendering of ligature in a browser is a difficult task. Simply imagine the number of strange little exceptions:</p>
<ul>
<li>The text is rendered in small caps, I cannot use ligature.</li>
<li>The current word contains a ligature unicode character, I should search for ligature in this one.</li>
<li>The current font does not defined the ligature unicode character, we shouldn’t use it, etc</li>
<li>A javascript command changed the CSS, I should verify if I had to revert the insertion of ligatures characters</li>
<li>etc…</li>
</ul>
<p>Nonetheless if someone has a solution, I would be happy to hear about it.</p>
<section class="footnotes">
<hr />
<ol>
<li id="fn1"><p>In fact, you might see a ligature and the search works because I now use some CSS ninja skills: <code>text-rendering: optimizelegibility</code>. But it also works because I use the right font; Computer Modern. Steal my CSS at will.<a href="#fnref1" class="footnote-back"></a></p></li>
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Published on 2012-02-02
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