Unicode Greek font and vowel length

I didn’t realise that doing Ancient Greek on computers was still a problem, but I found out otherwise today.  We all remember a myriad of incompatible fonts, and partial support for obscure characters; and like most people I imagined that Unicode had taken our problems away.  Hah!

Unicode character 0304 is the “combining macron”.  What that means, to you and I, is the horizontal line above a long vowel.  Character 0306 is the “combining breve” – the little bow above a short vowel.  The “combining” bit means that if you stick one after an “A” in a wordprocessor, the display will stick it above the preceding letter.  Both symbols are required to display dictionary material correctly, of course.  Poetry needs this stuff.

Today I find that neither character is supported in quite a range of fonts.  Palatino Linotype, found on every PC, doesn’t support either.  Ms Arial Unicode supports both, but of course most people don’t have it (or has that changed?).  The links I give above give you lists of supporting fonts, mostly conspicuous for not being present on most PC’s.

This is a bit silly.  Come on, chaps, I thought this was sorted out years ago.

I wonder if I can remember where I met a Microsoft font chap, and suggest to him that Palatino be extended to include these?

An interesting list of fonts tested by the TLG people is here.

4 Responses to “Unicode Greek font and vowel length”


  1. Hans Dampf

    Among other fonts I primarily work with Alphabetum Unicode by Prof. Marcos, which is a really great font for ancient writings, epigraphy etc.. The only downside (at the moment) is that an OTF version has not yet been released, and kerning is not yet supported. (There is also not a full italics set.) But that will hopefully change in the future.

  2. ikokki

    Modern Greek which is monotonic used to be a hassle for quite some time. While there were solution into making it appear into the word processors as far back as the XT era standardisation of the codepage came only with the release of Windows 3.0. Before that you were never sure whether the text you just wrote would even appear in your neighbor’s computer

  3. Huperetes

    For web publishing, and typing in, I use Mozilla Firefox browser with the plug in abcTajpu.
    It allows me to write in multiple languages.
    á ä ā ē ī ō as you can see I can combine any two or three character to represent a unicode.

  4. Roger Pearse

    Interesting – thanks!