[ Book Reviews ]

Fonts and Encodings

by Yannis Haralambous

Book Review by Troy Korjuslommi
January 29th, 2008

Fonts & Encodings
By Yannis Haralambous
Translated by P. Scott Horne
O'Reilly's page for the book.
Amazon UK's page for the book.

It is great to see a book which covers fonts in such a thorough manner. The author is Greek, so he has unique vantage point on i18n issues, which comes across in a pleasant way.

I did find some omissions, but they pale in comparison to the otherwise comprehensive coverage of fonts and multilingual text handling issues.

The coverage of Unicode is great and written in plain English. There are more comprehensive books on the Unicode Standard (O'Reilly's Unicode book, and the Unicode Consortium's own book by Addison Wesley). However, this book provides a fairly thorough overview of it, so the reader will know how Unicode works and where it is needed. There is also an overview of different scripts, which is sure to be interesting to many readers. The book covers history and technical implementation details, with many examples of usage. There is also coverage of East Asian scripts (Chinese, Japanese, Korean) which is a good read.

I liked the sections on modifying keyboard layouts and managing fonts on Mac OS 9, Mac OSX, Windows XP, and X Windows (including GNU/Linux). The information on X11 is not complete, but still better than information available from other sources. Oddly, the author uses the term "X Window," which should in my opinion be X, X11, X Window System or X Windows. This is probably due to pressure not to use the word "Windows," although "X Windows" is the common term.

The sections on TeX, SVG and Postscript are invaluable, and greatly widen the book's scope.

A table of synonymous (or close) fonts would have been nice. In other words, a table to cross reference fonts in OS X, Windows and X11. Some advice for webmasters would also have been nice (web server settings, cgis, servlets). It is still an unfortunately common problem to find web servers which send the wrong charset information to browsers, causing the browser to display unintelligeable symbols until the user manually changes the page's charset.

Other books such as "Dynamic HTML" (O'Reilly) cover web related issues in more detail. It was still nice to see a section on CSS. This book also covers SVG, and provides the info for creating and publishing your own custom fonts to browsers.

Overall, I would say that the book is an invaluable reference for anyone who deals with fonts, typography and i18n issues.