What fonts to use for a website that relies heavily on Unicode is quite difficult. Sometimes the look of a font, though quite important to make a good typographic impression, is not of the same importance as a full support of all glyphs you need to show
While sorting the characters of the VKI Math keyboard
I stumbled over the problem that there is only a small selection of fonts which offer a decent support of the necessary Unicode glyphs. Whereas it would be better for the VKI layout to use a monospace font, especially when it comes to mathematic symbols but true for other "esoteric" symbols too, there are too few monospace fonts installed on the average users system that provide a good Unicode support - even worse:There are hardly any good (preferably free) monospace fonts available at all.
So, back to the sans-serif family - but:
Which one to use?
In which order?
What to use as fall-back fonts apart from the generic families?
If you use the following declaration:
font-family: Arial, "Lucida Sans Unicode", "Lucida Grande";
all will get messed up because the first font matches on 99.xx% of all MS Windows based systems and several *X*-oid systems too. In this case a character will be taken from "Lucida xxxx" only if it is not matched by Arial, which btw. offers a poor Unicode support - not to be confused with "Arial Unicode MS" which has an excellent support for every days use.
Example of the differences:This is a ⨑ in Arial
This is a ⨑ in Lucida Sans Unicode
This is a ⨑ in DejaVu Sans
There is a high chance that you might not see the " 'ANTICLOCKWISE CONTOUR INTEGRAL' (U+2233)
" symbol between "a" and "in" at all if you don't have "DejaVu Sans" installed - but you can see the different widths and heights, kerning and hinting of the fonts anyway. You can hit the "+" key of your keyboard several times to zoom into the page and see the differences in detail if you are using Opera.
The same goes for the Mac font-families Helvetica and Lucida Grande, which come with the system by default.
When it comes to Linux or other *X*-oid systems the situation becomes worse because you can never know what fonts came with the distribution and what fonts didn't.
So precedence of your font declarations is important, if you want to provide a good Unicode support.Codestyle
made a survey, which fonts are installed with what likelihood on what system and provides a nice font-stack-builder too.
Here is my sorted font stack result
for an optimized Math display (but this would match most of the other Unicode characters in a very good way too) - just try it out, its easy to use, but your mileage in CSS-font-stacks may vary.
BTW: The survey is still running, please participate to widen the survey basis. It will help you and others to build better accessible websites.