Pencilled Out

Published 18 years, 4 months past

Pretty much nobody but me ever sees this, but when I’m logged into meyerweb’s copy of WordPress (basically, all the time) I see a little pencil icon next to entries and comments.  It’s the “click here to edit this” link, and I generate it using the following markup:

<a href="[...]">&#9999;</a>

Ah, Unicode.

The problem is that at some point in the recent past, my OS X 10.3.9 laptop started rendering that character as a Z with a set of rabbit ears on top, whereas my OS X 10.3.9 desktop machine still shows the pencil.  I can only assume this is due to a recent software installation on the laptop, possibly one that stuck in a badly structured font or something.  Or else an update messed up the Unicode pointers.

Whatever the cause might be, does anyone out there know if there’s a way for me to figure out what font is being used to generate the funky Z, or how I might otherwise be able to track down and destroy it and get the pencils back?  Because it’s driving me frickin’ crazy.

Update: the problem is now fixed, as described in the followup entry.

Comments (15)

  1. you could try using this tool:

    …and hit the special character button. You’d then have to scroll through all of your fonts to find the “z”

    Probably not the quickest or most direct way to find the “z”‘s font…but its one way none the less.

  2. Since I don’t have the same fonts as you do, I can only offer a tip on how best to discover which font it is. If you open the OSX Character Palette, under the Unicode Blocks tab, select Latin Extended-A, and at the bottom of the table you will find a “Latin Catipal Letter Z With Caron” and you can view all the fonts containing the selected character in the “Collections” section of the window. The closest font that I have to what you show is ITC Lubalin Graph Demi. Hope that helps.

  3. Also, you might want to try using the two other Unicode pencils &#9998 (✎) and &#10000 (✐).

  4. It’s possible that the latest version of your browser is using a crappy version of a font that the previous browser version did not use. This has happened to me a bunch of times with Safari. If you use Suitcase, check to see if any fonts have been auto-activated. If any have, they are the culprits. Do a “Reveal in Finder” and delete them.

  5. Steve: the frustrating thing is that those two pencils DO show up on my laptop. I was using 9999 because I preferred it to those, but if I must I’ll switch. Still, I’d like to know why the reference got borked. For the record, that’s not the font being used to generate the Z, since I don’t have it installed. It turns out to be FreightMicro, probably FreightMicro-Medium. Not that I know where FreightMicro came from.

    And wow, does it ever take a lot to get the character palette enabled. I had to Google for it and then follow the very clear but lengthy instructions from Todd Dominey.

    Even more frustrating: when I look in the Unicode Table in the Character Palette, the proper symbol shows up at 2700F. When I select it, the “collections containing selected character” shows me all of the FreightMicro variants, and Zapf Dingbats, which contains the character I actually want.

    Rob: nope, don’t use Suitcase. I don’t think I’ve upgraded Safari recently, but either way Idoubt that’s the issue since the same problem appears in both Safari and Firefox.

    I guess I can either dump FreightMicro, or else alter my CSS for that link to try symbol fonts instead of sans-serif fonts. But if I understand Unicode handling properly, there’s no way FreightMicro should even be pretending that it has that character available. So I’m kind of inclined to blow it away, just for being a bad actor.

  6. Try encoding the pencil (‏) as &#x200F;. Does that help?

  7. Pingback ::

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  8. While I don’t have a solution, I am interested to see that unicode is as much a mystery on a Mac as it is on a PC… :)

    I have found that different browsers will access different character sets – on my system the glyphs look different in Opera and Firefox; Firefox seems to have its own set stashed somewhere.

  9. Is it common across browsers? If so, perhaps the computed styles view in Firefox’s DOM Inspector can shed some light on why that font is being applied instead of the one you expect.

  10. Erik: Nope; yields nothing at all. &#270F; gets me the Z-caron again, when it should yield the pencil.

    Peter: that’s a great idea, since Firefox does in fact show the Z-caron instead of the pencil. Unfortunately, the computed style information in the DOM Inspector claims that the computed font family is Arial, which is understandable: that’s what I specify. Character-level fallback happens after the font is computed, apparently, and it’s falling back to FreightMicro.

    Even more fun: if I edit the relevant line of my CSS as follows:

    #thoughts ul.meta li.editpost a {border: none; color: #999;}

    …then the pencil comes back in all cases except comments from me, which have boldfaced metainformation. There, FreightMicro comes back, since apparently the character fallback code will use a font face that has the character even if the default has it, but only in a normal-weight face. That might not have made much sense, but it’s the best I can do right now.

    So I think it’s time to hunt down and kill FreightMicro, mostly for lying about what characters it has, or about its Unicode mapping, or whatever it is that’s caused it to screw this up.

  11. Pencil.gif is also an interesting potential solution to this problem.

  12. Mike: actually, it’s completely uninteresting. GIFs are so last century.

  13. Hmm, yes. I can see you’re a little worn on last century’s image format. Boy do we have something for you though! What’s it going to take to get you into a nice transparent png today?

  14. … my OS X 10.3.9 laptop started rendering that character as a Z with a set of rabbit ears on top

    Haha, the character you are getting is the capital latin Ž. We use it in Serbian, as an entity I have always used # 382 for the lowercase and of course # 381 for the uppercase. It is pronounced like “zh”, the first sound you make when you say, lets see, “jargon”. Something like that. :)

  15. I too have the problem of the pencil being replaced with a z-caron (ž), but I do not have Freight installed. Per the freeware application UnicodeChecker, the guilty font is .Helvetica LT MM, but this is an essential system font that cannot be disabled or removed. I can select one of numerous fonts that will display the character correctly, but I cannot do so with my Web browser which frustratingly always seems to fall back on the z-caron glyph. (This is actually one of my biggest issues with browsers in general: I wish there were a way to inform them to use a particular font when encountering a character in a particular block. I use various contextual Middle Eastern and South Asian scripts, and the browser usually automatically chooses a font that will not render the characters properly.) I use Mac OS X version 10.4.11, and I hope this font issue has been fixed in 10.5.

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