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Display Problems?

If you are unable to read some Unicode characters in your browser, it may be because your system is not properly configured. Here are some basic instructions for doing that. There are two basic steps:

  • Install fonts that cover the characters you need
  • Configure your browser to use them.


There are few full Unicode fonts for fixed-width text. Luckily, there is also little web content that requires such fonts! The following sections describe how to get fonts for different platforms: you can also find other fonts in the Unicode resources at Fonts. Ideally, you will install fonts that are tuned for the scripts that you particularly need, then also install one or more Unicode fonts with large coverage as a backup, such as Code2000 or Microsoft Arial Unicode. The Last Resort Font is available as "last resort" backup. It contains a collection of glyphs for use when no other font is available for displaying a particular Unicode character.


For Windows XP, getting additional languages installed is as follows:

Start > Settings > Control Panel > Regional Options and Language Options.

In the Languages tab, check the Supplemental language support option(s) you want. Setting both options will install all optional fonts. This adds fonts as well as system support for these languages.

For Windows 2000, getting additional languages installed is as follows:

Start > Settings > Control Panel > Regional Options.

In the General tab, set all the languages you may want to display, the more you set, the more you will be able to process multilingual data through all your applications, including your browser. This adds fonts as well as system support for these languages.

Full fonts:

If you have Microsoft Office 2000 and newer versions, you can get the Arial Unicode MS font, which is the most complete. To get it, insert the Office CD, and do a custom install. Choose Add or Remove Features. Click the (+) next to Office Tools, then International Support, then the Universal Font icon, and choose the installation option you want.

To set your tooltip font to be able to display Unicode characters:

Right click on the desktop, pick Properties>Appearance>Advanced>Item: ToolTip, then set the font to Arial Unicode MS or other large font.


On OS X, all the major Web browsers fully support Unicode, as do most applications. No special software needs to be installed for any Unicode script.

The Font Book application can be used to examine installed fonts and install new ones.  To install a font, double-click on the font's icon.  This will launch Font Book, which will show a preview of the font and give you the option to install it. 

To make keyboards for different languages available, launch System Preferences and load the Language & Text preference pane.  (On older systems, this is called the International preference pane.) Select the Input Sources tab.  This will show a list of all available keyboards and input methods.  Select the ones you want to be able to use. If you have the Input menu shown in the menu bar, you can switch keyboards and input methods by using the menu, or you can use the keyboard shortcuts you define in the Keyboard preference pane. 


A range of quite comprehensive fixed-width Unicode on-screen pixel fonts for X11/Unix users can be downloaded from http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~mgk25/ucs-fonts.html
or directly as http://www.cl.cam.ac.uk/~mgk25/download/ucs-fonts.tar.gz
Check the included README file for detailed installation instructions.

An earlier version of these fonts is already automatically installed when you use the XFree86 4.0 X server, which is the one commonly used under Linux.

The Firefox and Netscape web browsers can make use of these fonts directly and are highly recommended for anyone interested in utilizing Unicode web pages (make sure to use the very latest version though). Just select the "-misc-fixed-iso10646-1" font for the "Unicode" category in the "Edit|Preferences|Fonts" setup menu. The Netscape 4.x browsers cannot handle 16-bit Unicode fonts at all. However, the above package contains scripts to generate 8-bit fonts in all ISO 8859 variants, which Netscape 4.x will then use to display those Unicode characters that are also found in ISO 8859.


You should make sure that you are using the most recent version of whatever browser you use, and have installed the fonts you want. The following then describes how to configure browsers for different fonts.

Internet Explorer

IE is fairly smart about picking tuned fonts for different characters. To set your font as the default for a given block of characters, choose Tools > Internet Options > Fonts, then select the fonts.

Monospace Fonts:

IE uses Web page font to mean variable-width, and Plain text font to mean fixed width. Unfortunately, IE will not let you pick a variable-width font in the Plain text font box. That means in practice that you simply can't view most Unicode characters in fixed-width.

Netscape Navigator / Firefox

You will need to tell NN which fonts to use for which encodings. To set your font as the default for a given block of characters, choose Edit > Preferences > Fonts. Then for each encoding you are likely to use, pick the appropriate fonts for the Variable Width and Fixed Width fonts. It is particularly important to set default fonts for Unicode. These fonts will be used when NN encounters documents encoded in a Unicode variant.

Monospace Fonts:

NN lets you select any font for fixed-width content. This allows you to use a variable-width font in the Fixed Width box. While you lose the alignment of the characters, at least you can read the content.


To allow Java applets (and/or programs) to draw Unicode characters in the fonts you have available, you will need to hand-edit the font configuration files that the Java runtime uses. Because you may have several Java runtimes installed on your machine (for different browsers, development environments, etc.), you may need to do this multiple times.

The process is described in Java's documentation and depends on the version:

Further Information

The following link from Alan Wood’s Unicode Resources also offers helpful information on specific topics.

For setting up browsers on different operating systems for Multilingual and Unicode Support: http://www.alanwood.net/unicode/browsers.html