January 10, 2000

By Karen Kenworthy

IN THIS ISSUE

Hope you had a good first week of the New Year! Outside, it was cold here at the secluded Power Tools workshop. The kind of weather that makes hot soup (the thicker the better!) especially appetizing. But inside everything was toasty. I spent most of the time warming myself by the soft glow of a computer screen, lulled by the gentle sounds of the fan cooling my computer's CPU. Ah, winter in the 21st century ...

20/20 on 1900

Speaking of the new century, I've lost count of the number who wrote, pointing out the date on last week's newsletter. Yes, it did read "January 3, 1900." And yes, it was a joke. After all the hoopla about phantom Y2K glitches, I thought we deserved at least one. And now you know -- everyone passed their eye test. No need to change your eyeglass prescriptions this year. :)

Font Explorer Update

But not all my mail was about Y2K. Mats Sandquist wrote: "Hi Karen! I am a new subscriber and am writing from a cold Gothenburg in Sweden. (you know, where the Nobel Prize, Bjorn Borg, ABBA and that stuff came from). I just downloaded Karen's Font Explorer because I thought it could be a nifty tool. But as often, I found out that you Americans seem to forget us living on the other side of the pool. There are actually millions over here in Europe that use symbols like å, ä, ö, and so on. It would be nice if we could see those letters as well. How about that for a challenge?"

Great idea Mats! I'm always up for a challenge. So here goes. This week marks the debut of Winmag.com Font Explorer v1.2!

Like the original, this version displays a list of all the devices, attached to your computer, that use fonts. This list always includes the computer Screen, plus any local or network printers you can access. When you select one of these devices, the program displays a list of all the fonts the device can use. Select a font, and the program displays a "specimen" -- a sample of the font in your selected font size. The specimen can be unadorned, or it can show the font in boldface, italic, underlined, strikethrough, or any combination of these attributes.

The specimen was originally limited to upper and lower case versions of the 26 un-accented letters of the alphabet, the 10 digits, plus the most commonly-used punctuation marks. But now, the displayed specimen includes all the characters found in most fonts. In addition to accented characters used in many languages, it also displays punctuation marks such as the Japanese Yen, British Pound, superscript 2 and 3, fractions one-quarter, one-half and three-quarters, and many more. Any or all symbols can be copied to the clipboard, making them easy to insert into documents.

Character Set & Weight

If you look closely at the new Font Explorer's main window, you might notice another change. Now, after you select a font, you'll see the font's Character Set and Weight displayed in the program's status bar at the bottom of its main window.

A font's character set is the group of symbols the font can display or print. Most, but not all, fonts include symbols representing the letters of the alphabet, numbers, and common punctuation marks. But some fonts don't. Some fonts only include special symbols such as letters of the classical Greek alphabet, or symbols used in math, science, or mapmaking. Other fonts have special symbols used by old text-mode DOS programs to create crude graphics.

All in all, Windows 9x supports fonts with any of four different character sets: Standard Windows (sometimes called "ANSI"), Symbol, DOS Extended, and Double-byte character set or DBCS, used only in the Japanese version of Windows. Variations between languages are handled by "code pages," or variations of the Standard Windows character set. Windows NT also supports fonts that support the Unicode character set, a large character set of thousands of symbols chosen to allow them to represent most of the languages used throughout the world.

Everyone's familiar with the Boldface font attribute. When selected, the font is drawn using thicker lines than usual. People who work with fonts for a living call this line thickness the font's "weight." Thicker lines are said to have a greater weight. Thinner lines correspond to a lower weight. Windows assigns a weight of 400 to fonts drawn with lines of "normal" thickness or weight. The line thickness of boldface fonts usually corresponds to a weight of 700, though it can be a bit more or less.

Printing Specimens

The original Font Explorer offered to print a full specimen of each font, showing all available characters. But many folks found the print option confusing. After clicking the program's Print button, you saw a standard Windows Print dialog. There, you could indicate whether you wanted the program to print specimens of every available font, or just specimens of selected fonts.

But this choice was easy to overlook. And since the program defaulted to printing specimens of all fonts, a mistake could result in hundreds of unwanted pages. The new version of the Font Explorer sports two Print buttons. One, labeled "Print All," automatically selects all fonts and prints a specimen of each. The other, "Print Selected," prints a specimen of just those fonts you've selected from the program's list of available fonts. To select one font, click on its name. To select more than one font, hold down your keyboard's <Shift> or <Ctrl> key while clicking the names of additional fonts.

If you have paper to spare, you might want to take advantage of another of Font Explorer's new printing features. Previously, the program ignored the "Copies" entry you made in the program's Print dialog. But now, you can easily print as many copies as you need. Just enter the number of copies you need before clicking the Print Dialog's OK button.

If you'd like to try out the new Font Explorer, drop by my Web site at https://www.karenware.com/powertools/ptfonts. While you're there you can also download a copy of the program's Visual Basic source code. If you like it, feel free to nominate me for a Nobel Prize. I don't care which one - - they're all fine with me. And if I win, I promise to visit Mats while I'm in Sweden making my acceptance speech. If a Nobel Prize isn't in my future, I'll settle for an ABBA album. One hand-delivered by Bjorn Borg would be especially welcome. :)