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All 100K+ Unicode characters and more…

August 14, 2009

You’re writing a document and you need a symbol for, say, two-fifths (2/5). If you’re in Word, you can go to the Symbol map (Insert > Symbol in Word for Windows) and scroll through the list. When you don’t find it, you might try changing the Font to another one and/or changing the Subset. But you still may not find it.

Next, you might try the Character Map in Windows (search for Character Map), which you can search, if you know the name of the symbol.

However, the 2/5 symbol does exist*. It’s a Unicode character. But there are some 100,000-plus Unicode characters and the Windows Character Map only lists about 40,000 of them.

There is another solution: BabelMap.

BabelMap is a small, free downloadable EXE you can stick on a thumb drive or on your desktop. It contains all 100,000-plus Unicode characters AND it is searchable. It’s available from: http://babelstone.co.uk/Software/BabelMap.html

With BabelMap, you can’t search for ‘2/5’ but you can search for ‘fraction’ (1) — keep clicking Search (2) until you get the fraction you want — it’s highlighted in red (3). Once you’ve found it, the Unicode number is shown (4).

BabelMap

BabelMap

Once you have the Unicode number, you can enter it in Word to get the character displayed — type 2156 followed immediately by Alt+x.

2/5 in Word

2/5 in Word

You can check if there is an HTML entity for the character by selecting each of the NCR options (there isn’t one for 2/5, but if you wanted 3/4, the HTML entity [NCR (dec)] would be & # 190; [without the spaces] giving you ¾.)

Another cool thing about this little utility is that you can see the full set of characters for each of your installed fonts at a glance:

  1. If you’re lost somewhere in the Unicode maze, enter 0000 in the Go to Code Point field then click Go.
  2. Select Fonts > Font Analysis Utility from the menu and you’ll get all your installed fonts listed on the right.
  3. Click on each font to view it; you can also change the font size.
Font Analysis Utility

Font Analysis Utility

And if, for some reason, you need a list of all the fonts on your computer, click Copy on the Font Analysis window, then paste into a document.

Copy Font Coverage copies all the characters for the selected block (in this example, Basic Latin); when you paste it into a document it looks something like this:

List of characters in a block for a specific font

List of characters in a block for a specific font

I’m sure there are a lot of other very useful things you can do with this software, but unfortunately I couldn’t plumb the depths as I got a ‘Failed to launch Help’ error message when I tried to click Help. I emailed the developer and he kindly replied with this:

There was a help file, but it now severely out of date. BabelMap is only a hobby project, and as I have a fulltime job and family, and various other commitments, I have had very little time to work on BabelMap recently, which has meant that I have not been able to update the help file.

However, I am planning to release a new version of BabelMap with a fully functioning help system within the next few months (probably late October).

(* Two-fifths *is* in the Word Symbol map — change the Font to Arial Unicode MS and the Subset to Number Forms.)

[Links last checked July 2009; thanks to Geoffrey Marnell for his article Entering Uncommon Characters — The Power of Unicode in ‘Southern Communicator’ (June 2009), which mentioned BabelMap.]

3 comments

  1. Another alternative is to download PopChar for Windows or OS X which allows the character to be entered directly into the open document. It’s not cheap but it is good.


  2. […] > Accessories > System Tools > Character Map on Vista)  or use a program such as BabelMap to see if there’s an existing character you can use — if there is, use that as […]


  3. wow, I was looking for a tool that would tell me the character coverage per Unicode block in a font. This is spectacular.



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