Non-Latin-only font?

Hi everyone,

is it still true that Non-Latin fonts need to contain a basic Latin character set to be considered valid fonts?
What are known technical limitations of Non-Latin-only fonts?

Thank you!


  • We should ask ITF - they have been releasing Indic-only designs with no Latin letters (just punctuation, numerals, etc). This obviously makes a lot of sense for designers and foundries, so you don't have to essentially "give away" a Latin design.
  • Christian ThalmannChristian Thalmann Posts: 1,880
    edited October 2016
    You could always include the Latin of a libre typeface... I believe that's how Google Fonts deals with purely non-Latin designs.
  • Noto fonts only cover Latin script when that is their purpose. E.g. Noto Sans Bengali covers the relevant Bengali chars + punctuation + numerals.
  • @Christian Thalmann Yes, because in that case, both designs are Libre. You can't insert a Libre Latin in a commercial non-Latin project. At least that's how I understand it... (I should know this by now :( )  @Dave Crossland Can you confirm/clarify?
  • Severin MeyerSeverin Meyer Posts: 10
    edited October 2016
    In the case of an OFL font, if you copy its glyphs into your own font, the resulting font needs to be licensed under the OFL as well. See the OFL FAQ 3.2
  • John HudsonJohn Hudson Posts: 2,818
    This may be a legacy-only issue now.

    Back in the late '90s, when Microsoft released the first versions of Mangal and other Indic fonts, these contained only the Indic Unicode characters for those scripts (plus some common punctuation), but there were issues getting some software to recognise the fonts due to the absence of an 8-bit codepage. So Microsoft remade the fonts, adding CP 1252 (Latin-1) codepage support, and made this a procurement requirement for any new fonts for non-Latin scripts. [In the fonts we've made for Microsoft and other customers, I've tried to make this something other than just a technical measure, so include Latin diacritics for transcription of the non-Latin script and other things that strike me as useful for bilingual texts and scholarship.]

    The actual issue — at least as it affected major software such as MS Office — was not the presence of the characters in the 8-bit codepage per se, but the registering of at least one 8-bit codepage bit in the OS/2 table (there may have been — may still be? — other software that was actually checking for the presence of specific characters in the font cmap table). Microsoft, reasonably, thought that one shouldn't lie about codepage coverage in the OS/2 table, so made actual support for at least one codepage a procurement requirement. For some other customers, though, I have set a codepage flag even though the font did not contain all the characters; so, for example, the first version of SBL Hebrew shipped with the Windows CP 1255 (Hebrew) bit set in the OS/2 table, even though the font did not contain the Latin subset of that codepage (these were added in a later release, after the SBL BibLit font had been designed and the Latin characters were available).

    As I say, this may be a legacy-only issue now, but I'm still cautious. Yes, as noted, the Google Noto fonts ship with only the script-specific characters (and sometimes common punctuation), and withouth 8-bit codepage support either in the fonts or registered in the OS/2 table. However, it is important to bear in mind that although released under OFL and available for anyone to use, the Noto fonts have been built primarily with Android OS as a target, which means that Google has only needed to ensure compatibility with their own software, not with anyone else's. It may indeed be the case that one can now get away with Unicode-only fonts, but until Microsoft tells me otherwise I'm not likely to stop including Latin subsets or setting OS/2 codepage bits.
  • I wonder if it makes business sense to include an uncomfortably generic Latin component to motivate people to commission a good one... (Sometimes I wish I were actually evil.)
  • edited October 2016
    so you don't have to essentially "give away" a Latin design.

    Not to mention the ridiculous amount of –often redundant– effort one has to put into that. Exactly the reason for my preference of Apache over OFL. Guys, if you really want to help a non-Latin script, instead of putting out bait or dreaming of enforcing altruism, facilitate others in helping out in any flavor they see fit.

  • I built few non-Latin only fonts and they worked fine (except that automatic font fallback will almost give sub-optimal results). But I only ever tested them on Linux.
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