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Fixing Unicode Support in Google Chrome

[notification type=”alert-warning” close=”false” ]This fix no longer works for recent versions of Chrome.  At this point no solution is known.[/notification]


If you’re a Chrome user on Windows, you’ve likely noticed that support for international characters and unicode glyphs is pretty bad.  If you’ve ever visited a foreign page, or one that uses the full UTF8 character set, you’ve probably seen something like this:

These boxes are the “missing glyph” symbol, and represent a character that Chrome cannot render.  Firefox, on the other hand, displays them quite well.

As it turns out, the issue is not really Chrome’s fault.  When Chrome encounters a glyph that doesn’t exist in the font used to render a page, it attempts to find that glyph in a list of common fonts that the user might have available.  It’s only after exhausting that list that the missing glyph symbol is shown.

You might ask, why are there so many missing glyphs in Chrome on Windows, and why doesn’t Firefox have the same issue?  The answer to the first question is that Windows doesn’t, by default, include any of these common fonts that have good unicode support.  In fact, Windows includes NO font with good unicode support, out of box.  The second part is actually a pretty smart hack from the Mozilla team.  Firefox contains an internal glyph set to fall back on, if the system cannot display the character.

So, now that we understand the issue, how do we fix it?  Easy, install one of the font sets that Chrome knows to check for unicode glyphs, namely Code2000.

Code2000, Code2001, and Code2002 are three true-type fonts that were designed by James Kass in 2008.  They are known as a Pan-Unicode font set, designed to contain as many glyphs as possible.  They were available for free, from Kass’ website, until it went down in 2011.

I have hosted a mirror with my fbformat project, to enable unicode formatting in Chrome.  Simply download the ZIP, extract the files, and copy them into your fonts directory in control panel.  After a quick restart, Chrome will have full unicode support.

Code2000 Font Set

To test your new support, try out fbformat, and make some pretty formatted facebook statuses.