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On every browser I've tried (Firefox, Safari, Chrome, and Omniweb), when I go to a web page containing somewhat less-common characters, I can't see the glyphs. For example, on the Wikipedia page for the Bengali Language, the very first line contains a string of squares; on Windows, I can see the Bengali writing. Firefox does display code points on the Coptic Language article, but not Bengali. I'm not sure why.

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On Windows, as long as I have the Arial Unicode MS font installed, these characters fall back to that font and display properly. Mac OS X doesn't seem to ship with a font containing these Unicode characters (it has Arial Unicode MS, but it must be a subset of the Windows version because Bengali doesn't display in that font).

I checked on my Snow Leopard DVD and I installed "Additional Fonts" from the Optional Installs package, but I'm still missing many languages.

Is there any good, preferably free font that contains a large collection of languages? I know creating fonts is difficult and time-consuming, but it seems like including at least one font like this with operating systems should be standard by now.

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Are you really sure that it’s Arial Unicode MS on Windows? –  Debilski Mar 21 '10 at 21:23
    
Not a direct answer, but Microsoft fonts on a Mac are known to mess with Arabic characters. Maybe, just maybe, the same is true for Asian fonts. See superuser.com/questions/66295/arabic-in-powerpoint-on-mac/… for some details that might get you started if no font will display the text as expected. –  Arjan Mar 21 '10 at 21:28
    
Also, the 2nd Wikipedia article links to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Help:Multilingual_support#Coptic which lists some fonts for Coptic. For Bengali, seeing the squares rather than code points implies that some font claims it can display it, I guess... –  Arjan Mar 21 '10 at 21:34
    
@Debilski I guess I don't know with 100% certainty it's Arial Unicode MS, but it's not really the point. That they display properly proves there's a font installed containing those characters that the system is falling back to, and I want a font for OS X that fills that same role. –  Stephen Jennings Mar 21 '10 at 21:36
    
Yeah, but if we know, which font it is, we can try to find it for OS X, too. (Though most sources claim that Arial Unicode supports Bengali, while my OS X version doesn’t. Strange.) –  Debilski Mar 21 '10 at 21:43

2 Answers 2

up vote 2 down vote accepted

When looking for a specific character or block at FileFormat.info, one can see which fonts are known to support it. This took me to the Code2000 font. It's $5 shareware, which seems very reasonable:

Code2000 is a “work-in-process”, which means it just keeps getting better!
[..]
The registration fee for Code2000 is a “one-time” fee and registered users are considered to be registered for all newer versions.

I've not used it, but is seems to support a lot of blocks, and certainly looks nice. Still, as for Bengali no browser shows a fallback glyph (but shows squares instead), installing it might not even solve the issue for all blocks...

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Code2000 is much prettier than GNU Unifont. I like this one better. Thank you for your research on this. –  Stephen Jennings Mar 22 '10 at 2:12
    
@Stephen, so just installing it on your Mac makes the browsers use it? Or did you explicitly set it up in the browsers? (I still find it odd that the Bengali article shows squares, not the fallback font. That makes me think some font is misbehaving, by claiming it supports Bengali. But pasting some text from Safari into TextEdit makes my Mac use the Last Resort Font in TextEdit after all... –  Arjan Mar 22 '10 at 8:01
1  
Yes, when I added either Code2000 or Unifont to /Library/Fonts and restarted the browsers, they picked up the new font and started using it. So far, Code2000 looks like the best Mac font that contains such a large collection of characters. –  Stephen Jennings Mar 22 '10 at 11:15

There is the Gnu Unifont which allegedly covers all of the BMP, but which is a pixel font, so you shouldn’t want to use it for printing or headlines.

This might be of some help for you: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unicode_fonts but unfortunately, it does not cover which characters are included.

This does: http://www.alanwood.net/unicode/fonts_macosx.html although it does not show Arial Unicode on the Mac list (though it does on the Windows list).

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Wow. That Unifont is ugly, but it did make both Bengali and Coptic display properly. I'll accept this answer if there doesn't seem to be any nicer fonts available after a while. –  Stephen Jennings Mar 21 '10 at 21:47
    
Well, it depends which scripts you really need. Then it’s easier to find a font which displays at least those characters nice. You won’t find a font for the whole unicode anyway because of technical restrictions. — (Maybe en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bitstream_Cyberbit ) –  Debilski Mar 21 '10 at 21:58
    
Unifont doesn't install any more on 10.9; FontBook just says 'system validation error' and refuses to touch it. –  David Given Jan 11 at 20:35

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