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How the encoding should work for a dingbat font in OpenType, considering Unicode and stuff? What's the best way to make it compatible with older programs and different OS and languages?
I've built dingbat fonts that encoded icons in the PUA unicode ranges. To make something compatible with dumb programs you could do it the cryptic old-fashioned way, putting your dingbats in slots accessible by mac and windows keystrokes and making a reference sheet.
Yeah, assigning PUA unicode values is probably the most 'correct' way, but it's also very common to put them in the upper and lowercase Latin positions. I guess it depends if the font will also include an alphabet or not.
Also check and see if the particular dingbats you have happen to match up with the appropriate Unicode spaces. There are some dingbat or dingbat-likes in Miscellaneous Technical (2300), Miscellaneous Symbols (2600) and Dingbats (2700) and a few other places.