Word processors (MS Word, Open Office) support of combining accents?

charles ellertson's picture

We got a strange (for us) request. One of the publishers we set books for has passed on a request from one of their authors, to help him prepare future manuscripts. He writes mainly on topics that involve Native American languages -- Kiowa for sure, likely Apache, etc. Anyway, languages that require accented characters not already composed in Unicode. No doubt he will submit manuscripts to a variety of publishers, so a "closed end" system isn't what is wanted.

The publisher & author think this is merely a matter of recommending a font. I doubt that -- I imagine both the platform, operating system, and applications program get into the act.

To me, the only thing that makes sense is for the author to use Unicode, and not "private use Unicode." The files the author writes will have to be edited by his eventual publisher, and finally typeset. (I have less concern about the typesetting.) What is really at stake is knowing what systems will let the files flow from author to editor, preserving canonically correct Unicode.

Now I can key a file using Open Office 3.1 Writer (PC, Vista), using SIL Charis, and with combining diacritics, get the vowels with macrons below, macrons above & below, and the same with the acute, grave and circumflex accents used to signal tone. Just what is needed for Kiowa. But whether Open Office is using the mark and mkmk functions of the (Charis) font or some other mechanism, I do not know. This file displays properly on the (my) screen, and will feed InDesign with no problems. Is this because Open Office is using the mark & mkmk features of Charis, or is something else at play that could get gefuched in the labyrinthian process known as publishing?

So with this goal, is their bulletproof solution that will withstand passing files from Mac to PC? Are the odds of success improved by limiting things to a few operating systems? A particular word processing system?



John Hudson's picture

I'm pretty sure that OpenOffice is using mark and mkmk.

I recommend contacting Ross Mills, who has lots of experience working with native American languages (and has made some nice typefaces for these), and who can probably give you more advice about software and systems. ross[at]tiro[dot]ca

dtw's picture

As someone working for a publisher, I'd say it can never do any harm for the author to send a PDF along with the editable manuscript file in whatever format, so that the production people can see what the author's text looked like on the author's system, and have a passing chance of fixing any obvious foulups by being able to see what they were supposed to be.
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