adam's grump of the day: icons in fonts (was Re: web-assets-httpd stuck in limbo?)

Adam Williamson awilliam at
Thu Jan 16 17:13:03 UTC 2014

On Thu, 2014-01-16 at 10:52 -0500, Matthias Clasen wrote:
> On Wed, 2014-01-15 at 22:31 -0800, Adam Williamson wrote:
> > On Wed, 2014-01-15 at 22:59 -0700, T.C. Hollingsworth wrote:
> > 
> > > * Another individual thought that all web authors are stupid for
> > > wanting to use fancy fonts and that I am wasting my time.  (He might
> > > be right about that last bit... :-P)
> > 
> > While we're doing asides, that one *does* get right on my nerves.
> > 
> > If anyone overrides font choices in their browser config and wonders why
> > an increasing number of sites - inc. github, and the wordpress admin
> > interface - seem to display weird hieroglyphs all over the place, it's
> > because of this "clever trick": web designers have decided that it's a
> > really good idea to abuse font rendering engines as a way to render
> > icons, and starting shipping icons as made-up Unicode codepoints in
> > their sites' custom fonts. If you override their font choice, then of
> > course these icons wind up as garbage, because your font does not have
> > them, because ICONS AREN'T FUCKING TEXT CHARACTERS, web designers.
> It makes a lot of sense, actually. At least the symbolic icons that have
> become prevalent in our uis share a lot of characteristics with text,
> and can benefit from getting the same treatment as glyphs.

Then get the Unicode people sign off on treating your special special
characters as text, otherwise it's just an abuse of the system. If all
the people who want to do this get together and get a set of agreed upon
generic icon 'types' defined as Unicode code points - 'U+B540 is a
preferences icon', or what the heck ever - then fine. As long as people
are just making it up as they go along, they're 'embracing and

> We've been discussing this as an option for rendering symbolic icons in
> GTK+ too.

At least in a toolkit you can implement the kind of thing suggested on
the Firefox bug, but still - does this look like awesome pseudo-code to

if $thing is Unicode character;
OH OOPS EXCEPT if $thing is special magic Unicode code point;
    render_unicode($thing, font=special_magic_font);

Adam Williamson
Fedora QA Community Monkey
IRC: adamw | Twitter: AdamW_Fedora | XMPP: adamw AT happyassassin . net

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