Font Frustration

11 February 2011

One or more persons have wandered to this 'blog searching with

openoffice weak preference symbol
which touches on the font-fallback problem that I mentioned in my previous entry.

The symbols that one would typically encounter or want to use when talking about preference are

symboltypical meaning
in decision theory
is strictly preferred to

is weakly preferred[1] to
is not less preferred than
is indifferent with
is not indifferent with
is not preferred to

is weakly less preferred[2] than
is strictly less desired than

[Up-Date (2011:04/05): I have since uploaded a more complete table, including symbols, Unicode values, and LAΤΕΧ code, in the form of a PDF file.]

Now, it used to be that, when running OpenOffice under Red Hat Enterprise Linux, I had no problem using the symbols of my choice from amongst those on the table above. But when I up-dated to RHEL 6.0, the OpenOffice formula editor stopped properly rendering any of the above except .[3]

For the formulæ that I'd previously entered, I'd specified a font either of Times New Roman or of Liberation Serif. The files for neither of these fonts actually contain the symbols above, but OpenOffice and RHEL are supposed to coöperate to effect font-fallback, and draw the characters from the files for some similar font or fonts. The software had been doing this, but with the up-date to RHEL 6.0 it is not.

This isn't a particulary great problem for new formula; I would just need to change the configuration of the formula editor to use some font that has the desired symbols; one could even play specifically with the formula editor's catalog, so that just those symbols would be rendered with that font, and some preferred font could be used for everything else.

But one of the serious, long-standing deficiencies of the OpenOffice formula editor is that there isn't a way to globally change the settings for all formulæ which have already been entered into a document. I have literally hundreds of preëxisting formulæ, for each of which the editor would have to be individually reconfigured, to fix things within OpenOffice. Right now, my best option seems to be to export the relevant documents to ΤΕΧ or to LAΤΕΧ, and to proceed with a plain-text editor!

Red Hat has responded to my bug-report as if it were a request for enhancement; since they hadn't planned any near-term enhancements in the versions that they distribute of OpenOffice or of fontconfig (with which OpenOffice would handle font-fallback), they refuse to address the bug., meanwhile, is aware that OpenOffice doesn't handle font-fallback properly, and aware that it ought to be possible to reconfigure the formula editor globally within a document, but had invested its hopes in the editor's using a specific font, OpenSymbol, to provide mathematical characters. That font doesn't have any of the characters above, except perhaps .

[1] The relation of weak preference is one of being either more desirable or equally desirable, rather than one of necessarily being just a little more desirable. On the assumption that preferences are a complete ordering, weak preference is equivalent to being not less desirable.

[2] This relation is one of being either less desirable or equally desirable, rather than one of necessarily being just a little less desirable. On the assumption that preferences are a complete ordering, this relation is equivalent to being not more desirable.

[3] I'd not been getting that by entering , but by using the editor mark-up sim.

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