Web Browsers Unicode Support; Firefox 4 Sucks?

By Xah Lee. Date:

The Unicode support in Firefox 4 sucks. It got worse from Firefox 3.5.

Here's a test page to see how your browser support Unicode: Web Browser Unicode Support Test Page.

Here's a screenshot of Firefox 4.0 on Windows Vista.

firefox4 Unicode sucks
Screenshot of Firefox 4.0 on Windows, showing a lot missing characters.

All other browsers show all characters possibly missing a few.

With respect to Unicode support, the best to worst are: Google Chrome, Safari, Opera, Internet Explorer 9, Firefox 4. (all latest public release on Windows as of .)

To fix the Firefox problem, you have to use CSS to specify font. [see Best Unicode Fonts for Programer] For example, you might add this CSS code:

body {font-family:"Arial Unicode MS","DejaVu Sans",sans-serif}
pre {font-family:"DejaVu Sans Mono",monospace}

This is not a acceptable solution. There's no good Unicode font that's bundled on all Windows, Mac OS X, Linux. Arial Unicode MS came from Microsoft Word, while DejaVu i think is available on Linuxes. Also, i do not want to change the font for my page. I just want the characters to show in the default font.

Addendum. I got a new PC, with Windows 7. By default out of the box, the story is entirely different. Firefox 4 shows most the Unicode chars, while even Google Chrome doesn't. So, i'm not sure what's the whole story.

This is rather complex to test, because both Mac and Windows have font substitution technology. Meaning, if a glyph is not in the current font, it'll use a glyph in some other font. However, it's hard to determine what exactly happens for a particular char. Also, apps such as browsers may implement their own font substitution tech. Also, the tech used by Windows and Mac are different, of course, and both OS has different set of default fonts. It seems, another complication is that, what font you specified with CSS has a effect.

One might think this matter in this simple way: if the char is not in the current font, and if some other font in your system has the glyph, then browsers will be able to display that char. However, from my experience clearly that's not the case.

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