[thelist] Netscape 7 font/special character bug?

Alan Wood alan.wood at context.co.uk
Tue Mar 4 08:34:01 CST 2003

Mark wrote:

> I'm working on transferring a large 500+page scientific book into
> HTML.  I have scanned and formatted this book in MS Word X format
> (unfortunately) - and it includes thousands of
> scientific/mathematical formula in Greek font (generally generated as
> symbols inserted by Word [I believe in the Symbols font format].)
> However, while the HTML (& XHTML) generated by any version of MS Word
> (Word98 Mac, Word 2K WinME, or WordX OSX, and for that matter, the
> HTML created by Adobe products such as Indesign or Dreamweaver MX),
> the representation of these Greek characters work fine with prior
> versions of Netscape (4 and 3), and they work with all old and new
> version of MS Explorer.
> BUT - It breaks (showing just the default English font) with Netscape
> 7 (and Mozilla and Safari), no matter what platform (I've tested it
> with Mac OS 9.2.2, Mac OSX, Win ME, and Win MX.  (While working fine
> on Explorer in all of these platforms.)
Your "problem" is that Mozilla-based browsers, including Netscape 7, have a
more strict interpretation of the HTML 4 specification than most other
browsers.  The HTML 4 document character set is defined as Unicode.

Netscape 7 sees that the Windows version of the Symbol font is not a Unicode
font, declines to use it, and substitutes another font where the code points
you are trying to use for Greek characters have their proper Unicode
meaning, that is Latin characters.

The Mac OS X 10 version of Symbol font is a Unicode font, so lower case
alpha is at code point 945, and you are asking for code point 97 when you
want a lower case alpha.  This is probably why Safari does not work.

I am not sure why I.E. on Mac OS X 10 "works" - perhaps it is using the OS 9
version of Symbol font.

How to fix your problem?  The only answer that comes to mind is to specify
an HTML 3.2 DOCTYPE, and that will give you more problems.

I tried to produce a scientific Web site when I.E. and Netscape were at
version 3, and I failed to make it work cross-platform.  It was produced on
and worked on Windows.  Parts of it worked on Macs, but the characters are
arranged differently in the Windows and OS 9 versions of Symbol font.  I
failed to get Unix to use Symbol font at all.  You can see my Symbol test
page that grew out of these struggles here:


Another possible solution is to open your Word files in Word XP, and save as
HTML from there.  I don't know if it will work.  It might help to format the
entire document in Arial Unicode MS.  Again, I don't know if this will work.

You really need to use Unicode for your Greek and other special characters.
As you have discovered the hard way, Word v.X has poor Unicode support.  You
can send suggestions for product improvements to Microsoft at:


I hope this helps.

Alan Wood
http://www.alanwood.net (Unicode, special characters, pesticide names - with
Greek letters and other symbols))

More information about the thelist mailing list