Microsoft Windows XP does not recognize some characters in Romanian and Bulgarian alphabet, we found from EU Commission sources.
A specific Bulgarian character is missing from Windows XP’s fonts Times New Roman and Arial. This character is ?, (edited after comment below: i s udarenie, ѝ (ѝ)) the Cyrillic small letter i with a grave accent, Unicode code 045D. This character is needed in Bulgarian in general and in the European Institutions in particular for all sorts of documents like legal texts, official publications and the like. The documents have to be made available to government bodies, professionals and citizens throughout Europe.
There is a similar problem with 4 Romanian characters which are also missing in Times New Roman and Arial. The characters are: ? ?? ? ?, the lower- and uppercase letters S and T with comma below, Unicode codes 0219, 0218, 021B, 021A. A common — but not fully satisfactory — practice for getting around this problem is using similar looking characters with different Unicode codes (small and capital letters S or T cedilla: ? ? ? ?). In the past, the Romanian characters ?? ? ? ? have been implemented as small and capital letters S or T cedilla ? ? ? ? (U+015E, U+015F, U+0162, U+0163). Since the Romanian authorities (Academia Rom?n?) have decided that a comma should be used instead of the cedilla, these characters will be implemented using the new Unicode codes for “T/t/S/s with comma below” (U+0218, U+0219, U+021A, U+021B) in the future.
This problem is solved in the Windows Vista, but Vista is not going to be available for all EU Commission computers currently using WindowsXP, until for at least another 4 years.
Microsoft has been informed by the European Commission about the problem in a letter dated Oct. 17, 2006, and sent to Mr. De Bock at the Microsoft’s Belgium office.
This is not the first time the EC has asked Microsoft to fix the problem. Initially they did that in February 2006. Since then, a number of updates and patches have been released by Microsoft.
In the meantime, experts from the EU Commission have been suggesting how to deal with this problem, among some of the proposals, “Use Times BG, Tms Cyr, Tms Cyr New and type Alt+0186”, and “Use the character combination и (U+0438) followed by the “combining grave accent” (U+0300), e.g. Type и followed by alt+768 to get this combination.” For the Romanian problem, EU officials can use the substitutes small and capital letters S or T cedilla ? ? ? ? .
These exotic suggestions do not solve really the problem, and are not very easy to use by normal users. Proper way is, of course, to have Microsoft issue an update with the proper fonts, which the EC did, but with no response from the US software giant.
One can argue that the EU can use other fonts, but that’s not quite true. The EU Commission authoring tool for legislative documents, LegisWrite, requires the usage of the Arial and Times New Roman fonts. If a character in Tahoma or Microsoft Sans Serif is included in a LegisWrite document, LegisWrite’s DQC (document quality check) produces an error message: “unknown font”.
The European Commission told Microsoft that this is a critical problem for the EU Institutions as it prevents the proper authoring of thousands of legislative documents. When a new country joins the EU, all EU legislation has to be translated into the new language and made available to the public at large (450 million people). Probably Microsoft were not aware that Bulgaria and Romania will join the EU in January 2007?
P.S. I just got a response to my questions from a Microsoft spokesperson:
1. When did Microsoft find out that Times New Roman and Arial don’t have 1 Bulgarian and 4 Romanian characters?
Microsoft identified this issue in September. Windows XP user interface fonts do have the required characters, meaning that the user interface, file names, dialogs, buttons and menus are not missing these characters.
2. When does Microsoft plan to issue a patch for that?
The font update package is complete and will be provided via a Windows update download tool soon. To note, the Arial and Times New Roman fonts in Windows Vista do have these characters.