Font Changes on WM

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
For the last few years, we've been paying a rather hefty annual fee to license a Chinese font file for use in our Windows Mobile software. That license is now up for renewal, and given that a) a lot of people don't seem to be very happy with the readability of our Song-style fonts on mobile devices, b) it seems very likely that Microsoft will finally get on the building-Chinese-support-into-every-OS-language-version bandwagon with Windows Mobile 7, and c) every other platform we're planning / considering support for in the future (iPhone / desktop Windows / Mac OS X / etc) already has perfectly good Chinese fonts built in, we're thinking it might be better to switch to an open-source Chinese font on Windows Mobile, release ASAP a software update that makes it easier for users to plug in their own fonts, and put the large amount of money we'd be saving towards some new dictionary licenses. An added benefit to open-source fonts is that we're less restricted in what we can do to modify them, so if we want to, say, add a few hundred missing characters / symbols, we'd be freer to do that than we are now.

The two best open-source Chinese font options for mobile devices we've found so far are:

a) Firefly, based on the widely-circulated free Arphic TrueType Chinese fonts but with embedded bitmaps added to get it to render well on low-resolution screens; in Pleco at least this seems to look pretty much identical to the ZYSong font we use now. (the bitmaps are a little different, but since the vast majority of our Windows Mobile users nowadays seem to have VGA screens, embedded bitmaps aren't much of a factor anyway)

(there's a pretty nice Arphic Kai-style font too, but Kai fonts however beautiful seem to be borderline unreadable on small screens, so that's probably a no-go)

b) Droid Sans, the default font on Google Android. These are extremely professional-looking, generously Apache-licensed and are very nice and readable on mobiles, but don't really show the thicker / thinner points of stroke shapes as well as a Song-style font like Firefly or ZYSong.

Has anyone had any experience with either of these? Or is anyone willing to try replacing ZYSong with them and see what you think? (easy procedure, just rename the ZYSong font file in your \\Storage Card\Pleco folder to something like ZYSong-Old, copy the new font file to that folder and name it ZYSong; make sure Pleco's not running in the background when you do this)

It's not too late to re-up our license for ZYSong if these other options really seem to be a letdown (in any case you'd certainly be able to continue using it as long as you had a copy of it from a pre-switchover Pleco download), and I suppose we could also consider including both fonts in our software installer and letting people choose which one to use (or even switching between them) (perhaps eventually with a toggle button), but I think in general we'd be better off spending our money on new dictionaries than on fonts.
 

ldolse

状元
I guess what I would be interested in is completeness. Using the radical dictionary as an acid test, here's what I found:


Firefly
  • Firefly seems fairly comprehensive, it includes all the simplified radicals that are in extension A, something I haven't seen any other font do. It also has several extension B characters, which surprised me.

    There were two characters I was surprised to see not represented, both traditional variants of relatively well supported characters in other fonts:
    纟[糹] - traditional variant missing
    钅[釒] - traditional variant missing
    I think those are pretty important for the built-in radical interfaces in Pleco.

    Looks wise Firefly seems ok to me.


Droid
  • Droid is extremely comprehensive, every single Extension A character was covered, and a large number of extension B characters were covered. In fact only one extension B character I'd found during my research on radical variants wasn't covered by Droid.

    That said, I wasn't impressed with Droid's looks overall. A lot of characters didn't meet a single uniform design, so while individually they might look ok, next to each other it looked unprofessional. There were also a few really ugly characters in droid, check out Droid's simplified version of 门[門] for instance, not pretty.

Unless you're planning to add Extension B support sometime soon I'd have to give the nod to Firefly, assuming that you can take care of those two traditional variants in your other built-in fonts.

I did those checks on my desktop, I'll go ahead and load the fonts on my handheld to see what they look like in practice.

This discussion begs the question though, why not re-enable user configurable fonts?
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
Thanks for looking at this so quickly! Good catch on those missing radicals, but those should certainly be easy to add.

I hadn't looked at the uniformity of Droid that carefully, but now that I am I see what you mean - perhaps they'll improve it in future releases, but for right now it's pretty poor. (wonder how this will impact Android adoption in China - I imagine device manufacturers will just replace it with a pricier licensed Chinese font)

User-configurable fonts in the way we implemented them in 1.0 relied on Windows Mobile's rather-shaky font system, so we'd have to reimplement that system differently in 2.0, but certainly with the move to open-source it would make sense - we might have to switch fonts a few months before we can get that rolled in, but it'd still be replaceable as now for people who can use File Explorer to move around / rename files.
 
In the light of the availability of good quality open source Chinese fonts for windows mobile and with more and more mobile OS providing native Chinese language support, I am completely for going to an open source font in order to save licensing fees to buy other dictionaries.

Firefly installed on my PDA and being used; will update if there are any issues with missing characters etc, if I come across them.

BTW, the longer I live here in China, the stronger my desire grows for a cursive Chinese script that is fully supported in Pleco (stroke charts, flashcards, etc.)

Regards,

Darrol :D
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
Thanks! Do let us know about any missing characters. And yeah, cursive script would be lovely if we could find a cheap cursive font to license - Arphic has an open-source Kai font as I mentioned, but that's not really cursive, just more stylized than a Song-style one.
 

Mao Zhou

秀才
Yeah! Now that I've got the HD with the 800x400 screen an cursive font would be nice! I second the motion. Even bet would be a song/cursive/modern icon that i could click to cycle through the character in different font styles for learning to read differing fonts. Have you ever noticed that many books for learning chinese in china use two or more styles of font in the same book? If you're as slow as I am it takes a while to figure out which character they're refering to. Call me stupid if you must...


Regards,
Mao Zhou
 
I love the idea of having a button to instantly switch the font between cursive and print (like the simplified/traditional character button) so that it is easy to see headwords and definitions in the two scripts to make it faster to learn cursive. When I let my mind wander and start to think of stroke order diagrams in cursive, I practically drool all over my keyboard . . . hint . . . hint . . . hint . . . !
 

Mao Zhou

秀才
But,...! If its cursive, like HuangCaoShu, isnt it all one stroke? Diagraming that would be much harder than the current diagrams, wouldn't it?
 
Depends on the script. 草书 will make most (maybe all?) characters into a single stroke. However many other Chinese cursive scripts 连写 will reduce the number of strokes, depending on the complexity of the character, to maybe 2 or 3 strokes, so it is still important to know the proper way to write the character (where to start the strokes, which direction to go in, etc.).
 

Cameroon

进士
Hello mikelove, forum members:
I personally like Microsoft Yahei, which comes with WM devices. I think any program can use installed fonts?

By the way, I have a 'cosmetic' issue on Winmobile. The transcription (pinyin) is written bold, but the characters with diacritics is not bold. So it looks not very good. I guess Tahoma is used, which doesn't include diacritics characters, and for diacritics, it links to another, chinese-compatible font.

Is there a way to set a different font for pinyin transcription in Pleco?
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
We actually include an add-on font ("PlecoExtraBold") that replaces those missing bold letters in Tahoma. It sounds like that font didn't load correctly - try soft resetting (rebooting) your WM phone and see if that improves matters.
 

Cameroon

进士
Thanks Mike,
I moved PlecoExtra font to windows folder, now I get a better look but third tone letters (a, u, o, i) are not bold anyway.
Maybe there's a chance to set Pleco to use not Tahoma, but Times New Roman for diarcitics or some other font (Yahei for instance)? Both Times and Yahei have nice pinyin case.
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
You should actually keep it in the Pleco folder - it could cause problems with other apps in Windows. Not sure why it wasn't working though - you definitely had the bold one too? Soft reset didn't help? This is the latest version, too, right? How did you install it?
 

Cameroon

进士
The version is the latest, I installed to the Storage Card (maybe that's the problem?).

Actually that's only a cosmetic issue, I managed to improve it by getting rid of Tahoma bold font (it didn't allow to remove it any known way, so I just prepared a .cab file with tahomabd.ttf, which was a renamed tahoma.ttf).

Now the interface in Pleco is much fresher and unified, also WM itself has much lighter outlook.

I might upload the .cab file in case anyone interested, how do I? upd: found the desired button:

[REDACTED]
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
Sorry, but I had to remove the file since Tahoma is copyrighted - if you want to post instructions / an INF for people to make their own using CabWiz, though, feel free.
 

mikelove

皇帝
Staff member
Actually I have to say I'm kind of disappointed by HanWriting - accuracy doesn't even seem to be as good as the free recognizer built into iPhone, let alone a commercial one like Hanwang's. Though it may work better on a device with a larger screen than my Droid, and they may refine things during the beta-test. But the argument for putting Pleco on Android is considerably strengthened if we can charge people money for a handwriting recognizer, which it would be tough to do if there was a comparable free one available, though I'm not sure if it's even possible to make an Android IME work fullscreen.
 
Top