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fontsets/charsets documentation suggestion

From: Eric Abrahamsen
Subject: fontsets/charsets documentation suggestion
Date: Wed, 1 Jul 2009 23:19:51 -0700


Pursuant to this [1] thread on the carbon Emacs mailing list, I'm writing in with a small request regarding the documentation for fontsets in Emacs 23. I know that fonts, fontsets and charsets are one of the more complicated aspects of Emacs, but I think for this exact reason the documentation for fontsets and charsets should be beefed up. Everything in the current docs is correct, but it is such a complicated issue that I think a more basic, ramped-up (almost tutorial-style) approach would be very helpful, particularly for readers unfamiliar with the issue to begin with. In detail:

1. Clearer separation of Linux, Windows and Mac font issues – they seem to be very different.

2. A glossary. What is a charset, what is a font registry, what is a script name symbol, what is encoding and how are these things related? A ground-up explanation of the ecology of bytes, encodings, charsets and fonts would be great. Even, dare I say it, a diagram. This stuff is very confusing.

3. What are the relevant functions and variables? As a non-expert user of middling programming ability, I was totally baffled by set-fontset- font and all the possible permutations of its arguments. Likewise for create-fontset-from-fontset-spec. Since those two functions seem to be the weapons of choice for font manipulation, their descriptions could stand to be about four times as long as they are, with LOTS more examples. And when you're trying to get your fontsets right (particularly with multiple languages), you need to see lists of possible charsets and registries. These lists are in variables like charset-list and charset-script-alist which *aren't mentioned in the docs*.

4. I think describe-char is the main tool people use for examining characters. If that's the case, it would be nice to have clearer correspondences between the information that describe-char produces, and the information that set-fontset-font et al consumes. For instance, describe-char now seems to report all characters as either ascii or unicode-bmp -- this is less helpful when you're trying to target a font to latin or han, for instance.

That was it. Emacs 23 is enormously better at handling multilingual environments, but it would be even easier with more in-depth documentation!



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