Where’s Arial Unicode (MS)?


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The “Arial Unicode MS” font – which is regarded by many as the ultimate Unicode font, containing virtually every character from every written language – disappeared from the Microsoft website in August 2002.

Sometime in mid-August 2002, Microsoft removed a giant reference font from its Web site. The “Arial Unicode MS” font – which is regarded by many as the ultimate Unicode font, containing virtually every character from every written language – disappeared. There’s a good description of the font here.

For years Arial Unicode MS has been available here, free for the price of a download. (Not cheap, as the file ran 24 MB – by far the largest font file I’ve ever seen.) Microsoft posted it for Publisher 2000 owners. As best I can tell, Publisher 2000 folks were promised the font, but it wasn’t included in the box. Thus, MS made it available on the Web.

There are newer versions of Arial Unicode MS that ship with Office 2000 and Office XP. There’s also supposed to be one in Publisher 2002. But if you have Publisher 2000, or you want the font for any other purpose (it’s the ultimate reference font for many linguists), you’re outta luck.

What happened? I’m guessing that people were taking advantage of Microsoft’s largesse and using the font when they hadn’t paid for any of the associated products. A friend of mine thinks he got a copy of the font bundled with OpenOffice, or something like OpenOffice. That would be a definite no-no: Microsoft spent millions developing that font, and it certainly wouldn’t appreciate having the font distributed with a competing product!

Microsoft’s site notes, “Arial Unicode MS is not free; it is only licensed for use by customers who have purchased Microsoft Office 2000, Office XP, Publisher 2000, Publisher 2002, or software bundles that contain at least one of these components.”

There’s a subtlety lurking here, though. If you have a licensed copy of Office 2000 or Office XP on your machine, and you use a print server that isn’t running Office, Arial Unicode MS won’t appear in your printouts. Your only choice is to print fonts as graphics, which is a Kludge with a Kapital “K” (details here).

I wonder what it would take to have Microsoft place Arial Unicode MS in the public domain? Linguists all over the world would applaud the decision. Even if we are a scruffy, underpaid bunch.

 

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