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Unicode character pickers

Pickers allow you to quickly create phrases in a script by clicking on Unicode characters arranged in a way that aids their identification. The phrase appears at the bottom of the screen and you can easily cut and paste the result into your own document. They're written in HTML with a small amount of JavaScript.

Pickers are likely to be most useful if you don't know a script well enough to use the native keyboard. The arrangement of characters also makes it much more useable than a regular character map utility. See the features available and how to use them.

See this list of blog posts for the latest developments.

How to use

Click on the graphics at the top of the screen to see them appear in the output area below. (NOTE: JavaScript must be enabled for this to work.) When you have finished creating your string, click on the Select all button and copy and paste or drag and drop the text into the content you are creating.

You can also type or paste text directly into the output area. This is useful for adding characters from another script, especially ASCII. To avoid overcrowding, the pickers assume that you can enter characters in the ASCII range from the keyboard. Some special characters, such as space, zero width non-joiner, etc. are also made available for clicking. You can also add codepoints and escapes via the Add codepoint field.

You can manually move the cursor to any point in the box text and insert characters. Use the keyboard delete and backspace keys to delete content.

You can also get further information about the characters you have assembled (or text you have simply pasted into the output field). Use the yellow box to set preferences or search (regular expressions allowed).

Views. For more recent versions of pickers, alternative views are available. The available views are described in the notes below each picker, but typical views include the following:

You can start up directly in one of the views by appending flags to your URI: ?view=, typically followed by one of, respectively, alphabet, shape, transcription, or fontgrid (depending, of course, on what is available). The options are described in the notes for each picker.

Hinting. In some pickers, orange highlighting indicates similar looking characters. In more recent picker versions, this is limited to the shape view. In some older pickers you can turn it on or off using a control in the yellow area. In the most recent pickers, the shape view deals with this in a simpler way, by just showing similar characters together.

Changing the user interface. Controls at the bottom of the page allow you to modify fonts used, the font size, and the height of the output box.

The font selection box contains a list of common fonts, many of which are free to download. More recent versions of the pickers group these so that you can see what fonts are standard on Microsoft and Mac platforms, and free fonts provided by Google. You will only be able to apply a given font if it is available on your computer, or it is made available as a web font when you load the page. The notes at the bottom of the page provide links to locations where you can download fonts. If you have a font that is not in the font selection list, type the font name in the Custom font field and hit return.

Add codepoint. You can also add characters to the output box by typing codepoints and escapes in the Add codepoint field and hitting return. This will accept HTML numeric character references, javascript and other programming escapes, U+ Unicode notation, or just simple codepoint numbers separated by spaces. All codepoint numbers (including those in escapes) must be hexadecimal.

Searching by character name or codepoint. The Unicode name for a character and its codepoint can be seen by mousing over the character in the clickable area.

If you are searching for a particular character and know (at least part of) the name or the codepoint, type that in the search box and hit return. All characters with matching text in the name or codepoint number will be highlighted.

Not all characters are visible at the same time in the most recent shapes and transcription views, but the highlighting doesn't go away, so you should be able to find the characters. Alternatively, you may want to switch to the default view (but don't forget to look in the advanced section of the default view).

In more recent pickers, except in shape view, the highlighting is only removed when you click on the X next to the search input field. You can also use regular expression syntax to improve your search results. For example, to find the letter 'ha', but not 'gha' etc, you can use '\bha\b' (or the shortcut, ':b:').

Click on the X to remove the highlighting.

Escapes. If you click on the Escapes button, the Unicode Converter tool will open in a separate window. Here you will find versions of the text in the output box in a number of formats, including numeric character references, javascript escapes, CSS escapes, hex codepoints, etc.

Codepoints. If you click on the Codepoints button, the names of each of the characters currently in the output area will be listed on a separate page, with links to UniView from the names. This is particularly useful to quickly understand the composition of a piece of text you pasted here from elsewhere.

Other transcriptions. Some pickers provide one or more buttons that will generate a transcription of the text in the output window. These transliteration schemes are usually devised by myself, and I make no guarrantee of stability! Some are transliterations, others attempt phonemic transcriptions.

Personalisation. You can automatically start up a picker with your preferred font etc by including information at the end of the URI as follows:

For example, the following sets all of the above. You can store this in your bookmarks or use it in links to start up the page as you prefer.

Available at:

First published 2004. Last update 2014-10-23 10:05 GMT