The Blog of Codepoints.net
Of course the idea of a Unicode visualization is not new. If you google for it, there are a multitude of lists of Unicode blocks and stuff. However, the quality is extremely mixed. While anyone can write a loop around Python’s unicodedata library and print the result, the important informations, which Unicode version, how does the character look usually, is it deprecated, and so on, are seldomly found.
I’d like to present you here some projects that have in my opinion a high quality and can help you find your way through Unicode in many different facettes.
These tools are directly on the Unicode.org website. This is a set of tools that allow browsing Unicode characters in a lot of different ways. Most commonly, you can simply view character definitions, but you can also search for confusables (characters similar to a specific one), regular expression tokens, and so on. The trustworthiness is high by nature, since the database is curated by members of the Unicode consortium itself.
The site is, in its own words, “an independent online-platform for digital type culture, developed at the Department of Design at the University of Applied Sciences in Mainz.” It presents all of Unicode 5 in a very tidy and stylish environment and has an attached wiki with information for many codepoints. Its greatest advantage is, that the people behind have visualized every single one of the Unicode codepoints they present.
(“For people who ♥ letters, numbers, punctuation, &c”) It is a social Unicode browser. That is, you can pick and share favourites, add tags and comment on single codepoints. Unfortunately they also haven’t got support for the new Unicode 6.0 characters.
It presents all current Unicode characters up to version 6.1 together with renderings from fonts. It shows a great lot of representations of a character from Python escapes to mappings in other character sets.
Richard Ishida is “the Internationalization Activity Lead at the W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) and [he] contribute[s] to the Unicode Editorial Committee.” On his website he provides a set of tools to browse codepoints and also to modify them, especially a very helpful tool called UniView.
He also authored most of the articles the W3C has published about internationalization and Unicode. They are a must-read for everyone only slightly concerned with this topic.
If you don’t know the name of a character but its general shape, you can search for it on Shapecatcher. Paint the shape in a box, and Shapecatcher will compare the drawing with about 11,000 characters it has in its database, presenting you the best matches. This works remarkably well for many character classes.