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Re: MathML fonts

From: <juanrgonzaleza@canonicalscience.com>
Date: Mon, 22 May 2006 06:17:56 -0700 (PDT)
Message-ID: <3222.217.124.88.220.1148303876.squirrel@webmail.canonicalscience.com>
To: <www-math@w3.org>

Once solved the downloading problems with Mozilla fonts for MathML, I
believe that this would be a good moment for reviewing the
rendering-math-via-special-fonts philosophy.

The Web is not done of paper and whereas a paper is distributed in a
specific font (chosen when printing the document), you never can be sure
if fonts you are using are available on the client side.

Moreover, one of basic principles of accessibility is that web pages
should be platform independent, meaning that they should be accessible
regardless of the user’s platform and settings.

Those general guidelines are violated via forcing the download and use of
special fonts for mathematics. It would be really strange the rendering of
HTML tables via forcing to users download and installation of special
fonts for tables!

One of traditional obstacles for the widespread acceptance of TeX in the
web has been that TeX heavily relies on special fonts were not designed
for the Web. Computer Modern fonts can be not readable on the screen for
certain combinations of sizes and resolutions. I find just curious the, at
the one hand, claim that TeX is not designed for the Web whereas, at the
other hand, one relies on TeX fonts for "correct" rendering of MathML
formulae.

To rely on specific fonts rendering is, in my opinion, contrary to
original MathML goal of serving mathematics in an independent device
manner. Therefore, I find a bit disturbing that none folk has noted this
here. I just waited something as "download and install specific fonts for
Mozilla if you want but have care with this and this..."

>From L. Padovani

<blockquote>
Mozilla relies on specific fonts being installed on the system in order to
work correctly. In particular, it assumes that Computer Modern fonts are
available. This means that the formatting engine is polluted with
dependencies on Computer Modern fonts. On one side it is true that these
fonts are some of a very few fonts for mathematics that are currently
available, hence committing to them is not really ruling out alternatives
(nevertheless we have to remember Mathematica and Euclid fonts for
mathematics). Needless to say, basically no fonts other than Computer
Modern adopts the same conventions, which basically means that MathML
support in Mozilla is extensively tied to these fonts.
</blockquote>

and adds

<blockquote>
According to the STIX home page, a brand new family of fonts for
mathematics will be available in the next future. This will imply a
significant rewrite of the MathML formatting engine of Mozilla (note that
it is not possible to just replace a component: the whole application must
be recompiled).
</blockquote>

Finally, I would recommend to users a reading of fonts licenses available
on Mozilla site before installing them and also perform some rendering
tests (some MathML documents take from 10 to 20 minutes to render in
Mozilla when others approaches take of order of 2 seconds).

Of course, there exist other approaches to render mathematics on the web
are not based in specific fonts and fit with general CSS guidelines (e.g.
the famous users’ stylesheet settings).


Juan R.

Center for CANONICAL |SCIENCE)
Received on Monday, 22 May 2006 13:18:13 GMT

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