The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Adventures in Utext

There is one point on the ASCII ↔︎ JS spectrum that I haven’t seen, and it’s one that, as I use Unicode in more complex ways on and have learned how many obscure features or characters Unicode has, I increasingly think has been neglected: only UTF-8 text rendered by a monospace font. Not ASCII, not a weird subset of SGML, not troff, not raw terminal codes, not bitmaps encoded in ASCII—just UTF-8. This document format does only what pure Unicode text can do—but does everything that pure Unicode can do, which turns out to be a lot. What if we take Unicode literally, but not seriously?

Your typical plain text output strips all formatting. At the most ambitious, it might have a Unicode superscript or fraction. But we can do so much more!

Utext: Rich Unicode Documents ·

That was an interesting read (your mileage may vary).

To generate the gopher and Gemini versions of my blog, I parse the HTML and generate either plain text (for gopher) or Gemtext for Gemini. And I'm still not entirely happy with the output. For emphasized text, I would translate that to “*emphasized*”, which is … okay, I guess? And for deleted text—that was a harder to deal with, and I ended up with “[DELETED-deleted-DELETED]” text.

There's no excuse for that.

But after reading about Utext, and Uncode's COMBINING SHORT STROKE OVERLAY and COMBINING LOW LINE I thought I might try using those for some typographical niceties that you don't normally get with plain text. And that's when I learned that not all virtual terminals support all of Unicode all that well. And wraping text is … not that trivial anymore.

Ah well. For now, it seems to be working, but it remains to be seen if I like the results.

Update on Friday, December 8th, 2023

I reverted this change due to issues.

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