Handy Font Utilities for Indigenous Language Use

I’ll probably create a page for these things I come across, but am still trying to figure out the best way to approach organizing this website.

I’m frequently find myself lamenting that I don’t have a system for easily determining what default fonts on Mac OS support Hawaiian. I know a few off the top of my head – Lucida Grande, Helvetica, Times New Roman, Palatino, Courier, Didot – but not all. This is complicated by the fact that some fonts have most of the vowel kahakō combinations but not the ‘okina. A few have the ‘okina but not the vowel kahakō combinations, which makes choosing a non-standard font a bit of an adventure. I decided to spend some time working on this and found a couple of tools on the Mac and Windows that helped. I’m documenting it here since it may be of use to other indigenous language advocates:


Apple Font Tools

This is a command-line tool that is available from download from the Apple Developer’s site. While it has a lot of font manipulation tools, the one that is most useful for this purpose is ftxinstalledfonts. The instructions that come with the Font Tools are pretty good, and I came up with the following variation, which creates a tab-deliminted text file containing a list of the fonts that do or do not contain that Unicode character and the font ID. The list shows “YES” for those fonts that do have the character and “no” for those that do not. The command below gave me a text file listing all fonts in my system, and showed which did and did not have that character (U+0100 is the ā character)

ftxinstalledfonts -f -U 0100 -o a-lowercase.txt

I ran this command for the 11 characters that we use for Hawaiian. Since all fontsare listed in each operation, it was easy to paste all of them into a spreadsheet and generate the document I posted on Scribd.com yesterday.


While struggling to find a tool similar to Font Tools for Windows, I stumbled acrossBabelMap. While it has many other functions and a nice GUI, it has a function called “Font Coverage” (under the “Fonts” menu) that will show you every font that contains the Unicode value you enter. Since the I repeated the process as documented above for Mac OS, pasting the lists that BabelMap generated into a word-processing document for later importing into a spreadsheet. Since it only listed those fonts that did include those characters, there was a bit more cutting and pasting involved and there were more fonts with varying degrees of support for our Hawaiian characters. There are probably easier ways to do it, but since I was only dealing with 11 characters it wasn’t worth the time of trying to figure out how to script it. The document I created using BabelMap showing Hawaiian support in Windows fonts is available on Scribd.com as well.

BabelMap is free for personal use, but donations are accepted. I’m planning to do so myself.

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