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MSN Messenger Mystery - who can explain it?


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If anyone can explain this, I'll be impressed.

Using MSN Messenger on English Windows 98. Simplifed Microsoft IME Installed. Usually I can read the characters other people type, and sometimes it'll let me write characters in the input box and send them no problem. If it doesn't I can copy and paste them from another application and that works ok.

Currently though, when the person I'm talking to types characters all I see in the chat window is |||||||| - not characters. However, when I copy and paste these into the input box - they come up as characters. And when I press send - they come up as characters. Beyond me.


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The box shape is displayed when a font doesn't contain a glyph for a particular character (a glyph is the graphical representation of a given character in a font). Each font is free to define its own 'character doesn't exist' glyph, but it is usually just an empty box.

I'm guessing what's happening is that the sender is using a Chinese font that you don't have on your system, and your system is therefore substituting it with what it thinks is a valid font - and it's this font that doesn't contain the Chinese characters.

When the other party types a message, even though boxes appear on your screen, the underlying text is still valid, it's just that it can't be displayed with that font. When you copy that text, what you are copying is the actual underlying text and not its graphical representation on the screen. This is why it appears fine when you paste it into your own messages, because you are presumably using a different font that *can* display the characters.

The reason turning bold off made a difference, is because for Truetype fonts, the bold, italic, and bold-italic versions of a font are actually stored as separate fonts, rather than manipulations of a base font (windows hides this nicely behind its font selection dialog, but if you look in your font directory you'll see the truth :-)). Therefore it's quite possible that the normal font contained glyphs for the chinese characters, but the 'bold' font left them out.

As an aside, many programs use what is known as font-linking, so that if a font doesn't contain the glyph for a given character, then it will automatically choose a font that does contain it. This way, the 'character doesn't exist' glyph is only displayed when there are no fonts installed on the system that can display that character.

Anyway, I realise you solved your problem already, but just thought you might be interested in the extra explanation in case a similar situation occured again.

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