Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Silverlight 2.0 - Unicode and Full Font Support

In Silverlight 1.1 Alpha Microsoft included only English Language support  for text and there are only 9 fonts available, 8 normal text fonts and a symbol font without any Unicode support.

Additional font support is available as downloader objects, the font not specified by default in Silverlight applications should be downloaded in cache along with other assets.

The reason for this is that Silverlight 1.1 Alpha applications run in a sandbox within a browser, the font directory is a systems directory and the security restrictions restricts the access of the system directory to the application. Microsoft could have included more fonts for the Silverlight plug-in but to reduce the size of Silverlight plug-in, it was restricted to total of 9 fonts.

However, because of this reason, there is no Unicode support for other languages, if a desired Unicode is required the font should be downloaded as downloader object into the project solution. For complex scripts like Chinese, Japanese, Arabic or Hindi the font size could be anywhere between 6 MB to 12 MB, resulting in the client required to download the font again, where it normally is already available at client's system directory.

Microsoft,  although not officially commented to do "something about it" in Silverlight 2.0 beta, as far as I am concerned it is an entirely essential to include the support. But how Microsoft is going to allow access over cross platform to a system directory from a sandbox,  is yet to be seen, this could easily end up catastrophic and could leak security flaws.

My prediction is that Microsoft is going to follow the same path as Silverlight 1.1 Alpha applications that is loading non available fonts as downloader objects, but at the same time they are going to allow Silverlight plug-in to check the systems directory for the availably of the font and if the font is available then make a copy of the font in the working cache directory for easy access, if no Font is found then it can download the font as a downloader object.

This scenario could solve  the problem not just for Unicode support but makes any Open Type (otf) or True Type (ttf) fonts to be available to the user.

I would rate this feature as a must and Microsoft also realised the issue so do expect to see it in Silverlight 2.0 Beta in March 2008.

Apart from that, I would also like to see the Silverlight SDK engine to allow all fonts available at design time, by automatically including the font in the project solution, not as an embedded resource, but as resource asset

Overall, I hope font support in Silverlight 2.0 will get better but how better depends on how serious Microsoft is going to take this issue. So I would rate this font feature expectancy as 5/5

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