OOXML extension for Japanese Layout Requirements

Francis Cave francis at franciscave.com
Sun Feb 21 12:54:23 CET 2010

> ...(BTW, are Western typographers easier than Asian typographers?)...

This is an interesting question. The typefaces used in most Western
countries, which predominantly (for large amounts of text, at least) derive
their stylistic properties from Roman inscriptional models. The conventions
of textual presentation that derive from hand-written manuscripts of the
mediaeval period were originally the preserve of professional typesetters,
the best of whom employed many rules of word-, line- and page-division that
are not remotely catered for in modern office systems. The reason for this
is simple: the modern office system has evolved from the typewriter, with
its mono-spaced letterforms and limited formatting capabilities, and not
from the craft skills of professional type composition. This made sense for
as long as computer peripherals (screens and printers) could not render
high-quality letterforms.

Now we have high-quality letterforms displayed on everything from mobile
phone systems to e-book readers to computer screens, but the quality of
typography that many systems deliver is often, frankly, execrable (well, OK,
mediocre would be more fair in most cases).

High-end typography is, of course, still possible using professional
typesetting software tools, of which Quark XPress and Adobe InDesign are
just the most well-known. These allow much more sophisticated control of the
arrangement of text on the page than is possible using office systems - as
anyone who has tried to produce high-quality typography in Microsoft Word or
OpenOffice will know to their cost. Whether it be in the control of
inter-character and inter-word space, the alignment of letterforms at line
ends, hyphenation rules, page-break rules, alignment and spacing of
illustrations and tables, control of footnotes, precise placement of drop
initials,... the list is enormous.

Frankly, Western typographers have never really expected office systems to
produce good typography. If you want to produce a good looking book,
magazine or newspaper page, you certainly wouldn't dream of using office
system tools for text formatting. That is not to say that one couldn't, in
principle, add more features to office systems to make them capable of good
typography, but just that one would hardly know where to begin, and the
demand would almost certainly not be strong enough to justify the huge cost
of implementation. High-end typography remains the preserve of a small
number of professional companies and individual craftsmen, whose expertise
is demanded by a diminishing market among publishers and other media

I therefore don't see a rush of Western typographers to follow the Japanese
example, nor of office system developers to serve their specialist needs.

Francis Cave

More information about the sc34wg4 mailing list