December 2008
December 2010

The Apple Logo in Unicode

Please avoid using it on the web

Some people have noticed, and begun using, the unicode values for the Apple Logo.

This is probably fine for Mac-only applications. But it is NOT appropriate, and even WRONG, and it will NOT work properly as a general web page character. The problem is that the unicode value used is one of several that is set aside for private use. That means that each operating system, or application, or implementation is free to use those unicode characters for anything they want. It just so happens that Apple has chosen to use unicode character U+F8FF (decimal value 63743, or on the web as either  or ) as the Apple Logo. But some Windows fonts put in a Windows logo. And some other fonts put in a Klingon Mummification glyph. Or elven script. Or anything they want. And if it isn't defined in your local font, you'll just see a square. So who knows what you might see when I put the character in right here: 

Yes, on a Mac, you probably see an actual Apple Logo. But on other systems, you probably see other things. So what is it good for? You can use it on Mac-only programs, and it'll probably work fine (especially if the application explicitly sets the font to one where you know this character is defined as the Apple Logo). You can even use it on Mac-only web pages if you are absolutely sure that you don't care if it is wrong on non-Mac browsers.

But you can not claim surprise when people say they see a Windows Logo on your Apple web-page.

Slightly More Useful Mac characters

Unicode does define some other characters which are sort of Mac-specific.

⌘ - ⌘ - ⌘ - the Command Key symbol
⌥ - ⌥ - ⌥ - the Option Key symbol
⇧ - ⇧ - ⇧ - the Shift Key (really just an outline up-arrow, not Mac-specific)
⎋ - ⎋ - ⎋ - the Escape Key (also not Mac-specific; described as "BROKEN CIRCLE WITH NORTHWEST ARROW", or an escape character from ISO 9995-7). I originally thought this was supposed to be a symbol for the power button.

And while we're at it, some related (not mac-specific):
⇥ - ⇥ - ⇥ - the Tab Key symbol
⏎ - ⏎ - ⏎ - the Return Key symbol
⌫ - ⌫ - ⌫ - the Delete Key symbol
⌽ - ⌽ - ⌽ - a possible substitute for the Power symbol

Even though these are defined in standard Unicode, there is no guarantee that they will exist in the font of the receiving browser, but they're at least globally defined, so they're fair game.


And as long as we're on the subject, it's a peeve of mine how pedantic some people get about unicode. There is no proper power button symbol in Unicode. Some pedantic unicode people claim it has no place in Unicode, but it would just be entirely too useful in documentation. And of course Unicode is littered with an arbitrary set of cute little pictures, most of which are far less useful, but they won't put in standard things like this. An even better example would be the lack of audio-visual symbols, such as play, stop, and pause symbols. You can try to cobble these things together from some of the geometric shapes and block symbols, but even if you manage an adequate look in one font, in another these same shapes may look completely unmatched and innappropriate.


Update: December 2010 As of October, Unicode 6.0 is out, and it adds lots of new stuff (note that very few fonts actually support these yet). New stuff like emoticons. Map symbols. There's a bomb symbol. There's bicycles (and lots of other transport symbols). Thumbs up and down, and an "ok" sign (but no flipping the bird that I could find). Animal symbols.

They also added some audio symbols. There's symbols for mute, unumute, volume up/down (and brightness up/down). Theres a single play/pause symbol now. And there's fast forward, and rewind. There's skip forward and back if you like double arrow and vertical bar, but not if you only wantd a single arrow and vertical bar.

BUT there is still no pause symbol! This is hard to imagine. There are several different single vertical bars that can be paired up. But I have not found one which always pairs appropriately in all fonts. It's insane that they left this out. Maybe it's there and I haven't found it yet? Please?

And the same for the power symbol. A kind reader pointed out that at least in some fonts, the U-233D "APL Functional Symbol Circle Stile" symbol - ⌽ - looks like the IEC 5010 power symbol (a vertical line inside of a circle). The official code charts example shows it as a vertical line going through a circle not inside of it. And at any rate, most "power" buttons are soft buttons and appropriately use the IEC 5009 standby symbol, which is a vertical line entering the top of an open circle. This does not exist at all as far as I can tell.

So, nice try, but no cigar. [an error occurred while processing this directive]

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