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.

Peeve

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.

Feh.

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.


Reader Comments (Experimental. Moderated, expect delays. Posts may be edited or ignored. I reserve the right to remove any or all comments, at any time.)

21 comments:

At 2010/01/16 19:14
Sean wrote:

Just out of curiosity, where have you seen ⎋ considered a Power Button symbol? I've only ever seen it used to mean "escape". Every use of a power button symbol I've ever seen, in particular every use by Apple, has been of the IEC power/standby symbol you mention, which as you know has a vertical stroke, not a northwest arrow.

At 2010/01/16 22:11
wrote:

Under Leopard, that character appears in the Apple Menu, as part of the shortcut for Force Quit.

Also, the same character is used in System Preferences, Keyboard Shortcuts.

tom

At 2010/02/07 14:31
Alexsander Akers wrote:

If this (http://drp.ly/mhP7U) is the menu item you are referring to, it is indeed the Escape button. Try the shortcut but with the power button, and it does nothing?

At 2010/02/08 9:33
wrote:

Whoops, I guess I got that one wrong. I'll make some changes to the web page to fix it up.

I wonder why they didn't use Unicode character 241B (␛)?

tom

At 2010/02/23 5:25
Leo Davidson wrote:

For what it's worth, here's what the symbols look like in IE and Firefox on a Windows 7 machine. I think both browsers are using their default font configuration (but maybe I changed Firefox and can't remember :)).

http://www.pretentiousname.com/temp/apple_unicode.png

The Broken Circle with Northwest Arrow is the most strange. In Firefox it turns into an *un*broken circle with a diagonal line (not an arrow) through it.

I totally agree with your peeve section. Unicode has so much esoteric cruft in it that squandared the code points, yet is missing several things which would be widely useful. It's not just the silly pictures (like the palm tree on a beach glyph) but things like dead languages which are only used by a handful of scholars. I imagine the 10 people who care about mixing Ancient Aramaic with other languages could get by using a special font and the private character ranges.

As a programmer, it really annoys me because UTF-16 ran out of its 65,000 characters and now has some characters which are double-width (i.e. 32-bit), which leads to all kinds of bugs and security exploits due to code which doesn't handle such characters properly, either because the author didn't know or because they tried but it's ridiculously complex to deal with character strings where the characters use a varying number of bytes, and even more so when it's a very abnormal (i.e. rarely tested) case (unlike UTF-8). Sigh!

At 2010/02/23 5:36
Leo Davidson wrote:

Oops, I said "Ancient Aramaic" in my previous post. That is still of interest to a lot of people!

I meant Meroitic:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meroitic_language

Existed for about 100 years and is currently spoken by zero people, yet it's taking up space in Unicode that is too valuable for music-playback symbols (etc.) which would only be useful to a few million people. :)

(BTW, the posting form seemed to strip out the close-anchor tag if it used a lowercase 'a'. Using an uppercase 'A' made it work.)

At 2010/03/16 11:33
Uli Kusterer wrote:

Hi,

just thought I'd mention that the "command key symbol" is actually not Mac-specific either. It's the Swedish "place of interest sign" symbol. And that's actually where Apple got the idea for this image from. If you look at this symbol in the Mac's character palette, it will actually be called the "place of interest sign", as well.

At 2010/12/27 15:31
lenin wrote:

Power btn: ⌽

Option btn: ⎇

Enter/Return: ⏎

Tab: ⌦

Backspace: ⌫

Control: ⌃

At 2010/12/28 14:16
wrote:

Thanks. The option symbol you provided is actually upside down from the one that Apple uses, which I provided in the original article. And what you show as a tab is a forward delete. Does Apple use this as a tab symbol somewhere? At any rate, I've made a few changes based on your email. And you prompted me to notice that Unicode 6.0 is out with new stuff.

Thanks.

tom

At 2011/02/14 11:49
Kaleb David McKale wrote:

⌦ is achieved by "fn ⌫" ☺

It's also interesting that Apple uses
↖ for Home
↘ for End
⇞ for Page Up
⇟ for Page Down
⌤ for Enter (even though its use is not consistent app to app)

I agree it's very annoying to not have a character for the power button. ☹

At 2011/04/29 7:15
Shane wrote:

When I first saw ⎋ in a Mac menu as part of a keyboard shortcut, I immediately thought it meant the power button. I figured out later that this was not the case.

Glad to see someone else was just as confused as I was about this :)

At 2011/05/09 19:33
Hamranhansenhansen wrote:

The symbol that Apple uses for the power button is on the power button of any Mac for at least the last decade.

I would guess the reason that Apple uses "BROKEN CIRCLE WITH NORTHWEST ARROW" instead of [ESC] is internationalization. Or to prevent people reading it as E+S+C. Or maybe just because key shortcuts are always shown with symbols.

For the shift key, you might want to use "UPWARDS WHITE ARROW" and for caps lock, the matching "UPWARDS WHITE ARROW FROM BAR." That is what Apple appears to be using in the Mac OS menus also.

At 2011/05/09 19:41
wrote:

Yes, that power/standby symbol is standard across many vendors. Except it is not in Unicode.

The caps lock would be unicode U+21EA, ⇪ ⇪ ⇪

At 2011/11/02 0:42
wrote:

"but no flipping the bird that I could find"

┌∩┐(◕_◕)┌∩┐

凸ಠ益ಠ)凸

from https://gist.github.com/157796

At 2011/11/02 10:57
wrote:

Not what I meant, but cute.

At 2011/11/07 21:00
wrote:

Re Meroitic language. There is another script of which there is only one surviving artefact. It almost certainly does not contain the complete alphabet yet the letters have been included in Unicode! How useless is that? It seems that the Unicode people say "Oh my God! Some random letters from an unknown language! We must include them straight away because Unicode is for cataloguing every language that ever existed!" I'd love to see extremely widely used, unambiguous symbols such as "play" and "pause" in Unicode.

At 2011/11/11 16:00
Andrs Sanhueza wrote:

There's an ongoing Unicode proposal to encode Wingdings and Webdings characters, which includes the "pause" symbol. http://www.dkuug.dk/jtc1/sc2/wg2/docs/n4115.pdf The "Audio UI" symbols have been accepted, among other things. http://www.unicode.org/alloc/Pipeline.html

Naturally, the Windows logo was the only symbol excluded from the proposal.

At 2011/11/12 11:04
wrote:

That's excellent news - I hope the proposal is accepted. Thanks.

At 2011/11/16 10:07
ChristTrekker wrote:

I've heard talk about a proposal to encode the symbols found in Apple's old Cairo font, to mirror the proposal to encode the *dings fonts.

http://68kmla.org/wiki/Cairo

At 2011/11/16 11:50
wrote:

Yeah, but still no relief on any of the power symbols. I'm going to solve this problem myself. Until there are IEC power symbols in Unicode, I'm going to recommend that font designers standardize five of the unicode characters from the private use area (which has thousands of slots available).

  • IEC 5007 Power-on symbol, use unicode ec17
  • IEC 5008 Power-off symbol, use unicode ec18
  • IEC 5009 Standby symbol, use unicode ec19
  • IEC 5010 Hard Power on/off symbol, use unicode ec1a
  • IEEE 1621 Sleep symbol, use unicode ec1b

    Is this the wrong way to do a standard? Yes. But there's nothing wrong with font designers using these slots. It's a private use area - they can use them for anything they like. If it just so happens that lots of font designers all put these glyphs in these slots, how can that be wrong?

  • At 2011/12/12 10:55
    Andrs Sanhueza wrote:

    Although is not really a proposal, Karl Pentzlin submitted a document as reference for others with Apple symbols that has not equivalent in Unicode: ftp://std.dkuug.dk/JTC1/sc2/WG2/docs/n4127.pdf

    End Comments

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