Not to get in the middle [dot] of the problem, but...

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2008/05/29 01:26 -04:00, original URI:

The other day, MVP Mike asked me via email:

Hi Michael,

Have you heard about this problem? It's starting to make the "rounds" since XP SP3 came out.  It appears to be a very serious problem, and the only reason (which is selfish) that I'm bringing it up now is that it is starting to affect my shipping app (been out for years).  After reports of it started coming in, I did a quick google search and came up with this (even mentions the hotfix where this was introduced which was rolled into SP3):
Font problems since installing SP3.

I was wondering if anyone in the font team is aware of any problem like this or if you are already tracking it, and why it only seems to happen in certain apps, but not others.


I checked with people on the Typography team, and they are indeed now tracking this issue (they were unaware of it originally).

Some interesting (related) trivia about the face -- here it is the Font Picker dialog in Notepad before the install of SP3:

And here it is on a machine after SP3 has been installed:

Do you see how the order of items in the font style list changed?

Believe it or not, this is related!

The font was updated, and apparently a bit was set incorrectly when it happened.

As a workaround when it is in interactive UI, it is apparently in most cases possible to go to the font picker dialog and explicitly choose the "Regular" or "Bold" styles (both of which are bold in this "heavy" font) rather than the "italic" choice that seems to be getting picked up.

Thus won't help for applications and such, obviously

But the problem has been reported now so they are working on determining what is going on and how the particular hotfix described in the text of KB892598 (The middle dot character is not centered correctly if you use the Arial Black font or the Impact font on a Windows XP-based computer or on a Windows 2000-based computer with Service Pack 4) found its way into the XP service pack and how best to address the issue going forward.

This blog brought to you by · (U+00b7, aka MIDDLE DOT)

Mike Dimmick on 29 May 2008 5:54 AM:

Arial Black is one of those typefaces which doesn't have a bold or italic version. So, when requested, GDI fakes it by adding a shear transform to create an italic, and doubling pixels to create a bold. Presumably some set of flags was set strangely which causes XP's GDI to think it's supposed to be faking the italic.

You should be able to undo it by copying ariblk.ttf back from the C:\Windows\$NtServicePackUninstall$ folder to C:\Windows\Fonts. I think. It's possible that Windows File Protection will prevent this.

ReallyEvilCanine on 29 May 2008 10:00 AM:

I've never seen Windows complain about moving fonts around. I'm actually quite amazed that the automatic installation functions so well (despite my gripes about certain apps ignoring OTFs). Remove ARIBLK and replace it with an older copy. But then you lose the updates (what exactly was updated? The cmap? Unicode properties?).

Is today's "middle dot" sponsor the same "middle dot" which the UI should be separating British pounds and pence with instead of the decimal point which it actually insists upon?

Etan Wexler on 10 Jun 2008 4:49 PM:

The middle dot (U+00B7) is not the character with which Windows should separate the string of digits representing a number of British pounds from the string of digits representing a number of pence. The decimal point (U+002E, formally “full stop”, commonly “period” in American English) is the correct character. What is incorrect in this context is the use of the default glyph that represents the decimal point. The Unicode Standard has this comment on U+002E: “may be rendered as a raised decimal point in old style numbers”. So the correct solution is an alternate glyph and some mechanism to request the use of the alternate glyph.

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