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Technical Information

Cross Platform Considerations
File Formats
  Technical Explanations
Character Mapping
Character Translation
RTF Compatibility Limitations

Cross Platform Considerations
- - File Formats

The main reason for the development of the WinMac Dene font system was to be able to share Dene language document files back and forth between Windows and Macintosh applications.

This works very well within the same application. MS Word 6 for Mac and Word 6 for Windows read each other's files. The Database program, FileMaker Pro, does an excellent job of exchanging files seamlessly and transparently between its Macintosh and Windows versions. (At least version 2.1 did. I have not tested version 3 but they make the same claims.)

However when one begins to share files, not only across different computer platforms, but between different software manufacturers or different versions of the same software, things can get complicated. Most word processors include some file translators but they can't cover everything.

- - Recommendations

The following tips will help to keep things as compatible as possible

  1. Always save your word processor document in Rich Text Format before sending it to another user.
    Use the "Save As..." command and chose "RTF" from the file type drop-down menu.
  2. Avoid the use of specialty fonts that may not be on someone else's computer. Times New Roman and Arial are standard with Windows. Times and Helvetica will be on most Macintosh machines. (Of course, WinMac Dene fonts are specialty fonts but you are assuming the target machine will have those installed.)
  3. If you need to share database or spreadsheet files between different programs, try using standard interchange formats or tab delimited text files. I have not yet tested exchanging QatroPro files with Excel or FoxPro.

If you are opening a document from another user, you may need to select all the text and set the font to one of the WinMac Dene fonts. RTF does not always retain font names. You may also be opening a document containing an earlier version of WinMac Dene fonts where the font name is not the same as those installed on your system. Some word processors will allow you to change font formatting with search and replace.

- - Sneaker-net - (carrying disks from one computer to another)

All recent Macintosh computers have the ability to read and write to DOS formatted disks. Windows computers require a translator program to read Macintosh disks. Therefore if you have to share files across platforms using floppy disks, I recommend using Hi-Density DOS formatted disks. Try to keep all files in the disk's root directory. I've had difficulty reading sub-directories off DOS disks with a Mac. If you can avoid the sneaker-net altogether by sharing files via a network or by email you won't have to worry about incompatible disk formats.

Technical Explanations
- - Character Mapping

When converting a Dene language document from Mac to Windows or from Windows to Mac, the conversion utility must be able to perform standard Upper ASCII character map translations as well. The regular English letters in the first 127 locations on the character maps are identical on both platforms, but characters in the upper ASCII set, 128 to 255, are vastly different.

Click here to see
Windows character map - (Page contains 14K image)
Macintosh character map - (Page contains 14K image)

- - Character Translations

The WinMac Dene Font system places the special characters used in Dene languages in locations between 128 and 248 in. Furthermore, the WinMac system places them in locations ordinarily used for accented European language characters. Most major word processors have translators built in which automatically convert these international character locations between Windows and Macintosh. Independent file translation programs like DataViz's Mac Link (for Mac) and Conversions Plus (for Windows) also make these character conversions when translating files between platforms. This CANNOT happen however, if the conversion utility does not recognize the source file format.

In the WinMac system a lower case nasal "a" is at 226 in the Windows Character Map but it is at 137 in the Macintosh Character map. MS Word ordinarily performs these translations when opening its own documents from the other platform. It seems to do so when opening RTF files as well. However when Word for Macintosh tries to open a WordPerfect for Windows document (or a document created with a later version of Word) it does not have the appropriate translator.

You can sometimes force it to open the file anyhow but the upper ASCII characters (above 127) do not get converted. In the case of the nasal "a" that came from the Windows document, you will see the character in Mac location 226 instead of 137, a character similar to a comma. The rest of the unique Dene characters are similarly displaced on the Mac when the proper conversion cannot be carried out. In some cases you will see strange characters, blank spaces, or empty boxes. The standard English letters however will appear normal because they need no translation, having the same address in both character maps.

For this reason I urge everyone sharing Dene Language documents containing WinMac fonts to save in RTF format before passing the file on to another user. There is no way an earlier version of one company's word processor can be expected to read their own or their competitor's more recent document formats. Example: MS Word 6 (1994) CANNOT read a document produced on Word Perfect 8 (1997) nor can Word5.1 for Mac read a Word 6 for Windows document. (The newer one should be able to read the older one - but that doesn't always work perfectly either.) But, if the WP8 author saves his document as RTF instead of WPD, THEN the Word 6 user CAN read it, and so can most other major word processors on either platform.

- - RTF Limitations

There are still some areas of incompatibility even when using RTF. For instance, MS Word97 for Win95 does not properly convert an RTF file created by WordPerfect 3.5 for Macintosh. WordPerfect 6.0 for Windows cannot read anything from an RTF file created on MS Word97.

In a pinch you can always email a file to me and I can convert it to the desired destination format for you. I have access to resources to translate almost any word processor document format.

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