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In many proportional fonts, numerals (i.e. 0123456789) have identical width to facilitate vertical alignment. My question is simple: are there any characters that conventionally share the exact same width as these ten? For example, I've found one font where the '=' character is the same width as the numerals:

0000000000

1111111111

2222222222

3333333333

4444444444

5555555555

6666666666

7777777777

8888888888

9999999999

========== <- sometimes same as numerals

mmmmmmmmmm <- nearly always wider

llllllllll <- nearly always narrower

6

The answer to the question "Are there any characters that conventionally share the exact same width as these ten?" is a qualified "Yes."

Tabular numerals (whether Lining or Oldstyle) are the default in most fonts. They are designed for tables, as in balance sheets, annual reports and similar financial applications. In any given table, the only things that MUST have the same width are the numerals, so only these are designed that way. In most modern typefaces, #, $ and other currency symbols are given the same width as tabular numerals, but nothing else. Even the # and the British pound symbol (which map to the same ASCII number in the old 7-bit code) can be much wider in older typefaces like Baskerville, so this isn't a universal standard.

If you have an OpenType font, look in the Glyphs panel in AI or ID or a similar application for the Lining Figures section. Most of the glyphs (not all) in that section will have the same set width as the numerals. Beyond that, if a given glyph in a particular font happens to have the same set width as a tabular numeral, it is a coincidence. (The equals sign you found is an example.)

  • Alan, I think you're wrong about the equals sign. I'd group it along with #, $ etc as often being the same width as a numeral. – e100 Jul 2 '12 at 14:03
  • It would make sense to me, too, but apparently not to type designers. :) – Alan Gilbertson Jul 2 '12 at 15:15
  • (Trebuchet and Cooper Back are two examples to hand, where numerals, £, $, #, = are all the same width) – e100 Jul 2 '12 at 16:47
  • The # and (especially) most currency symbols are matched with lining figures in almost all fonts, but the = is much less consistent. I guess it's a matter of where you happen to draw the hazy line between "most" and "some." :) The standard "Accounting" cell format in spreadsheets gets around any possible problem by hanging the currency symbol on the left, and aligning the (lining!) figures on the decimal point. – Alan Gilbertson Jul 6 '12 at 16:48
0

In most fonts, numerals are tabular by default (having equal widths), though some fonts allow you to use proportional figures as well (with widths individually determined). Microsoft's character design standards specify that the following characters should have the same advance width as tabular figures:

$ dollar U+0024
¢ cent U+00A2
£ pound sterling U+00A3
¤ currency sign U+00A4
¥ yen U+00A5
ƒ Dutch franc/guilder U+0192
₣ franc U+20A3
₤ lira U+20A4
₧ peseta U+20A7 (if the design allows)
₫ Vietnamese dong U+20AB
€ euro U+20AC (when used with tabular numerals)
+ plus U+002B
− minus U+2212
= equals U+003D
≠ not equal U+2260
< less than U+003C
> greater than U+003E
≤ less than or equal U+2264
≥ greater than or equal U+2265
± plus minus U+00B1
× multiply U+00D7
~ tilde U+007E
^ circumflex U+005E
° degree U+00B0
¬ logical not U+00AC
≈ approximately equal U+2248
[ ] figure space U+2007

They also state, in seeming contradiction, that "The monetary signs Cent, Colon, Cruzeiro, French Franc, Naira, Peseta, Rupee, Won, and New Shekel may require a unique advance width." I recommend giving any currency symbol the advance width of a figure space, if this doesn't compromise the symbol's design. This should work for ₺ Turkish lira U+20BA, ₹ new rupee U+20B9 and ₿ bitcoin U+20BF, all added to Unicode after Microsoft's standard was written.

Additional characters I would give the same width are ÷ obelus/divide U+00F7, and nut fractions if your font supports these (for all the common fractions provided by unicode). Standard fractions, or nut fractions with more than two digits in the numerator or denominator, will need more space. You may also want to use this width for box drawing and box elements glyphs if your font has these (U+2500-259F), since their main purpose is to draw tables – though they are rarely used nowadays.

Punctuation (.,'| etc) often has half the width of the tabular figures, along with the punctuation space U+2008. This allows perfect alignment to be achieved in the presence of dots and commas. If you do this you should make your tabular figures an even number of units wide.

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