As the Web continues to evolve as a powerful way to deliver content, scientists and mathematicians find it quite challenging to effectively present their research online. Not having a standard comprehensive font even for print, academics have learned to beg and borrow from a variety of fonts to get the appropriate Greek and mathematical symbols they need when writing dissertations.
While academic publishers have done much to make academic online content readable, producing articles that render correctly on every reader's Web browser remains a daunting task. The results? Far too often, jumbled text or missing fonts that create the dreaded "missing symbol" square box. As much of today's scholarly writing is largely symbolic, it's clear an effective solution is required.
Coming together in June 2002, six academic publishers formed the Scientific and Technical Information Exchange (STIX) font creation project and launched a Web site: www.stixfonts.org. The publishers include the American Chemical Society (ACS), the American Institute of Physics (AIP), the American Mathematical Society (AMS), the American Physical Society (APS), Elsevier Science, and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE). STIX has awarded a font development contract to a font developer company that is designing and developing more than 7,700 glyph images; glyphs are specific shapes associated with particular shapes and are selected by a rendering engine during the composition and layout process. The date for completion is targeted for Fall 2003.
"The STIX publishers' goal is to develop a comprehensive set of fonts for mathematics and other special characters used in scientific, technical, and medical publishing," says STIX project manager and director of Business Development at the American Institute of Physics Tim Ingoldsby. "The STIX fonts will serve the scientific and engineering community from manuscript creation all the way through to final publication, both in electronic and print formats. In addition, it will unify support for all special symbols and alphabets into a single, comprehensive font set."
Ingoldsby also says the new fonts will be compatible with Unicode, which is the universal character-encoding system for written characters and text as well as the native language of XML. "Web browsers support Unicode character representation, and therefore should eventually be able to directly reference every STIX font glyph," Ingoldsby says.
The STIX fonts will be made available to anyone under a royalty-free license to encourage the development of applications that make use of them. "The STIX font project's goal is to make the applicability of the STIX fonts as wide as possible," Ingoldsby says. "At a minimum, the STIX fonts will work with computers running current versions of Windows, Macintosh, and most Unix (including Linux) operating systems." The STIX fonts will also work with most Tex applications, and the project is working with software developers to ensure that many applications will be able to support the fonts.
The STIX Mission will be completed upon the creation of fully hinted PostScript Type 1 and TrueType font sets, and when glyphs have been incorporated into Unicode representation and browsers have the capabilities to fully use the STIX fonts to accurately represent scholarly scientific documents.