UNSCII

Unscii is a set of bitmapped Unicode fonts based on classic system fonts. Unscii attempts to support character cell art well while also being suitable for terminal and programming use.

The two main variants are unscii-8 (8x8) and unscii-16 (8x16). There are also several alternative styles for unscii-8, as well as a 8x16 "full" variant that incorporates missing Unicode glyphs from Fixedsys Excelsior and GNU Unifont. "unscii-16-full" falls under GPL because of how Unifont is licensed; the other variants are in the Public Domain.

Unscii was created by Viznut.


⬝◾■█ EXAMPLES █■◾⬝

There's very little Unscii-specific art or even decent Unicode art in general. Therefore, we'll show some legacy format art.

Amiga ansi: Divine Stylers by Hellbeard, as rendered with unscii-16. Source

PC ansi: Ansi Love by Rad Man, as rendered with unscii-16. Source

Commodore 64 petscii pictures as rendered with unscii-8, using the 256-color xterm palette: I Has Floppy by Redcrab; The First Ball by Dr.TerrorZ; Gary by Mermaid.

The source code package includes a generic bitmap-to-unscii converter. Here's an example of a conversion to unscii-8 using the 256-color xterm palette, without dithering:


←⬝─━▶ DOWNLOADS ◀━─⬝→

HEX and PCF are the only actual bitmapped formats here. HEX is the same simple hexdump format as used by the Unifont project.

TTF, OTF and WOFF are vectorized because the bitmapped TTF fonts generated by FontForge didn't seem to work anywhere. Fixes to this problem are appreciated.

[Some Unscii16 glyphs]

unscii-16: hex pcf ttf otf woff
unscii-16-full: hex pcf ttf otf woff
8x16. The latter is recommended for serious terminal use where a large Unicode coverage is needed. (Warning: unscii16-full files range from 2 to 12 megabytes in size)

[Some Unscii8 glyphs]

unscii-8: hex pcf ttf otf woff

[Ascii range in Unscii8-tall

unscii-8-tall: hex pcf ttf otf woff
Double-height version of unscii8.

[Ascii range in Unscii8-tall

unscii-8-thin: hex pcf ttf otf woff
Based on system fonts with 1-pixel-wide lines.

[Ascii range in Unscii8-alt

unscii-8-alt: hex pcf ttf otf woff
Based on the more peculiar glyph forms of the reference fonts.

[Ascii range in Unscii8-alt

unscii-8-mcr: hex pcf ttf otf woff
Based on retrofuturistic MCR-like 8x8 fonts used in various games, demos, etc.

[Ascii range in Unscii8-alt

unscii-8-fantasy: hex pcf ttf otf woff
Based on fonts used in fantasy games.

 

Source code for current Unscii version (1.1)


⬝•●◖◗⬤ BACKSTORY ⬤◖◗●•⬝

Years ago, I noticed that Unicode had a bunch of pseudographic characters that could be used to enrichen Ansi art. However, no one seemed to use them. Even MUDs that used the 256-color Xterm palette and had no issues with Unicode still preferred to stick to the blocks available in the MS-DOS codepage 437.

After looking into existing Unicode fonts, the reason became obvious: the implementation of non-CP437 graphics characters was shaky at best. Unicode Consortium doesn't even care how pseudographics are implemented. It was a kind of chicken-and-egg problem: No commonly accepted Unicode graphics font, no Unicode art scene; no art scene, no font support. The idea of an art-compatible Unicode font was born.

For Unscii, I studied a bunch of classic system fonts and how their characters had been used in Ascii and "extended-Ascii" art.

8x8 system fonts can be divided in two major categories according to their line thickness: 1-pixel and 2-pixel. 2-pixel-wide lines are used in more prominent classic systems, so I chose it. Also, 2-pixel 8x8 system fonts are surprisingly similar which made it easier to choose neutral shapes.

The basic look of the 8x8 variant of Unscii is based on the following systems:

The 8x16 variant of Unscii has been mostly derived from the 8x8 variant by using a set of transformation principles. When in doubt, the following fonts have been looked at for additional reference:

In general, neutral shapes are preferred, unless art, legibility or readability require otherwise: The characters /\XY are connective because of their connetive use in ascii art, and the serifs in iIl are longer than in most classic systems.

Whenever a 8x16 shape has not been defined, Unscii falls back to height-doubled 8x8.

I also studied game fonts and thin-line system fonts. This resulted in the variants unscii-8-thin, unscii-8-mcr and unscii-8-fantasy.


 NON-UNICODE CHARACTERS 

When mapping pseudographic characters into Unicode, it became clear that even many prominent legacy systems have characters that have not been included in Unicode. The following character sets were succesfully scavenged for graphics-relevant non-Unicode characters:

The diagonal blocks ◤◥◢◣ are very common in BIG5 art (e.g. Taiwanese BBS graphics). However, these characters are "full-width" in the Eastern system but "half-width" in Western terminals. For succesful conversion of BIG5 art, we therefore need to represent them with two characters. Videotex smooth mosaics are useful here. 

The possibility to X- or Y-double a graphics character is also useful in changing the aspect ratio (e.g. displaying a "40x25" picture in a "80x25" terminal). Some extra characters for this purpose are therefore included as well. 

The Braille characters that are sometimes used as pseudopixels are implemented as full pseudopixels in Unscii.

The non-Unicode characters have been mapped into the Private User Area block. It is organized as follows in Unscii:

The mapping below U+E800 remains stable in future Unscii versions. However, note that Fixedsys Excelsior also uses PUA, so the "unscii-16-full" variant has some extra characters imported from there.