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Not sure when this feature popped up.. but in the "Special Characters" menu, ^SPACE (aka my favorite place), there are a whole slew of "Mathematical Letters". I can't even find them under the symbols list.. aka โ€ข Arrows, โ€ข Punctuation... but they're in there.. and they are CHIC!

๐˜—๐˜ˆ๐˜™๐˜› ๐˜–๐˜ ๐—”๐–ณ๐–ฎ๐—ญ.๐–ฅ๐–ฑ๐– ๐–ฌ๐–ค๐–ถ๐–ฎ๐–ฑ๐–ช ยฉ ๐Ÿฎ๐Ÿฌ๐Ÿญ๐Ÿฏ ๐– ๐–ซ๐–ค๐–ท ๐–ฆ๐–ฑ๐– ๐–ธ ๐—€๐—‚๐—๐—๐—Ž๐–ป.๐–ผ๐—ˆ๐—†/๐—บ๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—น๐—ฒ๐˜…๐—ด๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐˜†

here is a snapshot of what the above text looks like on my computer... does it look the same to everyone else?

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here they are in context...

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How can I use these fonts... or just type these characters directly, without having to hunt and peck with the mouse in the "Special" characters palette?

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2 Answers

If you go to the gear wheel at the top left of the Character Viewer and select customize and then check the box for Unicode and then select Unicode and go to 0001D400 Math Alphanumeric Symbols you should have them. There is no practical way to type them with the keyboard, you have to double-click or drag/drop from the Character Viewer.

See also

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mathematical_Alphanumeric_Symbols

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They are mathematical alphanumeric characters, which look like glyph variants of basic Latin letters but have been encoded as separate characters, due to their special use in mathematical notations. Italic, bold face, and even use of a sans-serif form vs. serif form may carry an essential difference of meaning in mathematics. For example, a bold italic โ€œaโ€ may denote a vector, in a context when a normal-weight italic โ€œaโ€ denotes a scalar variable. Normally, such distinctions are made with styling or with markup, but the mathematical alphanumeric characters let you make the distinction in plain text, when desired or needed.

The shapes of these character vary by font, even though the basic idea allows less glyph variation than for normal letters. A mathematical italic letter can still take different shapes. So no, they do not look the same to everyone else. See e.g. some samples of mathematical italic a in different fonts.

Moreover, not everyone sees them at all. Few fonts contain them, and it is quite possible that someone is using a computer where no font has them.

So itโ€™s a matter of characters, not fonts. And these characters โ€œare intended for use only in mathematical or technical notation, and not in nontechnical textโ€ (Unicode Standard, chapter 15, page 481).

They are not used much, but people might be using them without knowing what happens. If you use a sufficiently new version of Microsoft Word and enter a formula, using the formula mode, and type an โ€œaโ€, Word will actually convert the character to mathematical italic a.

Normally, you cannot type these characters directly. You would need to use a character picker like the one mentioned, or some input method based on the Unicode number of a character. But it is possible to create a keyboard driver that lets you type these characters using normal keyboard keys and some special keys โ€“ or to programmatically convert normal characters to these characters, as Word does.

There is nothing Apple-specific about this. Input methods vary by system and software, of course, like for other characters.

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Great answer. Any idea what versions of Mac OS X / Windows support them? –  alex gray Oct 4 '13 at 11:14
    
This is largely a matter of support in fonts. As far as I know, fonts supporting these characters partly come with application software, partly can be downloaded and installed (e.g., the free fonts Quivira and Symbola). In actual processing of characters, well, it depends on whether application software can handle Unicode characters beyond 0xFFFF; this is often problematic and may require special methods in programming. –  Jukka K. Korpela Oct 4 '13 at 12:23
    
For the Mac, you should find all these things starting with version 10.7, which includes a large set of STIX fonts: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/STIX_Fonts_project –  TomG Oct 4 '13 at 13:31
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