Single and Double-Byte Fonts in PowerPoint

Created: Wednesday, December 27, 2017, posted by Geetesh Bajaj at 9:30 am

A reader once described the PowerPoint double-byte font scare as a poisonous king cobra snake! Sooner or later, you will see PowerPoint look at you like a cobra that’s showing its fangs, and is ready to bite. You want to make sure you are not bitten, and wouldn’t it be nice if the cobra quietly goes back to its hole and rests there in peace and leaves you alone?

Yes, there’s some play happening here between the words byte and bite!

Snake 1904343
Image: Pixabay

So what exactly is the single and double-byte fonts problem? To understand this problem, let us begin by defining these two terms.

  1. Single-byte fonts are the ones we use all the time and include Arial, Times New Roman, Calibri, and most other fonts available on your system. They possess 256 characters, and as you may have guessed it, each alphabet, number, or other character counts as one of these 256 characters. Most of these fonts not only encompass all English characters but also those of other Latin scripts and more.
  2. Double-byte fonts are used when the 256 character limit is not enough. Why would 256 characters not be enough? That’s because when you add support for Far Asian languages such as Japanese, Korean, and Chinese, the 256 character limit is a roadblock. Fortunately, double-byte fonts can hold 256×256 characters and are thus capable of possessing 65,536 characters. The most well-known double-byte font is Arial Unicode.

OK, now that you know how these two font types differ, what is the big issue?

First, if you use a double-byte font for a presentation that uses only English characters, you are using a font that is huge in size. Double-byte fonts can be ten to hundred times larger in size than single-byte fonts, and your presentation may not run as smoothly as it would with single-byte fonts.

The larger problem comes up when you try to use a single-byte font instead of a double-byte font. Yes, you can find every text box, placeholder, or shape that uses a double-byte font and replace it with a single-byte font manually. But you cannot do so for an entire presentation at one go, using PowerPoint’s Replace Fonts option. And this is when we need to use cobra analogy!

In future posts, we will look at ways to tackle this problem. We will also update this post and link to newer posts as they are released.

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