BabelStone Blog

Monday, 13 June 2011

What's new in Unicode 6.1 ?

Previously discussed :

[2012-02-01 Update: Unicode 6.1.0 was released on 31 January 2012.]

Unicode 6.1 is scheduled for release in Spring 2012, and will be synchronized to the 3rd edition of ISO/IEC 10646 (see Unicode Liaison Report to WG2). Confusingly, the 3rd edition is actually the 5th iteration of the ISO/IEC 10646 standard, but it is the 3rd edition of the combined one-part standard first published in 2003 that superceded the original two-part standard (Part 1: Architecture and Basic Multilingual Plane; Part 2: Supplementary Planes) first published in 1993 (see Unicode and ISO/IEC 10646 for more details on the relationship between the Unicode and ISO/IEC 10646 standards). The first combined edition published in 2003 (corresponding to Unicode 4.0) underwent eight amendments in as many years, adding 41 new scripts, 84 new blocks, and 13,002 new characters (see How many Unicode characters are there ?), before a second edition (corresponding to Unicode 6.0) was published earlier this year. Due to technical issues with the CJK-B fonts, the CJK-B code chart was printed in single-column format rather than the multi-column format used for the other CJK blocks, and in order to rectify this deficiency a third edition will be published straight away (instead of first publishing a series of amendments to the second edition).

The 3rd edition of ISO/IEC 10646 has already completed two rounds of balloting, and will undergo one final (FDIS) ballot later this year, before being published sometime next year. The character repertoire, code points and character names are now stable, and highly unlikely to change before publication. Unicode 6.1 will correspond to the repertoire of this 3rd edition of ISO/IEC 10646.

The 3rd edition of ISO/IEC 10646 has 733 new characters compared with the 2nd edition, but as one these characters was fast-tracked into Unicode 6.0 (U+20B9 ₹ Indian Rupee Sign), Unicode 6.1 will include a total of 732 new characters, including seven new scripts, as detailed below. This will mean that Unicode 6.1 comprises a total of 110,116 graphic and format characters.

The final 3rd edition code charts are not yet ready, but an earlier version of the code charts showing the new additions (with some characters that have since been removed) is available.

New Scripts

Unicode 6.1 includes the following seven scripts, which are all encoded in the Supplementary Multilingual Plane (SMP). The Basic Multilingual Plane (BMP) is now almost full, and it is unlikely that any new scripts will be encoded in the BMP.

Funerary stele with Meroitic Hieroglyphic inscription [CC-BY-SA-3.0 by Piero d'Houin dit Triboulet]

New Blocks

Unicode 6.1 also includes four new blocks for extensions to existing scripts and for symbols:

Additions to Existing Blocks

Other Changes

Formal aliases will be defined for the following two Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) symbols used on cheques by banks, that were inadvertently given each other's name when encoded twenty years ago:

Once assigned character names may not be changed, so formal aliases are a mechanism for ameliorating problems caused by woefully misnamed characters, and processes are encouraged to use formal aliases in place of the official character names in user interfaces. Only a handful of characters have been assigned formal aliases, and the above are the first new formal aliases to be defined since formal aliases were introduced in Unicode 5.0 (July 2006). Formal aliases are only assigned in rare cases where there is a typographical error in the name (e.g. "bracket" misspelled as "brakcet") or where the name is confusingly wrong ("Yi Syllable Wu" is a syllable iteration mark, not the syllable wu), and are not assigned in cases where a character name is merely suboptimal or where there is academic dispute about about the transliteration or naming conventions used. See Unicode Character Names Part 3 for more details about formal aliases.

Unicode 6.1 Fonts

The following are some free or shareware fonts that already (prematurely) include some of the characters that will be added in Unicode 6.1:

BabelMap for Unicode 6.1

A test version of BabelMap Online supporting Unicode 6.1 is now available:

BabelMap Online for Unicode 6.1 Beta



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