Google Noto Fonts: Google Open Sources Typeface Family That Covers More Than 800 Languages


Google wants people from all over the world to create and share information in their own language, and for that it rolled out Noto, a hefty open source font family.

The collection encompasses more than 800 languages (even dead ones) and as much as 110,000 characters.

The font family's name stands for "No more Tofu." If you don't know yet, "Tofu" is the default white box that replaces a character that's not supported by computer's font library.

Google did not manage the project by itself, as it cooperated closely with type firm Monotype over five years' time. The 800 languages embedded in the Noto package are all crafted according to the Unicode standard.

The full Noto package pulls 473 MB and comprises 110 writing systems and 110,000 characters.

To make sure it keeps playing nice with Unicode, Google will keep Noto up to date as new Unicode characters show up, with a good example being the emoji updates. The fact that the package comes with an Open Font License means that developers are able to tweak the scripts' design and the fonts can be used for no cost whatsoever.

Google developers say that the project debuted from a necessity, as the company needed to clear out tofu from ChromeOS and Android products.

In its blog post announcing the font family, Google explains that Noto is a "stylish yet conservative item of clothing." This is the company's way of saying that the package will ensure readability over many languages, while maintaining unique style for each script.

Another advantage of using Noto is that users can easily and reliably access lesser used languages. Last but not the least, Noto is a tool for written language preservation.

A good example is the inclusion of the Noto Sans Canadian Aboriginal. The writing system is native to a few indigenous languages in Canada, and the number of speakers barely reaches 250,000 people.

On the other side of the scale, more than 100 million people are using Urdu Nastaliq, but the writing system did not have web-support until Noto came along. Commended Pakistani writer Ali Eteraz addressed the issue in 2013, when it advocated for the Urdu Nastaliq receiving support from tech platforms.

Noto Ogham is another rare pearl in the collection, as it brings to the web an alphabet from the fourth century that is readable on monuments and manuscripts only.

"Without the digital capability of Noto, it's much more difficult to preserve that cultural resource," Google says.

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