Google Noto Fonts: Here's What No Tofu Means


Google's services spans over a number of areas including online search, maps, mobile services, connectivity and more. Now the company has also announced its efforts in the space of fonts.

Google has partnered with font specialist Monotype, and the collaboration has announced the Noto Project, which has developed Noto fonts. Many people would have come across a rectangular character in place of the missing glyph, which is called .notdef, or "not defined." This rectangular character is also referred to as tofu. The Noto Project aims to eliminate tofu.

"Google has been developing a font family called Noto, which aims to support all languages with a harmonious look and feel. Noto is Google's answer to tofu. The name noto is to convey the idea that Google's goal is to see 'no more tofu.' Noto has multiple styles and weights, and is freely available to all," says Google.

Noto fonts will solve a big usability issue, which many people are unaware of. People who use languages such as Russian, English, Mandarin Chinese and Hindi rarely see tofu because these languages are supported by Unicode — the consortium responsible for approving emoji and maintaining internationalization standards for software.

However, many languages are not approved by Unicode and a tofu appears while writing in these languages.

Noto includes a wide variety of language scripts from different parts of the world. To be specific, Noto includes 100 writing systems with 100,000 characters, which includes 800 languages. The project is said to be about five years old and is considered as the biggest typography projects in recent times. Google says that the font sets will be open source and free for download.

"Our goal for Noto has been to create fonts for our devices, but we're also very interested in keeping information alive," says Bob Jung, the director of internationalization for Google. "When it comes to some of these lesser-used languages, or even the purely academic or dead languages, we think it's really important to preserve them."

Xiangye Xiao, Noto product manager at Google, says that the company widely prioritizes more commonly used languages; however, Google still wants to support other languages that are not widely used.

Although Monotype and Google have released Noto fonts, the two companies say that the project is still a work in progress and more scripts will be added in the near term.

Check out a short video on Noto font effort from Monotype and Google.

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