Using non-standard character sets

About this guide

This document is one of a series of HOW-TO guides for the Online Research Database Service (ORDS). It provides guidance on working with non-standard characters sets in ORDS – including letters with diacritics (accents) and non-Roman alphabets.

Pre-requisites

This HOW-TO assumes that you have already registered to use ORDS, and have either created a project on the system or have been given access to a project by another ORDS user. For instructions on how to do this, see the earlier guide in this series: Registering and creating a new project.

General tips about the ORDS registration interface

Within the ORDS registration interface there are some general things that you should note:

Back button: Your browser’s back button will not allow you to navigate around the registration interface. This is in contrast to the data interface where your browser’s back button will work.

Help text: wherever you see a field or piece of text underlined with a dotted line like this:

you can hover you mouse over the term and some help text will pop up.

System time out: if the system is inactive for more than a few minutes, it will time out, and you will need to log in again. To do this, return to the main ORDS home page ( http://daas-7.ords.ox.ac.uk/ ).

Working with non-standard characters in ORDS – general notes

Definition

Throughout this HOW-TO, the phrase ‘non-standard characters’ is used as a blanket term to refer to those characters which do not usually appear on a standard English keyboard. This includes characters with accents and other diacritics, and non-Roman alphabets, such as Greek or Cyrillic.

Non-standard characters in the ORDS registration interface

As a general rule, it is best to avoid non-standard characters in the project and database metadata (name, description, and so on) that is entered in the ORDS admin interface when a new project or database is created, as in many cases these will not display correctly.

Non-standard characters in the ORDS data interface

The ORDS data interface offers full support for Unicode.

However, please note that ORDS does not currently offer support for right-to-left text (it is possible to import or enter text in right-to-left alphabets such as Arabic or Hebrew, but the system will not recognize the text direction, and will treat text in these alphabets as if it were left-to-right text).

The screenshot below shows sample text in a selection of non-Roman alphabets in the ORDS data interface.

12 Other alphabets in ORDS.gif

Installing fonts

Some non-standard character sets make use of specialized fonts. To view these in ORDS, you will need to have a copy of the font installed on your computer. In some cases, you may also need to configure your browser to display it.

If you are already using the font in other applications (e.g. Microsoft Word or Access), this is a good indication that it is already installed. If you do not have a particular font installed, you will need to download or purchase a copy of the font, and then install it in your computer’s fonts folder.

The precise process for doing this will vary depending on your operating system: you should be able to find detailed instructions by searching for Installing fonts in your system’s help files.

  • In Windows XP, the fonts folder can be found in the Control Panel (accessible via the Start button). Open the folder, click File in the menu bar, then select Install New Font... Navigate to the folder than contains the font you wish to install, select the font by clicking it, and then click OK.
  • In Windows 7, you can simply right-click on the font file, and select Install from the pop-up menu that will appear.
  • In Mac OSX, your computer’s fonts are stored in the Fonts folder, which is in the Library folder at the top level of your Mac’s internal disk. These fonts are available to all the computer’s users. The easiest way to install and manage fonts is by using Font Book, found in the Applications folder. For more information about using Font Book, open Font Book and choose Help > Font Book Help. Note: Besides the Fonts folder described above, you also have a personal Fonts folder in the Library folder in your home folder. You can make fonts available only to you by placing them in your personal Fonts folder. If your computer has multiple user accounts, each account has its own Fonts folder.

Configuring your browser

If your browser does not display a font correctly after installation, you may need to make some changes to the settings. This is especially likely to be the case if you are using fonts which require complex text rendering (this includes scripts such as Arabic where characters may change shape depending on context).

The precise procedure will vary depending on the font, your operating system, and the browser being used: hence it is not practical to give detailed instructions for every eventuality here. The Wikipedia help page Multilingual Support (Indic) provides configuration advice for a range of operating systems and browsers for the Indic family of scripts. More generally, a Google search for a string such as ‘Configuring [browser name] to display [font]’ may produce helpful results.

If you have difficulty configuring your browser, please email the ORDS helpdesk on xxxx@xxx.oucs.ox.ac.uk for assistance.

Importing non-standard characters into ORDS

Relational databases

If you have an existing Access database which includes non-standard characters as part of the content of the records, you can upload this to ORDS in the usual way. Please see the HOW-TO Importing an existing database for details of how to do this.

However, while non-standard characters in database records can be uploaded to ORDS without problems, non-standard characters should be avoided in file names, table names, and field names. In some cases, ORDS will strip out the characters that may cause problems (meaning that the names will have missing letters); in others – especially where a name is entirely in a non-Roman alphabet – these characters may stop ORDS from uploading the file correctly, or from generating the table which contains them.

Note: at present, ORDS only supports the upload of Access databases. If the data you wish to import into ORDS is in another format, you will therefore need to convert it into an Access database for uploading. Please see the HOW-TO Preparing your data for ORDS for advice on doing this.

Adding non-standard characters to an ORDS database

Note: This and subsequent sections assume you have already have at least one database on the ORDS system. If this is not the case, please see the earlier HOW-TOs Importing an existing database and Creating a new database from scratch for advice.

The HOW-TO Editing, filtering and searching data provides general instructions for editing and adding to the contents of your ORDS database.

There are several different ways to add non-standard characters to an ORDS database. Some of these are more practical for some purposes than others, and some only allow certain types of character to be inserted, or only work in certain operating systems.

Copying and pasting from another program

If the characters or text you wish to enter into ORDS already appears in another document (e.g. in a Word file, or on a website), you can simply copy and paste into the ORDS data interface.

This approach is straightforward, but is clearly limited to text that is readily available elsewhere. In most cases, therefore, it is likely to be preferable to use one of the methods described below. The instructions below relating to character maps and ALT/Option keys are specific to your operating system. You will need to follow either the Windows or Mac instructions, as appropriate.

Windows users

Inserting characters from the Character Map (Windows only)

The Windows Character Map provides a complete list of the characters that are available. The precise method for accessing it will vary depending on the version of Windows (if you have difficulty locating it, searching for Character map in your system’s help files should provide instructions).

  • In Windows XP, the map can be accessed by clicking the Start button, then hovering the mouse pointer over Accessories and then System Tools.
  • In Windows 7, the easiest way to access the map is to click the Start button (that is, the Windows logo in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen) and start typing Character map in the Search programs and files box. Windows will search your system and provide a link to the map.

Once in the Character Map, scroll through the characters displayed until you find the one you want (note that you can use the drop-down list at the top of the window to see the characters available in other fonts). Click the character to highlight it, and then click Select. If you wish to insert additional characters at the same time, select these in the same way. Now click Copy.

The screenshot below shows the Windows XP Character Map with a lower case e with an acute accent selected.

12 Character map.gif

You can now paste the copied characters into your ORDS database. Return to the ORDS data interface window, click the point at which you wish to insert the characters, and then press Ctrl + V.

This method may be helpful if you occasionally need to insert small numbers of non-standard characters, but quickly becomes tedious for more regular use. For larger quantities of text, consider using an alternative keyboard layout, as described in section Switching to an alternative keyboard layout below.

Using ALT plus an ASCII code (chiefly for accented characters; Windows only)

A range of characters (mostly Roman letters with accents, but also including some commonly used symbols and other special characters) have a four digit ASCII code assigned to them. Windows allows you to use this code, combined with the Alt key, to insert these characters.

To find the code, look at the Windows Character Map (see the section above for details of how to find this). Click the letter or symbol to highlight it. If the character has a four digit code assigned to it, this will appear in the bottom right-hand of the window, preceded by Keystroke: (Note that lower case and capital letters are treated as separate characters for this purpose, and so have different codes.)

To insert the character, return to the ORDS data interface and click the point at which you wish to insert it. Holding down the Alt key, use your keyboard’s numeric keypad to enter the four digit number (you will need to ensure Num Lock is turned on), then release the Alt key.

This method is most useful if you have small number of accented characters that you use regularly: you can make a reference list of (or even memorize) the appropriate codes, removing the need to open the Character Map every time you need to insert one. However, it is not ideal for larger quantities of text, and ASCII codes are not available for most characters in non-Roman alphabets.

Switching to an alternative keyboard layout

This is the best method if you intend to enter a lot of text with accents or in a non-Roman alphabet.

In Windows, it is possible to add additional keyboard layouts, and then switch between these using the on-screen Language Bar or keyboard shortcuts. For example, if you wish to enter text in the Greek alphabet, you can add the Greek keyboard layout, and then switch between the English and Greek keyboard layouts as required.

The precise method for adding and switching between keyboards will vary depending on the version of Windows (if you run into difficulties, searching for Keyboard layouts in your system’s help files should provide instructions).

  • In Windows XP, click the Start button, then click Control Panel.
  • Double-click the Regional and Language Options icon, and then click the Languages tab. Under Text services and input languages, click Details.
  • In the dialog box that appears, under Installed services click Add.

12 Text services and input languages.gif

  • In the dialog box that now appears, use the Input language pull-down list to select the keyboard layout you want, then click OK.
  • If you wish, you can now click the Key Settings… button (under Preferences) to assign keyboard shortcuts for the different keyboard layouts.
  • Once multiple keyboard layouts have been added, the Language Bar should appear (though this may take a few moments) – usually either in the top right-hand corner of the screen, or at the right-hand end of the taskbar.
  • If the Language Bar does not appear, click Language Bar… – also under Preferences in the Text Service and Input Languages dialog box – and ensure that Show the Language bar on the desktop is selected.
  • The Language Bar will show which keyboard layout is currently selected (for example, EN indicates UK English). Clicking the Language Bar will allow you to select a different layout.
  • The image below shows the Windows XP Language Bar plus the pull-down menu that appears when the bar is clicked – in this case, offering a choice of three keyboard layouts.

12 Language bar.gif

  • If you wish to add or remove keyboard layouts later on, you can click the small down arrow at the right-hand end of the bar followed by Settings… to reopen the Text Services and Input Languages dialog.
  • Once you have set your preferences, click OK to close the Text Services and Input Languages dialog.
  • In Windows 7, click the Start button (that is, the Windows logo in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen), and start typing Keyboard in the Search programs and files box. Windows will search your system and provide a list of relevant links: when the Change keyboard or other input methods option appears, click this.
  • In the dialog box that appears, click Change keyboards…
  • In the Text Services and Input Languages dialog box, under Installed services click Add…
  • Click the checkbox(es) next to the keyboard layout(s) of your choice (to see the checkboxes, you may need to expand the options available for each language by clicking on the Plus sign pic.gif symbol next to it). You can use the Preview… button to see which keys are assigned to which character in each layout. After selecting your layouts, click OK.
  • If you wish, you can now click the Advanced Key Settings tab in the Text Services and Input Languages dialog to assign keyboard shortcuts for the different keyboard layouts.
  • You can also click the Language Bar tab to select display options for the Language Bar.
  • The Language Bar will show which keyboard layout is currently selected (for example, EN indicates UK English). Clicking the Language Bar will allow you to select a different layout.
  • If you wish to add or remove keyboard layouts later on, you can also click the small down arrow at the right-hand end of the bar followed by Settings… to reopen the Text Services and Input Languages dialog.
  • After setting your preferences, click OK to close the Text Services and Input Languages dialog.

Mac users

Inserting characters from the Character Viewer (Mac only)

You can use the Character Viewer to enter special characters and symbols, such as mathematical symbols, letters with accent marks, or arrows and other “dingbats,” into your documents.

You can also use the Character Viewer to enter Japanese, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, and Korean characters, as well as characters from other languages.

To show the Character Viewer:

  • Choose Apple menu -> System Preferences, click Language & Text, and then click Input Sources.
  • Select the Keyboard & Character Viewer checkbox.
  • Select the Show Input menu in menu bar checkbox

Now, you should see a new flag-like icon, called the Input Menu icon, appearing towards the right hand side of your menu bar:

This Input Menu icon will give you access to both the character viewer and the keyboard viewer.

To use the Character Viewer:

Open the Character Viewer ready for use by clicking the Input Menu icon and selecting Show Character Viewer. This will leave the Character Viewer open on your desktop.

Now, whenever you wish to type a special character you can use the Character Viewer to locate the character you require, click the character to highlight it and then click the Insert button. That character will now be inserted wherever your cursor is. Be sure to leave your cursor where you want the character to appear before you choose it from the Character Viewer!

The figure below shows the Character Viewer open with a lower case e with an acute accent selected:

This method may be helpful if you occasionally need to insert small numbers of non-standard characters, but quickly becomes tedious for more regular use. For larger quantities of text, consider using an alternative keyboard layout, as described in the section Switching to an alternative keyboard layout below.

Switching to a new keyboard layout

This is the best method if you wish to enter a lot of text with accents or in a non-Roman alphabet.

The first step is to add all the keyboard layouts that you may want to use and then you can switch between them whenever you require.

So, to add a new keyboard layout for the Greek alphabet:

  • Choose Apple menu -> System Preferences, click Language & Text, and then click Input Sources.
  • Select the checkbox next to the keyboard layout that you wish to add, ie Greek:

Now, you should see that the Input Menu icon towards the right hand side of your menu bar has changed to indicate that more than one keyboard is available, and that the British keyboard is currently selected:

To switch to the Greek keyboard, click the Input Menu icon and select Greek from the drop down menu:

Now you will see that the Input Menu icon changes to show that the Greek keyboard is in use:

Your physical keyboard is now operating as though it were a Greek keyboard. To see a map of where each character appears on the physical keyboard you can open a Keyboard Viewer by using the Input Menu to select Show Keyboard Viewer:

This will display a keyboard map for a Greek keyboard layout as a window that you can position wherever is convenient on your desktop:

You can simply use the Input Menu to switch between the different keyboard layouts as you need them.

Searching for non-standard characters in ORDS

Note: The HOW-TO Editing, filtering and searching data provides general instructions for searching the contents of your ORDS database.

Relational databases

Unfortunately, ORDS does not currently support searching for non-standard characters in relational databases.

If you are searching for a word that contains one or more accented characters, it is possible to do this by replacing the accented characters with the % (percentage sign) wildcard character. (The way that non-standard characters are encoded by ORDS means that the single character wildcard _ (underscore) will not usually work for this purpose.)

For example, if you wish to find all instances of the word ‘Hélène’ in the Name field of a table, you can type H%l%ne into the appropriate search filter box.

We hope to be able to include improved support for non-standard character searching in future versions of ORDS.

What next?

You may also be interested in the whole list of HOW-TOs:
  1. Registering and creating a new project
  2. Preparing your data for ORDS
  3. Importing an existing database
  4. Creating a new database from scratch
  5. Creating and managing copies of your ORDS database
  6. Editing, filtering, and searching data using the ORDS
  7. Editing the structure of a database
  8. Sharing data with colleagues
  9. Creating customized data views
  10. Publishing datasets online
  11. Exporting data from the ORDS
  12. Using non-standard character sets
You can also find out more about the ORDS service by visiting the ORDS home page http://xxxxx.xxx.oucs.ox.ac.uk . If you have specific queries, you can contact the ORDS help desk by emailing xxxxxxxxxxxx@xxxxx.oucs.ox.ac.uk .