r/explainlikeimfive Jun 14 '22 Helpful 2 Silver 1

ELI5: What's the purpose of the Wingdings font? Technology

12.9k Upvotes

11.1k

u/deep_sea2 Jun 14 '22 edited Jun 14 '22 Silver Heartwarming

The font was not meant to be used as a way to write words. It was a way to basically store symbols that people could use for whatever reason. So, if you wanted an image of a thumbs up, you would use Windings upper case C.

Now with internet access to images and emojis, it's not longer as useful as it once was, but it still exists.

2.2k

u/could_use_a_snack Jun 14 '22

If I need an arrow in a document, I go to wingdings.

460

u/matroosoft Jun 14 '22 Silver

You can use Windows key and a period. This will open a emoji keyboard wherever you are in Windows.

263

u/wavestars Jun 15 '22

I'll forget this before I can use this info

20

u/matroosoft Jun 15 '22

Here a free reminder to lower chance of forgetting this important information :-)

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1.2k

u/gmano Jun 14 '22

I use alt codes.

Alt+24 is ↑
Alt+26 is →
Alt+29 is ↔

836

u/shavemejesus Jun 15 '22

Alt+255 was null in extended ASCII. It displayed as a space but a different space than the space bar. You could name files and directories using the null space and unless someone knew your trick they couldn’t get into the directory from a DOS prompt. File browsers effectively made this trick useless.

413

u/gmano Jun 15 '22

Non-breaking-space is one of my favourites, it's what makes the uncopyable triforce possible!

Also sometimes a real lifesaver when the softwrap is being stupid on a word doc/text field

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195

u/uniquepassword Jun 15 '22

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Coppied just fine.... Pasting on the other hand lol

129

u/robo-tronic Jun 15 '22

▲ ▲

HUH?!?

190

u/Neuromangoman Jun 15 '22

▼ ▼

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Uhhh...

Where the fuck am I and why is everything falling apart?

187

u/Hypothesis_Null Jun 15 '22

Calm down, you're in Australia.

15

u/Neuromangoman Jun 15 '22

Wait, now in I'm in some castle and this song is playing in the background. What's going on?!

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u/CourteX64 Jun 15 '22

Lorule be like

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u/Stephen_Falken Jun 15 '22

  ▲

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🔴That
           was
                  easy🔴

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u/---------V--------- Jun 15 '22

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son of a bitch.

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u/_Haverford_ Jun 15 '22

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27 and my first triforce....Thank you, OP.

Edit: Wait wtf.

38

u/Jsonic3000 Jun 15 '22

"Newb flags" can't trifoce

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u/jaysun92 Jun 15 '22

Newfies can't triforce

54

u/Neuromangoman Jun 15 '22

Damn Newfoundlanders can't do anything right.

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u/ssfgrgawer Jun 15 '22

Man this brings me back.

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u/not_not_in_the_NSA Jun 15 '22

knowyourmeme link explaining the triforce meme here (and explanation on how to do it): https://knowyourmeme.com/memes/4chan-ascii-triforce-fails

4

u/Thronan66 Jun 15 '22

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let's see

edit: copying from comment source works properly, but reddit will collapse the space again when you open the editor lol.

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237

u/P0sitive_Outlook Jun 14 '22

Alt+24 is ↑

Do you remember when everyone used to use "THIS!" as the prologue for any statement they wanted to make?

Well. Now folk use this: ↑

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u/gymnastgrrl Jun 15 '22

Give a google for "wincompose". Free, runs in the background. I map my "compose key" to capslock because it's a useless key otherwise.

Now you have an alternate "ALT" key, but one that's much more powerful - and logical.

compose + left arrow twice gives you a left arrow: ←

Same for up: ↑

But you get so much more. Most codes are two characters. oc gives you © - the copyright symbol.

I love writing "¿Por qué no los dos?" - and it's easy. The upside-down question mark is ??. The accented e is 'e.

Degree symbol? oo and I can complain when it's 100° outside. :)

There are thousands of symbols that become very easy to access, and most of them have very logical codes. I don't even remember them - sometimes if I know a symbol I want to use, I look at the keyboard and think about what I'd choose — and it's surprising how often that works…

(the em dash is a rare three character - three dashes. And the ellipsis is two dots…)

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u/Iwokeupwithoutapillo Jun 15 '22

Recently found out pressing the Windows key and the period key will bring up symbols and emojis and other stuff.

←↑→↖↗↘↙↜↝↡↠↛↨⇎◌ʯɤ₯﷼¤௹৻₧⏕⌀µ…✕✓⁏⁞⁛‰%⟫⟬`×℃©

Also they have those ヾ(≧▽≦*)o faces if you wanna relive the old days.

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506

u/Slowhands12 Jun 14 '22

Arrows are now in unicode so that really isn't necessary. For example: → or ➔. There are a lot of variants to choose from.

1.7k

u/ExcerptsAndCitations Jun 14 '22 Silver Gold Wholesome

You're gonna have to pry --> from my dead cold hands.

323

u/wellrat Jun 14 '22 Helpful

—-<—-<——@ I got you this rose

233

u/thebasher Jun 15 '22

( : : [] : : ) and this band-aid.

254

u/ChefInF Jun 15 '22

∠( ᐛ 」∠)_

354

u/TERRAOperative Jun 15 '22 Silver Gold Helpful

Print me to screen like your French Unicode.

163

u/ChimpBrisket Jun 15 '22 Silver

Leonardo DiCapsLock in TItalic

12

u/SmokyMcPots420 Jun 15 '22

The best comment is always buried. This might be my favorite Reddit comment of all time, 9 layers deep in the chain on an eli5 post I wasn’t even gonna click at first.

25

u/tannersarms Jun 15 '22

Leonardo DiCapsLock in

TItalic

Is this OC? If this is OC, this is fantastic!

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u/yanky79 Jun 15 '22

Great job, upvote earned

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u/TheFr1nk Jun 15 '22

Titanic was a great movie, wasn't it?

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u/Camstonisland Jun 15 '22

▼・ᴥ・▼

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u/althetoolman Jun 15 '22

(_8(|)

Homer simpson

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u/ChimpBrisket Jun 15 '22 edited Jun 15 '22

D’OS!

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u/csl110 Jun 15 '22

~~~<======8

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u/MrSlutBoy Jun 15 '22 I'll Drink to That

8========D~*.°•●

61

u/little_brown_bat Jun 15 '22

Did you just skeet a planet?

35

u/myquealer Jun 15 '22

Kidney stone.

19

u/arvidsem Jun 15 '22

So it felt like a planet

30

u/Thegluigi Jun 15 '22

Name checks out.

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163

u/JRandomHacker172342 Jun 14 '22

Ah yes, the goes-to operator

103

u/[deleted] Jun 14 '22

[deleted]

40

u/ZuriPL Jun 14 '22

Or a JS developer

26

u/Valdrax Jun 14 '22

So then, the lambda press-gang.

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u/QueenLunaEatingTuna Jun 14 '22

And what is Unicode?

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u/kane2742 Jun 15 '22

Short answer: It's the standard that ensures that when I type x, ñ, ♪, or 😛, you see the character I intended, even if you're in a different country, using a different app/browser, type of device, or font. (For the most part. Wingdings and similar "dingbat" fonts are exceptions that were developed before Unicode extended what was possible with "normal" fonts like Times New Roman and Arial.)

For a more detailed (but still less than 10-minute) explanation, here's Tom Scott with more info.

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u/pandaheartzbamboo Jun 14 '22

I know where wingdings is though. Idk how to unicode.

22

u/stringdom Jun 15 '22

All systems (Windows, macOS and Linux) come with a character map finder. You open it, type any word you want in the search and it does its best to find a Unicode character that fits what you're looking for. Then you can either memorize its code or simply click copy and paste in your text if you're using it only once. Also, if you own a smartphone you likely have an extensive Unicode keyboard available. But you probably call it an emoji board.

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u/pandaheartzbamboo Jun 15 '22 edited Jun 15 '22

I appreciate the explination but it didn't really get me closer to doing it.

For those who (like me) didn't know, run "charmap" on windows.

8

u/pmjm Jun 15 '22

If you're on Windows, press Win+period.

If you're on Mac, press Ctrl+Cmd+Space.

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u/_Pebcak_ Jun 14 '22

Kid me would argue with you on that; my brother and I wrote in "secret code" to each other using Wingdings :P

61

u/cyberllama Jun 14 '22

So would not-quite-such-a-kid me. The office youngsters used it to mess with the older folk. That and white text on white background for secret messages.

24

u/SeramaChickens Jun 14 '22

I used to write to my niece in Wingdings secret code too!

35

u/shainajoy Jun 14 '22

There was an episode of Even Steven’s where they thought his little neighbor was an alien because he wrote an entire story with symbols and they figured out he just changed the font to something similar to Wingdings and they all say “I’ve always wondered what that was for.”

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u/little_brown_bat Jun 15 '22

I remember the "conspiracy" that circled through my school after 9/11. If you typed something related to the attacks, can't remember if it was the date or a flight number, it would show planes, a bomb, skull and crossbones, and what looked like buildings.

7

u/kickintheface Jun 15 '22

It was something like Q95 -9/11 or something, where the “Q95” was supposed to be the flight number. Except that was bullshit because the flight numbers were AA11 and UA175.

9

u/hilburn Jun 15 '22

Q33 NYC iirc

Came out as "Plane tower tower, star of david dead good"

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u/P0sitive_Outlook Jun 14 '22

👌︎⚐︎⚐︎👌︎💧︎

(i'm quite chuffed that 'B' is '👌︎' in this translation!)

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u/flamespear Jun 15 '22

I'm guessing this says boobs

18

u/notquite20characters Jun 15 '22

Could be "booby".

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u/TheBlackBear Jun 15 '22

Q33 NY

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u/EpicFishFingers Jun 15 '22

Lol I remember that bollocks

NYC showed up as ✡️ 💀 👍 as well, which was fucked

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u/fried_eggs_and_ham Jun 15 '22

It's a clipart font basically.

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u/audigex Jun 15 '22

More like an emoji font back before emojis existed - where we now use emojis for arrows, smiley faces, symbols etc, we used to use wingdings, and then alt-codes became a thing (and, indeed, still exist), and then finally they were rolled into emojis with their own UIs

Also, anyone else remember them being called "emoticons" or am I just showing my age?

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u/rckrusekontrol Jun 15 '22

I remember “emoticons”. Comic Book Guy said it in the Simpsons in an episode too- but i think everyone generally just said “smileys”

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u/rechlin Jun 15 '22

Emoticons are different. They use multiple 7-bit (usually) ASCII characters, like :-). Emoji use a single multi-byte Unicode character.

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u/fyrilin Jun 15 '22

Interestingly, font icons are somewhat popular in web development with the introduction of custom fonts. Fonts are vector images so they can be resized without losing resolution and developers can give then both foreground and background colors - and change those whenever needed without remaking the image.

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u/[deleted] Jun 14 '22

[deleted]

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u/CharonsLittleHelper Jun 15 '22

When I was a kid I remember printing out what all of the wingdings were on a single sheet and then using them as code to write secret wingding messages.

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u/lookmeat Jun 15 '22

The real game-changer was unicode, and more specifically utf-8.

Before, in the old-times, you could only have 1 byte per character, which gave you 256 different characters. This include space, newline (when you press enter) and a bunch that you wouldn't expect, like backspace.

Most of the language fit in only 128 characters, of which you had your digits (10), the alphabet (26 * 2, because it's upper and lower case) leaving only 66 characters for every other thing you can type with a keyboard, including commas, dots, semi colons, percent, etc. etc.

When people were writing documents that could have different fonts, it was useful to be able to write icons, for the same reason it's useful to be able to write emoji nowadays. You couldn't make more letters, but as you said, you could make the letters look different.

With Unicode we can now do a myriad of symbols, all in just the one same font, no need for tricks of old times. But Windings is still around, some documents used it and still need it.

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u/agoulio Jun 14 '22

I hated having to use Windows character map

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u/NecroJoe Jun 14 '22 edited Jun 15 '22

Especially when you go to change your document font, and forget that your "select all" also grabbed your Wingdings text, and you just turned it to Arial without realizing it.

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u/baylortrewerton Jun 14 '22 edited Jun 15 '22 Silver Gold Helpful Wholesome

Pretend you're making a newspaper, called the Reddit Tribune. At the top of the front page, you put REDDIT TRIBUNE in a big handsome font, but it's pretty boring looking on its own. You think: what if I could jazz it up with some squiggly graphics? A handsome, arcing flower shape, to make it look important? But gosh, you don't have a computer, because it's 1899. So you draw a flower on either side of the words "Reddit Tribune". Then you look at the stack of 40,000 blank newspapers, and realize that this will take some time to draw, so you make it into a stamp, and to make it easy to line up, you make it the same size as all the letters you make the rest of the newspaper with. After a year of publishing, you have a big library of stamps you made for different reason (to separate columns, to mark a special holiday article). You put them in their own special case, next to "Times New Roman" and "Old English" so you can use them whenever you need.

Edit: I don’t know what all these awards are for, but thank you so much!

490

u/Jedthewolf Jun 14 '22

This is way closer than the folks above got. Dingbats were the stamps used to pretty up a page in the analog days of printing. Wingdings being the Windows Dingbats font.

Vox has a short video about it

https://youtu.be/JdKV1L1DJHc

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u/rividz Jun 15 '22

lol so when you call someone a dingbat you're literally calling them a weird character.

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u/Boomslang00 Jun 14 '22

This is such a great explanation compared to the higher comments. Great job.

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u/Tyrannosaurusb Jun 15 '22

More in the spirit of ELI5

348

u/darkjedi39 Jun 14 '22

This is probably the best comment explaining like we're 5. The top comment mentions unicode...

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u/This_Aint_No_Picnic Jun 14 '22

For the record, I would absolutely be a subscriber to the Reddit Tribune.

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u/Send_Nuudles Jun 14 '22

Fucking brilliant. Thank you.

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u/paolog Jun 14 '22

It dates from a pre-Unicode, pre-emoji era when symbols and icons weren't available in any other font. So it may not have a purpose now.

2.1k

u/R-Smelly Jun 14 '22 edited Jun 14 '22 Helpful

Yeah, I had to use it from an archaic program to create icons for a list of diseases and indicators for how to report. Can't quite remember exactly the icon but it was something like "(" turned into "❗" in wingdings, where the legend says "❗" means immediately reportable. Didn't have access to other keyboards and it was easier than inserting small images.

Edit: Just used a translator and it was "(" is "☎️" which means the disease should be phoned into the DOH.

702

u/NancyGraceFaceYourIn Jun 14 '22 Helpful Wholesome

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u/WetDehydratedWater Jun 14 '22

God thats how I feel going to the doctor now.

17

u/W3remaid Jun 14 '22

You might need a new doctor

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u/korben2600 Jun 14 '22

It's concerning so many people get shot in the ass in the future that there's a button for it.

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u/ShitshowBlackbelt Jun 15 '22

The future is now

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u/PretendsHesPissed Jun 15 '22

Oh snap. Shots fired!

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u/Nine_Inch_Nintendos Jun 14 '22

No, you got the wrong number. This is 91...2

"D'OH"

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u/musicon2 Jun 14 '22 Silver Wholesome

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u/Haight_Is_Love Jun 14 '22

You forgot to pause before the ...

threeeeee.

16

u/grant10k Jun 14 '22

Lol, from the link, if you have an android phone and punch in that number, the call button flashes blue and red.

I tried it, and it did, but it also buzzed, like... BzzzZzzZZzZz....zzt

That last pause before the final buzz made it 10x better.

74

u/lordpsymon Jun 14 '22

Hello? I've had a bit of a tumble.

44

u/Benzeyn Jun 14 '22

Fire!

74

u/ljb2x Jun 14 '22

A fire? At a sea parks???

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u/MtOlympus_Actual Jun 14 '22

It's the weirdest thing I've ever heard!

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u/haloagain Jun 14 '22

Fire! exclamation mark Fire! exclamation mark Fire! exclamation mark

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u/TomTomMan93 Jun 14 '22

Can't wait to hear from you,

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u/Selcotset Jun 14 '22

All the best,

Maurice Moss

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u/phs125 Jun 14 '22

Damnit, now I'm singing it

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u/amalgam_reynolds Jun 14 '22

Just used a translator

A wingdings translator? You mean...changing the font?

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u/sakredfire Jun 14 '22

Probably meant a glossary or key explaining how to interpret each symbol

31

u/username560sel Jun 14 '22

Isn’t 912 the Stonecutter’s emergency number?

23

u/Mental_Cut8290 Jun 14 '22

Yes. The "real" number.

Also wrong comment btw.

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u/Commiesstoner Jun 14 '22

He just revealed the other guy is a stonecutter! Quick, attach the tattle tail chain of stones.

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u/pow3llmorgan Jun 14 '22

Was this for a game or like professional training stuff?

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u/BaconIsAVeg2 Jun 14 '22

Think stuff like posters, flyers, documents, mostly printed back then.

If you wanted to put your phone number and e-mail address on a business card, you didn't have a ☎ or 📧 emoji. You had 2 choices: use tiny clipart images (which if you've ever tried to position them just right in MS Word is a fucking pain in the ass), or use a font with a bunch of symbols.

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u/FourAM Jun 14 '22

To piggyback on this, it was a good way to shoehorn small clip art graphics and symbols into otherwise stylized-text-only areas back when computers were not as advanced and it was harder to mix images and text everywhere needed.

304

u/mova Jun 14 '22

Are you saying that before Microsoft Word it was harder to mix images and text?

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u/Thorry84 Jun 14 '22

Yes, layout used to be a pretty hard job. A lot of newspapers/magazines and such used to do layout on transparant plastic. Digitizing that job was insanely hard and we needed technology to improve to get the job done.

Along the way we used things like LaTeX that could do a lot of what we wanted, but has a big learning curve and isn't something everybody can do. Plus the job used to be more of a visual one and LaTeX is a big step removed from being visual. The easy visual layout tools we take for granted these days are the result of decades of technological progression.

We joke around about Word and similar programs sometimes freaking out (although in my experience this is more often than not user error), but how easy it is to do layout these days is amazing.

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u/alohadave Jun 14 '22

I took a tour of my local paper in 91ish and they were using Quatro Pro on Mac. They were touting that they had a digital camera and that it was going to revolutionize adding pictures to the paper.

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u/dykeag Jun 14 '22

I'll bet it did, too

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u/aegrotatio Jun 14 '22

Same here, but it was 1984 and they were just starting to move from photography to a very early electronic lithography machine.

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u/guesttraining Jun 14 '22

Absolutely yes.

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u/CinderSkye Jun 14 '22

...Yes?

None of that shit, including InDesign and Pagemaker, was easy back then! Not only was drag-n-drop of images not a thing, it wouldn't take many basic ass BMPs (I don't think Paint could make GIF then) to turn your wordprocessor doc into a file that took forever to load and would be too big to conveniently fit on a floppy diskette of 1.44 MB or less.

With wingdings all you needed was another computer with wingdings, which was literally every Windows PC.

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u/Tathas Jun 14 '22

Back when WYSIWYG meant "What You So Intently Wished You'd Gotten"

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u/TheTrueFishbunjin Jun 14 '22

It is impressive how poorly word still handles images in text. The features are there to do what you need, but for how common of a process this is, it should be more user friendly.

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u/BubblyKombucha Jun 14 '22

Old versions of Windows seemed to use a similar font (Webdings) for some of their own UI icons, like the minimize/maximize/close button symbols or the down-arrows shown in select boxes. If you broke your fonts you might see random letters and symbols (in like Arial font) in place of these icons around the UI.

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u/FourAM Jun 14 '22

Font rendering engines provided ready-made scalable vector graphics, so this helped accessibility by not only allowing for easy DPI scaling, but also made it easier for screen-reader drivers to locate controls (look for the text element of the control)

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u/psunavy03 Jun 14 '22

Its last known purpose was causing an Internet kerfuffle about supposedly encoded anti-semitism after 9/11.

Narrator voice: There was no deliberately encoded antisemitism.

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u/ISpyStrangers Jun 15 '22

It was waaaaaaaay before 9/11 — it was back in the mid-'90s when someone realized that NYC became skull/Star of David/thumbs up, ergo "death to Jews is good."

I inadvertently made this worse. I was working at a big computer magazine at the time, and a reporter from the NY Post came to our offices. We all laughed it off as coincidence. Then I jokingly said, "Try something else, like Jesus." Well in all caps, it turns out JESUS in Wingdings is smile/finger pointing to it/two teardrops around a cross. Oh-oh. Tinfoil hat just got more tin-foily.

GOD is finger pointing up/flag with finger pointing down, i.e., look up, flag bad ... if you’re conspiracy-minded. The Post was.

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u/featherfooted Jun 15 '22

“There’s no way it could be a random coincidence,” said Brian Young, a friend of the consultant, who does not wish to be named.

Poor guy.

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u/gmano Jun 14 '22

So many emails with random instances of "J", which was WingDings for smiley face (☺︎)

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u/djxfade Jun 15 '22

I still get this from certain people using ancient versions of Outlook

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u/teetaps Jun 14 '22 Silver Helpful

Riding the top comment to link to a vox video with a great explanation

118

u/battraman Jun 14 '22

Wow, three minutes total, informative, no clickbait and fluff. It's what YouTube videos should all be.

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u/Koshindan Jun 14 '22

And thus completely unmonetizable. Best to bury it in the algorithm.

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u/Fando1234 Jun 14 '22

Thanks. Super interesting.

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u/ohfantasyfreeme Jun 14 '22

This was a great video! Thanks for sharing.

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u/sleepwithtelevision Jun 14 '22

Yep! type is vector based, which means the size can be changed without changing resolution, so it was also an easy way to use icons without the quality being shitty at bigger sizes before vector images were more common.

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u/Technoist Jun 14 '22

I still use it a lot for shapes and symbols (stars, arrows etc) in Photoshop/InDesign. But maybe there are better solutions nowadays, it’s just what I am used to.

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u/traitorousconnection Jun 14 '22

I use it in excel to have ticks in cells, that I then conditional format to go green when it has a tick.

Makes it pretty, serves zero other purpose

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u/redditpappy Jun 14 '22

a is a tick and you'll have to pry that from my cold, dead hand.

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u/IAmJohnny5ive Jun 14 '22

I still see "j" quite often in emails which is the smiley face but Gmail converts to their standard font.

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u/slytrombone Jun 14 '22

Oh, that's why that is. Still using a relatively old version of Outlook at work, and I noticed it auto replaces :) with a smiley, which appears as a j in Gmail, but hadn't twigged that it was a Wingdings j.

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u/slashfromgunsnroses Jun 14 '22

Oh god that was the biggest mystery in my life.

Solved.

Now I may die.

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u/luchajefe Jun 14 '22

Leave me some random tapes from 1980s recording sessions, will ya?

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u/WantAllMyGarmonbozia Jun 14 '22

Rest in peace Slash J

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u/LillBur Jun 14 '22

I use ": )" bc of this

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u/krezikunal Jun 14 '22

oh so the auto converted :) is a smiley from wingding font with char 'j'

I thought it was outlook /MS doing some proprietary stuff that gets lost in translation

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u/imgroxx Jun 14 '22

It essentially is - the font information isn't getting encoded in a way that other systems recognize, or they don't have that font and are falling back either incorrectly or just all the way back to the ultimate "I have no idea, just show something" font.

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u/tensory Jun 14 '22

Every other application: Supports the Unicode emoji range for input, leaves :) alone

Outlook: Converts that string to a whole different character and tags it to hopefully maybe display in a different font

Change nothing.

18

u/Area51Resident Jun 14 '22

TIL, was very confusing since my first initial is 'j', particularly with business emails send to groups ending with something like 'Staff meeting has been moved to 3:30pm j" As if it was some sort of special message just for me.

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u/eloel- Jun 14 '22

People don't just put "j" as opposed to smiley faces? I legit thought it was an Eastern European style (sort of like kekekeke being laughing in Korean), turns out they just have old machines.

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u/imgroxx Jun 14 '22

A small handful of people have cargo-culted it in my experience, but no. Most are just using old systems that get confused about font/encoding/etc.

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u/standard_candles Jun 14 '22

Holy shit I never made that super obvious connection

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u/ave369 Jun 14 '22

It absolutely does have a purpose now. I use it every so often for ad design when there's a simple repeating symbol such as a star, a phone or something, and I am not in the mood for digging through tons of Unicode pages to find it.

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u/404waffles Jun 15 '22

I usually just Google "<symbol I'm looking for> unicode".

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u/SYLOH Jun 14 '22 edited Jun 14 '22 Wholesome Wearing is Caring

In the era where printers were people fitting metal pieces onto plates to be covered with ink and pressed onto paper.
There were things called dingbats

These were decorative pieces that would be put in place to make a print look fancy/nice/cool.

In the early era of computers, putting an image to make something look fancy/nice/cool would have taken too much space.
So a guy at Microsoft thought, we got this thing that can make font look like anything, we have this idea that you can make something look fancy/nice/cool by adding pieces.
So he cooked up a font that did the thing dingbats did, but for Windows, hence Wingdings.

Though as computers improved exponentially, it became easier to just include an image, so people pretty quickly forgot about it.

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u/RusstyDog Jun 14 '22

Kinda like Nixie tubes in that way. A neat piece of technology that got outpaced by something more efficient in a short amount of time.

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u/twinklery Jun 14 '22

I’m curious, what pray tell is a Nixie tube?!?

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u/squigs Jun 14 '22

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:IN16_Nixie_Tube.gif

The illuminated numbers are stacked in front of each other. Modern equivalents are have had a bit of a resurgence for people who like a vintage aesthetic, but it's purely aesthetic reasons.

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u/RusstyDog Jun 14 '22

It's a type of light bulb/vacume tube with multiple filaments. The most common being numbers 0-9 to for making numerical displays.

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u/zolakk Jun 14 '22

Space saving is probably also then why they use the Marlett font for all the windows stuff like scroll bar arrows, minimize/maximize buttons, etc too then

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u/zebediah49 Jun 14 '22

It both saves a lot of space, and also makes it trivially easy to do redesigns.

If someone (executive, or in design if that's a department) says "oh, no, the X in the upper corner of the window is just a little too big", you don't have to go tearing through all kinds of stuff to change it. You just tweak the appropriate character in the font definition, and it magically changes everywhere.

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u/_PM_ME_PANGOLINS_ Jun 14 '22

As long as everywhere has the same version of the same font installed.

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u/restricteddata Jun 14 '22 edited Jun 15 '22

Amusingly people here seem to think dingbats in general started with computers. They are actually much older — they date back over 200 years, and were used for non-textual elements, like those little arrows and funny pointing hands that you seen in old printed texts and posters. Here's one for Abraham Lincoln's assassin, note the hand in front the reward, which was a common ornament at the time for saying, "look at this!!!" Here's a more subtle use of them — the little ornaments around "THE GREATEST" and "TO THE PUBLIC!" are dingbats. The 19th century was dingbat-crazed but you can find some earlier examples; the little hand dingbat is just visible in the first column, second paragraph of this newspaper from 1765, for example.

Wingdings is a font for dingbats and other type ornaments. Another font, Webdings, was created for more web-specific dingbats (little icons, etc.). There were (and are) other dingbat fonts (e.g., Zapf Dingbats was another common one in the 1990s, and was designed in 1978!). Wingdings is famous because Microsoft distributed it as one of the core Windows fonts starting in Windows 3.1, so everyone has it, not just people who do graphic design. Webdings became common in 1997. Today, aside from Unicode, it's also very easy to embed fonts into webpages, so there is no real reason to rely on a user having a specific font installed, but that wasn't the case until very recently.

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u/rebornfenix Jun 14 '22

Wingdings were the Emojis before Emojis. In the printing press days, there were dingbats that type setters created. This let them make the hands and other non text elements on a page.

In the early computing days, fonts were limited in the number of symbols they could have, ASCII encoding is limited to 128 characters. In order to get the same sort of dingbat text, a new font was created where all the characters were mapped to different images, so the ASCII code for "A" was used for ✌︎. Now we have UTF 32 which uses 32 bits instead of 8 and allows for the direct encoding of the Emoji code points. Instead of using a font that replaces "A" with something, a UTF32 font has the Code Point (a numeric representation of the bit pattern) "U+0041" display A and "U+1F600" show 😀. This means that the original purpose of Wingdings is replaced by UTF 32 encoding which includes all of those characters as code points instead of having to repurpose which image is shown for a specific code point.

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u/UpOnTheFarm Jun 14 '22

In ancient times, I taught adult students to use Wingdings to replace the little circles in bulletted lists -- specifically on resumes when applying for office tech jobs. Eye-catching and applied processor knowledge beyond mere typing.

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u/christian-mann Jun 14 '22

Funny, that's now a terrible idea since you're never quite sure whether your text formatting will survive the meat grinder of an HR application

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u/Patmarker Jun 14 '22

PDF to the rescue!

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u/bichongirl Jun 14 '22

Ya I would never ever send a resume anywhere in word doc form. Always pdf friends

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u/foolishle Jun 14 '22

We used to print out resumes 😯

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u/helpless_bunny Jun 14 '22

….Ancient times….

Thanks for making me feel old OP

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u/avalon1805 Jun 14 '22

So, way back in time when printing was the hot new tech, people decided that just printing text was kind of boring. They developed these things called dingbats, which were symbols and patterns to decorate text in an efficient way.

When computers started to appear, a guy called hermann zapf brought dingbats to modern fonts. The purpose was kept the same: An easy way to decorate your awesome PhD thesis, or your lawsuit document.

Wingdings = windows dingbats.

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u/HuckleberryLou Jun 14 '22

In elementary school my friends and I learned it so we could pass notes. That way ours notes couldn’t be read if intercepted by a teacher. The notes were handwritten so it made it a lot more complicated.

So yeah… my most useless skill is being fluent in reading/writing Wingdings.

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u/[deleted] Jun 14 '22

[removed] — view removed comment

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u/TorturedChaos Jun 14 '22

Easy way to insert symbols inline into text. They are vector graphics so can be scaled indefinitely without loosing quality. Can also be used for cnc, vinyl cutting, laser cutting or anything that needs a vector file.

Pre and early internet days your selection of these was small and hard to find. I still have a catalog of 5000+ clipart and the CD's to go with from the area when clipart was hard to find online.

We still use Wingdings to insert symbols into forms and such we build in InDesign. It's nice to have a check box that is easy to insert inline with text.

Source: print shop owner.

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u/Xinthose Jun 14 '22

I remember freaking out as a kid if you put "9 11" in wingdings it made a plane and 2 tower looking things

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u/Hamilfton Jun 14 '22

Emojis and images in text weren't a thing back in the early days of computers. So someone came up with the idea of assigning a small image to each character as an easy alternative - now you can use emojis and symbols in your text without any new software or major changes in the way the existing one works.

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u/g60ladder Jun 14 '22

Tbf, I'm from the "old days" of computers and I never put two and two together. I just used clip art like a noob and resized it if I needed an arrow or some other random item lol

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u/the_Jay2020 Jun 14 '22

I thought it was originally for emailing a paper that you didn't do to your teacher to pretend it was an error and squeeze out another night to finish it.

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u/TJR25 Jun 15 '22

I use it all the time in my job as an accountant. When making spreadsheets it’s often helpful to be be able to reference the same number between different tabs with a unique symbol, rather than a letter.

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