WordPress and Hieroglyphs

26 03 2010

Every good magazine deserves … hieroglyphs.  That’s the challenge we’ve been working on this week – along with finally trying to decide a colour scheme, something which is driving us both crazy.

Hieroglyphs are surprisingly problematic.  There is  no established solution for WordPress.  There are fonts but the only comprehensive unicode font is Aegyptus which is 5Mb, and that doubles up for the browsers which require different font file types.  Do you fancy waiting while a 5Mb page downloads?  No, we didn’t think so.  And we don’t want to pay the hosting charges that would involve either!

The solution we are adopting is to allow authors to write in the terse Manuel de Codage (formally Inventaire des signes hiéroglyphiques en vue de leur saisie informatique but usually known as MdC) representation and translate this to the relevant glyphs when articles display.  It won’t work well for full pages of hieroglyphs for which an image might still be best, but for most articles which have snatches of glyphs it’s a very attractive solution.

The intention is that it is so easy that people can use hieroglyphs in comments, so that somebody could quickly write [glyphs]i ii m Htp[/glyphs] in a comment and have it display as hieroglyphs.   Hopefully if we can make hieroglyphics easy to use, discussion about hieroglyphs will be a feature of the magazine and other articles we host.

The inspiration is WikiHiero.  That’s written in PHP and could be ported to WordPress but it isn’t easy to extend.  We will support the WikiHiero syntax, which is what is used to produce hieroglyphs on most wikis, but there are some obvious gaps like no support for shading that need to be addressed.  It might also be good to support a top down display as well as left to right.  On balance, it is easier to write a new parser than try to amend the WikiHiero code.

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27 03 2010

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