About character sets and alternate glyphs

Typefaces include many characters in addition to the ones you see on your keyboard. Depending on the font, these characters can include ligatures, fractions, swashes, ornaments, ordinals, titling and stylistic alternates, superior and inferior characters, old‑style figures, and lining figures. A glyph is a specific form of a character. For example, in certain fonts, the capital letter A is available in several forms, such as swash and small cap.

There are two ways to insert alternate glyphs:

  • The Glyphs panel lets you view and insert glyphs from any typeface.

  • The OpenType panel lets you set up rules for using glyphs. For example, you can specify that you want to use ligatures, titling characters, and fractions in a given text block. Using the OpenType panel is easier than inserting glyphs one at a time and ensures a more consistent result. However, the panel works only with OpenType fonts.

Glyphs panel overview

You use the Glyphs panel (Window > Type > Glyphs) to view the glyphs in a font and insert specific glyphs in your document.

By default, the Glyphs panel displays all the glyphs for the currently selected font. You can change the font by selecting a different font family and style at the bottom of the panel. If any characters are currently selected in your document, you can display alternate characters by selecting Alternates For Current Selection from the Show menu at the top of the panel.

Glyphs panel
Glyphs panel

A. Show menu B. Font family C. Font style D. Zoom buttons 

When you select an OpenType font in the Glyphs panel, you can restrict the panel to display certain kinds of glyphs by selecting a category from the Show menu. You can also display a pop‑up menu of alternate glyphs by clicking the triangle in the lower right corner of the glyph box where applicable.

Pop‑up menu for alternate glyphs
Pop‑up menu for alternate glyphs

Insert or replace a character using the Glyphs panel

  1. To insert a character, click with a type tool to place the insertion point where you want to enter the character, and then double-click the character you want to insert in the Glyphs panel.
  2. To replace a character, choose Alternates For Current Selection from the Show pop‑up menu, select a character in your document using a type tool. Double-click a glyph in the Glyphs panel, if one is available.

    Note:

    Additional replacement options are available for Asian glyphs.

OpenType panel overview

You use the OpenType panel (Window > Type > OpenType) to specify how you want to apply alternate characters in OpenType fonts. For example, you can specify that you want to use standard ligatures in new or existing text.

Keep in mind that OpenType fonts vary greatly in the kinds of features they offer; not all options in the OpenType panel are available in every font. You can view the characters in a font using the Glyphs panel.

OpenType panel
OpenType panel

A. Standard Ligatures B. Contextual Alternates C. Discretionary Ligatures D. Swash E. Stylistic Alternates F. Titling Alternates G. Ordinals H. Fractions I. panel menu J. Figure type K. Character position 

Note:

Additional features may be available for Asian OpenType fonts.

You can access additional commands and options in the OpenType panel menu in the upper right corner of the panel. 

Highlight alternate glyphs in the text

  1. Choose File > Document Setup.
  2. Select Highlight Substituted Glyphs, and click OK. Substituted glyphs in the text are highlighted.

Use ligatures and contextual alternates

Ligatures are typographic replacement characters for certain letter pairs. Most fonts include ligatures for standard letter pairs such as fi, fl, ff, ffi, and ffl. In addition, some fonts include discretionary ligatures for letter pairs such as ct, st, and ft. Although the characters in ligatures appear to be joined, they are fully editable and do not cause the spell checker to flag a word erroneously.

Contextual alternates are alternate characters included in some script typefaces to provide better joining behavior. For example, when using Caflisch Script Pro with contextual alternates enabled, the letter pair “bl” in the word “bloom” is joined so that it looks more like handwriting.

  1. Select the characters or type objects to which you want to apply the setting. If you don’t select any text, the setting applies to new text you create.
  2. Make sure that an OpenType font is selected.
  3. In the OpenType panel, do any of the following:
    • Click the Standard Ligatures button to enable or disable ligatures for standard letter pairs (such as fi, fl, ff, ffi, and ffl).

    • Click the Discretionary Ligatures button to enable or disable optional ligatures (if available in the current font).

    • Click the Contextual Alternates button to enable or disable contextual alternates (if available in the current font).

Use swashes, titling alternates, or stylistic alternates

Many OpenType fonts include stylized characters that let you add decorative elements to type. Swashes are characters with exaggerated flourishes. Titling alternates are characters (usually all in capitals) designed for use in large-size settings, such as titles. Stylistic alternates are stylized characters that create a purely esthetic effect.

  1. Select the characters or type objects to which you want to apply the setting. If you don’t select any text, the setting applies to new text you create.
  2. Make sure that an OpenType font is selected.
  3. In the OpenType panel, do one of the following:
    • Click the Swash button to enable or disable swash characters (if available in the current font).

    • Click the Stylistic Alternates button to enable or disable stylistic alternates (if available in the current font).

    • Click the Titling Alternates button to enable or disable titling alternates (if available in the current font).

Show or hide nonprinting characters

Nonprinting characters include hard returns (line breaks), soft returns (line breaks), tabs, spaces, nonbreaking spaces, double-byte characters (including spaces), discretionary hyphens, and the end-of-text character.

To make the characters visible as you format and edit type, choose Type > Show Hidden Characters. A check mark indicates that nonprinting characters are visible.

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