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What are ligatures and how to use them?

Originally published at: https://www.onlyoffice.com/blog/2022/10/ligature/

ONLYOFFICE Docs recently came out with the release of version 7.2. Among the added features is support for ligatures. Read on to learn what ligatures are, how to use them in ONLYOFFICE, and what languages the editors can now support.

What is a ligature and how to use it?

What ligatures in typography are

In writing and typography, a ligature is two or more graphemes joined to make a single glyph. In other words, it is a unique character created by joining multiple characters. For example, the diphthong æ or the sign &, originally a ligature of “et” that means “and” in Latin.

What are font ligatures and how to use them in ONLYOFFICE

According to the purposes the ligatures are used for, they can be divided into:

  • Linguistic ligatures. When typing a text, you cannot ignore them. They represent a sound, a word, or a phrase, for example, in Bengali and Sinhala.
  • Aesthetic ligatures are optional and may appear in texts in any language. They are pairs or triples of characters whose lines tend to overlap. Ligatures create a smoother transition or connection between characters by connecting rungs, removing dots over i’s, or otherwise changing the shape of the characters. Aesthetic ones can improve the legibility of a typed document.

How you can use font ligatures

As mentioned above, ligatures enable the use of new languages. In addition, there are ways to use them in any language. Here we have gathered some examples:

  • improve the readability of your text. Be careful, an excessive use of ligatures can have the opposite effect;
  • use special characters in the text, e.g. to transcribe English words;
  • make beautiful headings in e-books;
  • create a text that refers to a certain period in the past. Ligatures were used in Old English.

ONLYOFFICE editors support ligatures starting from version 7.2. Let’s see how to use them.

How to enable ligatures in ONLYOFFICE

You can now use ligatures in document and presentation editors in ONLYOFFICE Docs and Desktop Editors. By default, this option is disabled. You can activate it in the advanced settings.

Click Show advanced settings in the left-side toolbar.

What are font ligatures and how to use them in ONLYOFFICE

In the appeared window, select Font, then, in Open Type Features choose the necessary option from the drop-down list. You can choose between standard, contextual, historical, or discretionary ligatures, apply a combo of two or three types, or enable all of them. Click OK.

What are font ligatures and how to use them in ONLYOFFICE

However, not all OpenType fonts include ligatures. Here are some fonts containing such symbols: Calibri, Times New Roman, Tahoma, Constantia, and others.

There is another significant detail to consider. If you copy and paste text with ligatures into an application that does not support this feature, your text will look different from the original one.

What type to use

Open Type fonts typically support four types of ligatures, each with a different function.

Standard

Standard ones are necessary to make sure that the font displays without errors, such as character collisions. They contain the most commonly used ligatures, such as “f” and “t”, but varies from language to language. It is designed to improve readability.

What are font ligatures and how to use them in ONLYOFFICE

Contextual

Contextual ligatures as the name suggests are based on specific fonts and can be used with only those fonts. They are designed to enhance readability by providing better joining behavior between the characters that make up the ligature.

What are font ligatures and how to use them in ONLYOFFICE

Historical

Historical ligatures are typographic forms intended for historical purposes to mark a certain period through writing. Designers may add them to their fonts to evoke an old-fashioned print look. Historical ligatures are not meant to be easy to read.

What are font ligatures and how to use them in ONLYOFFICE

Discretionary

Discretionary ligatures are designed to be ornamental and not specifically designed for readability. They are not common in use. Texts usually borrow some of their elements as accents.

What are font ligatures and how to use them in ONLYOFFICE

How to apply ligatures to a separate word or phrase

Ligatures can be applied not only to the text you type, but also to individual words, phrases, or paragraphs.

To do this, select the word or paragraph you want, then choose the type of ligatures you want in the advanced settings. Press OK. This way, the ligatures are applied only to the passage you highlighted.

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