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Mac Powerpoint Weirdness. Help!
October 17, 2012 2:00 PM   Subscribe

Weird snowflake Mac OS X font issue. I've already tried all the usual suspects - deleting duplicate fonts from Font Book, etc, etc. But this one has me stumped.

So, I had a professor come down to my office yesterday and show me some slides in Powerpoint that looks like this.

The problem is the strange block characters that look like a sort of bizzarro W. This is supposed to be the tau symbol - you know, the kind of cursive t. I have no idea when or where these slides were created.

Anyway, this is 10.6.8, with Powerpoint 2011 (fully updated).

He also brought down a graduate student who has a MacBook Air with 10.7 with Powerpoint 2011 (fully updated), and the slides display properly - the tau symbol is the tau symbol.

Some interesting things -

A. if I take the presentation and ferry it over to my Windows machine, it displays fine. If I then save it on my Windows machine with the option to EMBED FONTS and ferry it back over to the Mac, it still shows up incorrectly.

B. If, on the problem Mac, I copy that goofy character and paste it into Microsoft Word, it shows up properly.

C. I have updated the machine in question to 10.7.5 (upgrade installation) and removed Office 2011 and reinstalled it and the issue persists.

D. I sent the presentation on to another user who has a Mac running 10.8 with Office 2011, and it's fine.

E. I sent the presentation on to another user who has Mac running 10.6.8 with Office 2011, and it's broken.

My Google-Fu is failing me. Any ideas?

I guess I could just find & replace with the whole presentation, but.. it's not just a presentation - it's a whole series of presentations - and honestly I'm not sure how feasible that is. I'd like to understand the root cause.
posted by kbanas to Technology (9 answers total)
 
What's the font family that the tau is in?
posted by phaedon at 2:22 PM on October 17, 2012


What's the font family that the tau is in?

Arial.
posted by kbanas at 2:43 PM on October 17, 2012


The root cause is that support for Windows-sourced documents in Office for Mac is broken — probably deliberately so — and has been for years.

What it sounds like you're running into are Greek symbols being one font on Office for Windows and another font for Office for Mac, and rarely the twain meet reliably, because Microsoft does not support this well.

Your best option, if you must share documents between platforms and you don't need to edit the presentations, is to share PDF files generated from the slide deck. PDFs do a better job of consistently and correctly embedding and rendering fonts, and they are cross-platform.

Another option is to dump Microsoft Powerpoint altogether and look at a web-based option like Google Docs or Prezi, where this becomes a non-issue.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:04 PM on October 17, 2012


Interesting … that seems to suggest that in 10.6.8 it's either missing from Arial, or not being mapped to something appropriate - and, indeed, on my machine 10.6.8 is missing the Arial Black Regular, Arial Narrow Italic, and Arial Narrow Regular variants, and only Microsoft's Cambria font contains the higher-order mathematical symbol versions of tau.

Anyone with 10.7.x or 10.8.x want to have a look?

BP: I wouldn't be so sure. Yeah, that's a common problem that I run into daily (protip: always check your presentation on the machine that'll be displaying it, regardless of whether it's using the same OS or not!), but the fact that it displays OK in Powerpoint 2011 on 10.7.x & 10.8.x, but not in Powerpoint 2011 on 10.6.8 (or 10.7.x upgraded from 10.6.8) suggests it's a difference in fonts between OS X versions.
posted by Pinback at 3:18 PM on October 17, 2012


I'm not a font expert but I recently HAD to figure out how to manage fonts because my computer was going nuts and I had a lot of fonts I needed to install. So I bought FontExplorer Pro and I'm pretty happy - there is a fully functioning trial version available. You can create application sets and resolve duplicates.

It's possible that the symbol for letter tau is missing in that font family and the OS is substituting with a best guess. For example, I don't think tau is in Arial, but it is in Arial Unicode. If you install a better font manager you can probably more easily identify the problematic font.
posted by phaedon at 3:26 PM on October 17, 2012


There are a couple of relevant threads if you google "weird symbols in arial font" and maybe add "powerpoint" to that as well.
posted by phaedon at 3:36 PM on October 17, 2012


that seems to suggest that in 10.6.8 it's either missing from Arial, or not being mapped to something appropriate - and, indeed, on my machine 10.6.8 is missing the Arial Black Regular, Arial Narrow Italic, and Arial Narrow Regular variants, and only Microsoft's Cambria font contains the higher-order mathematical symbol versions of tau.

FWIW, you can easily install the missing fonts onto your Mac. My 10.6.8 iMac has all of those installed.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:31 AM on October 18, 2012


Sorry, that should've been "on my machine, 10.6.8 is missing tau in Arial Black Regular, …"

Those typefaces are there, but don't contain tau.
posted by Pinback at 9:26 PM on October 18, 2012


I would like to address this - I don't think anyone's really paying attention anymore, but I finally resolved this today. Thanks to most of you for your help.

So, I found a Mac Mini running 10.7 that displayed the presentation just fine, and I took the contents of the /Library/Fonts directory on that machine and copied it out to a USB drive and ferried it over to the "problem" Mac and copied over all the fonts and rebooted and tried again and... same problem.

So, in a desperate rage, I trashed everything. I trashed the /Library/Fonts directory and the /Library/Fonts Deactivated directory and the /User/Library/Fonts directory and that left, to my estimation, no fonts left but the core system fonts, and I rebooted and launched PowerPoint and my problem was completely fixed.

I then uninstalled and re-installed Office, which put back all the core Office fonts, and it was still fixed.

SO IT'S FIXED.
posted by kbanas at 1:17 PM on October 22, 2012


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