Does regular Unicode have a character that looks like a space to a human yet is not treated as a space by software please?

Jukka K. Korpela jkorpela at
Mon Mar 31 09:05:42 CDT 2014

2014-03-29 13:01, Asmus Freytag wrote:

> On managing some types of spacing between elements in running text:
> On 3/27/2014 8:04 AM, Jukka K. Korpela wrote:
>> The “fixed-width spaces” are mostly just legacy characters, holdover
>> from old typography. They may have their uses, though, in contexts
>> where they work and other spacing methods don’t (for example, I
>> recently noticed that they seem to be the only way to create a little
>> spacing between an inline equation and normal character in MS Word).
> They are useful when the object is to create fixed offsets between
> elements in running text.

In special cases, I would say. Normally, other tools are used. E.g., 
typesetting programs may have commands with, say, “thin space” in their 
name, but they don’t really insert THIN SPACE characters but some 
internal representation, and the effect (width of spacing) may be 
settable in the program, possibly with a default that differs from the 
description “a fifth of an em (or sometimes a sixth)”.

> Unless these elements have a special nature
> that is widely recognized, there usually isn't any styling or markup
> available to create the same effect.

For example, in HTML or XML, you can wrap either of the two elements in 
an inline element and set padding-right or padding-left on it. While 
this may look clumsier than using,   or   or THIN SPACE 
itself, it’s much more flexible—you can set any amount of spacing. 
Besides, quite often one of the elements is already an element in the 
markup, as in <i>f</i>(0), to take a typical example of a construct that 
really needs special spacing.

In word processors, you would typically select a character and set 
spacing on it in Font settings. This is clumsy, but using styles, it is 
reasonably manageable.

On the other hand, tuning of spacing is rather rare outside professional 
and ambitious typesetting. It’s really one of the things that 
distinguishes quality typesetting. Typesetters that do such things might 
be quite unaware of fixed-width spaces as characters (and might even 
regard it as odd to call spacing things characters).

> It's the fact that indentation and justification do not need specific
> width for spaces that lead to the (incorrect) statement, oft repeated,
> that they are not needed in digital typography -- which is nonsense, of
> course, but unfortunately, by now, well-entrenched nonsense.

I would rather say that the problem is in not understanding the 
importance of spacing, at a more refined level than just SPACE versus no 
space. When the problem has been understood, the solution is usually 
something else than fixed-width spaces.


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