smart quotes and other characters mangled (IE, mac) January 6, 2005 1:37 PM   Subscribe

IE for Mac occasionally mangles posts with quotation marks, apostrophes, etc. For example: “Y’all must stay non-nuclear, but we’ll have as many nukes as we want. We’ll make new nukes but keep the old. And if you don’t like it, just take a good look at Iraq, because you could be next.�
posted by Miss Bitchy Pants to Bugs at 1:37 PM (24 comments total)

(Under normal circumstances, it would read “Y’all must stay non-nuclear, but we’ll have as many nukes as we want. We’ll make new nukes but keep the old. And if you don’t like it, just take a good look at Iraq, because you could be next.”)
posted by Miss Bitchy Pants at 1:39 PM on January 6, 2005

Isn't IE for Mac dead? I think Apple stopped supporting it like more than a year ago. I would suggest-- seriously, not snarkily-- upgrading to Safari or Firefox.
posted by xmutex at 2:09 PM on January 6, 2005

I thought this had something to do with the language packs installed on end-user systems...
posted by sciurus at 2:09 PM on January 6, 2005

You may both be right. I'm very much a PC person, but I inherited the machine (PBG4) with the position, and it's unfortunately necessary to switch back and forth between Safari and IE several times in the course of a day. I hear murmurs saying I'm about to get a PC soon; I can only hope. I'm really pretty inept when it comes to Macs.
posted by Miss Bitchy Pants at 2:15 PM on January 6, 2005

Miss-- I don't know your reasons for switching back and forth, but with Safari you can emulate the MS IE user agent so any site you browse thinks you're using IE. You can use this to get around sites that block explicitly based on the user agent string.

This is under the Debug menu in Safari. You may need to enable the Debug menu in preferences; I forget exactly.
posted by xmutex at 2:32 PM on January 6, 2005

That's because those characters aren't good old 7-bit ASCII (which are the only characters that should appear on an English-language page), and the post hasn't been properly HTML-ified (i.e. htmlentities() in PHP). As such, there's no guarantee that they'll look remotely similar on any machine but the submitter's.

Specifically, the open quote is chr(147), the apostrophe is chr(146), and the close quote is chr(148) (instead of 34, 39, and 34, respectively).

Mac users often post things online with accented O's in place of apostrophes, which you can spot on all sorts of "professional" sites on a daily basis.

Compare Mac and PC extended ASCII for further reference.

Why does this happen when it's actually much more of an effort to create an extended ASCII character rather than just typing the " or '? The root of this evil is word processors such as Word that love to replace the standard ASCII quote with the frilly "open" and "close" versions.

Oh, and Mac IE sucks.
posted by SkelPaff at 2:35 PM on January 6, 2005

Are those MicroSuck "smart quotes" you're using in the FPP? Because they're totally mangled here, and I'm using Firefox.

"“Y’all must stay non-nuclear, but we’ll have as many nukes as we want. We’ll make new nukes but keep the old. And if you don’t like it, just take a good look at Iraq, because you could be next.�"

They're mangled differently in IE6 here as well.

Non-snarkily, I highly recommend Firefox. Crashes less, seems to bog the system less, tabbed browsing, plugins galore, etc. The only reason why I keep IE around is because it's a pain in the ass to remove, and there's still the occasionally encountered FrontPage published or IE-optimized page that fails to render correctly in W3C compliant browsers.
posted by loquacious at 2:37 PM on January 6, 2005

I don't have this problem with MeFi, but the same thing happens when I view boingboing using Firefox/PC.
posted by trey at 2:40 PM on January 6, 2005

I'd like to defend the much-maligned "smart quotes". The double-tick as opening and closing quotes is the aberration and results from technological limitations dating from typewriters. Is that what you use when you use handwriting? Nope. Is that what the printing world uses? Nope.

In almost all cases other than the web1, correct double-quotes are what people actually want. Word is being helpful in the same way that it is while auto-correcting spelling. And you can turn it off, like you can auto-correction for spelling.

Also, as noted above, this problem isn't just with MS's "smart quotes" but with anything at all that isn't 7-bit ASCII, basically. That's, um, most of the world. That the world wide web is forced to adapt to the limitations of ASCII is really stupid.

Really, all web servers, dbs, apps, browsers—end to end—should correctly handle the standard extended 8-bit characters. At least. True, they don't. But they should. Really, the whole web should handle unicode.

1) The web is by far the minority use!
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 2:47 PM on January 6, 2005

What skellpaff said. (Except that copy/paste of open/close quotes often works fine.) And what skellpaff said: IE Mac is much more trouble than it's worth. Adjust your Safari user-agent spoofing to pass as IE. Probably anything that specifically manipulates IE features won't work on IE Mac anyway.

BTW, EB, it really is a browser issue. I've had related issues on sites I manage (there it was IE Win+Word that was the culprit); in that case, my solution (which won't work here) was to disable the WYSIWYG editor. Here, there's probably no real solution.

And since I write the vast majority of my text on keyboards that don't have an open-quote and close-quote key, I for one will certainly continue to be satisfied (as I have been, ever since I started typing over 25 years ago) with "double-tick" quotation marks. Nothing more is necessary to convey meaning, and without any compromise in the delivery of information....
posted by lodurr at 2:59 PM on January 6, 2005

Well, anyone who's done internationlization on large db-driven websites that use a variety of hardware and software will tell's not just a browser issue. 'Course, my experience was five years ago so I'm sure things have gotten substantially better.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:13 PM on January 6, 2005


I don't think the argument is so much that all sites should be in 7 bit ascii (boy, Japan, Korea, and China would be fucked), but that English web pages should be in 7 bit ascii. That removes the argument that the whole world should conform to 7-bit ASCII limitations, and the argument becomes "English pages should conform to 7-bit ASCII limitations". I don't degree, but it's no longer a preposterous concept, just awkward.

That said, other than that I completely agree. Everything should be able to handle unicode, and, far more importantly (and the thing that really chaps my hide), ALL PAGES should have meta data defining the character set. That's where most of these problems occur. If everybody identified their character set, then you'd turn your browser's character encoding to "Auto-detect" and everything everywhere would look just fine. However, since very few English speakers are even aware of other character sets, there are tons of English pages that don't identify if they're using ISO-8859-1, ISO-8859-15, Windows-1252, IBM-850, MacRoman, etc., meaning browsers just have to guess the encoding, and if they guess wrong, you get junk.
posted by Bugbread at 3:23 PM on January 6, 2005

Yep. I've noticed that lots of newer html editors (not that I'd use such abominations...heh) force the user to define the character set.

But prolly a good portion of web designers don't understand this stuff, much moreso the casual user.

At the very least, use HTML entities.

Okay: a confession. I love the em-dash. I want to have its babies (cute little en-dashes). For a long time, I behaved myself and always used the entity. Then I got lazy again, and, as I use XP, I reverted to just alt-0151-ing. This works for lots of people; but, no doubt, doesn't for quite a few. Poor Miss Bitchy Pants is one of them, I bet.
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 3:31 PM on January 6, 2005

EB: Just use : —
posted by xmutex at 3:34 PM on January 6, 2005

Oh nevermind.
posted by xmutex at 3:35 PM on January 6, 2005

I hate to say this, but as a web developer I need to tell you it's time to move on from a piece of software that dates to 2001 (aside from minor fixes etc...), and who's support has been dropped by the people who wrote it.

To place burden on web developers to support tiny percentages of web users is unfair and slows down the progress of the net, so I suggest you move on to Safari or Mozilla/Firefox and find out what you've been missing.
posted by furtive at 4:35 PM on January 6, 2005

Damn those users and their unreasonable complaints! If only we could get rid of them, we could design the very best product/website!
posted by Ethereal Bligh at 4:40 PM on January 6, 2005

Does anyone else remember when IE/Mac was the most standards-compliant browser in existence?

Not that it's not a piece of poo.
posted by timeistight at 5:06 PM on January 6, 2005


This is so cool. Now I can totally mock people in symbol script, and they'll just think it's a browser glitch or something.
posted by Shane at 7:57 PM on January 6, 2005

I still have to run IE in order to access bank accounts, as the online banking services (in the UK) seem only to work in IE on the Mac. One of them (Cahoot) only recently made changes to their login that effectively locks out non-MS users (i.e. me. I'm not happy about it. Give me my money, you bastards).

Just saying, there are reasons why people might want to use it sometimes, and for people who aren't that interested in software that might translate to all of the time.

posted by Grangousier at 11:54 PM on January 6, 2005

IE for Mac

Not just IE for Mac. It's all mangled on my end as well (IE6 on W2K).

If I could use Firefox at work, I would.
posted by shawnj at 7:36 AM on January 7, 2005

Grangousier-- they probably block non-IE users based on User Agent string. Safari can emulate this string and your bank will likely see you as an IE 6 user. Just change User Agent under Debug menu.
posted by xmutex at 8:07 AM on January 7, 2005

Solution: Stop using IE for Mac
posted by angry modem at 9:21 AM on January 7, 2005

Throw Mac IE in the same archive you keep your worthless stock options, Backstreet Boys CD's, and Furby dolls.
posted by mkultra at 12:22 PM on January 7, 2005

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