Omega symbol becomes W in pdf

Stuti Arora stuti at
Tue Mar 17 23:39:21 MDT 2009

Which version of Frame are you using? If you are using FM 8 or above, you could follow Andrew's advice and use Unicode characters with a Unicode Symbol font, which would be the ideal solution. But if you are on FM7.2 or earlier, you would need to ensure that Symbol font is available to the distiller (is in its path/ is embeddable), as others mentioned.

FrameMaker Developer

-----Original Message-----
From: framers-bounces at [mailto:framers-bounces at] On Behalf Of Andrew Warren
Sent: Wednesday, March 18, 2009 4:59 AM
To: 'Nancy Allison'; framers at
Subject: RE: Omega symbol becomes W in pdf

Nancy Allison wrote:

> My document uses some special symbols, like the Omega.
> To create it, I type W and then apply a Symbol character tag, which
> applies the Symbol font.


Don't ever do that.  If you really need an omega, get it within a non-Symbol font by following the advice near the end of the following rant, which is a slightly-edited copy of something I posted a couple years ago to the techwr-l list...

Using the Symbol font to produce an omega is bad, but not likely to kill anyone.

With omega/W:

  If you're viewing the document in a web browser that's been
  configured to use your favorite fonts rather than the fonts
  specified by the document, the omega symbols become Ws.

  Google ignores font information in its text searches, so when
  it indexes a page, it sees (and displays in search results) a
  "W" wherever there's a Symbol-font "omega".

  If your browser isn't configured to use your own fonts, the
  omegas will probably look fine there... But as soon as you
  cut-and-paste from the browser window to another application,
  like Frame or Word, the omegas become Ws.

  If you send the document through an email system that strips
  HTML, the omegas become Ws.

  If you send it to a printer that doesn't have the Symbol font,
  the omegas become Ws.

  If you view it on a computer that doesn't have the Symbol font,
  the omegas become Ws.

In most of these cases, the font information is permanently lost once the document's omega symbols become Ws.  They never switch back, even if the document is subsequently viewed in a system which CAN display HTML or the Symbol font.

The W-instead-of-omega problem isn't limited to web pages; I see it ALL THE TIME in published datasheets, application notes, user's manuals, trade journal articles, etc.

Fortunately, the error is easy to spot, since the erroneous "W" usually makes no sense, and the intended meaning can generally be deduced from the context.


If you use the Symbol font to make ANOTHER Greek letter, the "mu", you really MIGHT kill someone:

The Greek letter "mu" is often used in engineering and scientific writing to represent the prefix "micro-" (one millionth).  In the old days, before we all had access to fancy computer typefaces, typewritten documents would use the lowercase "u" instead of "mu", since the two letters look very similar.

"Lowercase 'u' means 'mu' means 'micro-'" was a universally-understood convention (among engineers and scientists, anyway): usec = microseconds, uF = microfarads, uA = microamps... Even uP = microprocessor.  No one was ever confused by this, and all was well until some pedantic dumbass noticed that he could make the unit names in his documents "correct" by using the Symbol-font "mu" instead of the lowercase "u" that we'd all been happy with for decades.

The result, of course, is the same as for "omega", with one small but fatal difference:

"Omega" maps to the "W" character, which almost always looks like an error (e.g., "4.7kW, 1/8-watt resistor") but "mu" maps to the "m" character, which is the symbol for the prefix "milli-" (one thousandth).

Since "m-for-milli" can be reasonably used almost anywhere that "mu-for-micro" can, it NEVER looks like an error!

You thought NASA's metric-vs-English mistakes were boneheaded?  In those cases, numbers were off by a factor of 4.45, but when the mu-to-m error occurs, everything gets multiplied by 1000!  Microseconds become milliseconds, microamps become milliamps, micrometers become millimeters... And there's NO WAY TO TELL that the error happened unless there's a LOT of context that happens to look self-contradictory.

Since it's so hard to identify the mu-to-m error, it's difficult to know how prevalent it is, but I'd guess that it happens at least as frequently as the omega-to-W error that I see everywhere.

There are actually a few places where a mu-to-m error would be obvious, and I often see it there... Like, for instance, in the US Navy's NRaD Writing and Editorial Guidelines:

It contains a list of abbreviations that includes both micro- and milli- units.  It's obvious that a mu-to-m error has occurred, since the list shows "m" for both sets of units.

I no longer approve documents that use the Symbol font for any purpose.  I now insist that "micro-" be either spelled out or represented by the lowercase "u", and "ohm" either gets spelled out or omitted ("4.7k resistor" or "4k7 resistor" are both well-understood in my industry to mean "4.7 kiloohm resistor").

Every once in a while, someone actually needs a real "micro" or "ohm" symbol in his document.  In those cases, I'm okay -- barely -- with the use of the "micro" (U+00B5, ALT-0181) and "ohm" (U+2126, ALT-8486) or "omega" (U+03A9, ALT-0937) characters from whatever regular font he's using.

Of course, when those Unicode characters get stripped by an ASCII-only email system, or the document's converted to a font that doesn't contain those Unicode glyphs, the symbols will still disappear or be converted to an ampersand or a copyright symbol or a little black box with a question mark in it or something... But at least they won't masquerade as reasonable-but-totally-wrong characters that are going to cost my company a ton of money or injure someone.


=== Andrew Warren  - awarren at
=== Synaptics, Inc - Santa Clara, CA

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