Do we need a Cork math font encoding?

Ulrik Vieth
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The city of Cork has become well–known in the TeX community, ever since it gave name to an encoding developed at the European TeX conference of 1990. The Cork encoding, as it became known, was the first example of an 8–bit text font encoding that appeared after the release of TeX 3.0, which was later followed by a number of other encodings based on similar design principles.

As of today, the Cork encoding represents one of several possible choices of 8–bit subsets from a much larger repertoire of glyphs provided in font projects such as Latin Modern or TeX Gyre. Moreover, recent developments of new TeX engines are making it possible to take advantage of OpenType font technology directly, largely eliminating the need for 8–bit font encodings altogether.

During all the time since 1990, math fonts have always been lagging behind the developments in text fonts. While the need for new math font encodings was recognized early on and while several encoding proposals have been discussed, none of them ever reached production quality and became widely used.

In this paper, we want to review the situation of math font encodings as of 2008, especially in view of recent developments of Unicode math fonts such as the STIX fonts or CambriaMath. In particular, we try to answer the question whether a Cork math font encoding is still needed to make use of such fonts in TeX or whether Unicode and OpenType font technology might eventually eliminate the need for TeX–specific math font encodings.