Using Combining Sequences for Numbers

Fonts Unicode

Circled number fifty

Today I just happened to be looking through some of the precomposed Unicode circled numbers, numbers like ①, ②, ③, and so on. Just in case your system, doesn’t support the fonts for these characters, here’s an image that shows what I mean:

Precomp circled numbers

I wasn’t all that surprised to see these CIRCLED DIGIT ZERO, CIRCLED DIGIT ONE, CIRCLED DIGIT TWO, through CIRCLED DIGIT NINE characters. However, I was surprised to see precomposed characters for other numbers, numbers all the way up to 50:

Circled number fifty CIRCLED NUMBER FIFTY

Why stop at 50? Well, obviously Unicode can’t encode every number. Although Unicode doesn’t define a CIRCLED NUMBER FIFTY ONE, how can I create this using combining sequences? For example, for the above single digits, I have a couple options for displaying these:

  1. a precomposed character like U+2460 — ①
  2. a combining sequence like U+0031 U+20DD —   1⃝  the digit 1 followed by the COMBINING ENCLOSING CIRCLE character     ⃝

Again, if you can’t see that character sequence, here’s the image of U+0031 U+20DD:

Combining one


Alright, so there we have a great example of using two Unicode code points together to form a single visual glyph on-screen. But how do I get the COMBINING ENCLOSING CIRCLE character to combine over two previous digits? What if there were not a precomposed CIRCLED NUMBER FIFTY ONE? There’s isn’t one, by the way. And yet I want to enclose two or more arbitrary digits with the COMBINING ENCLOSING CIRCLE character. Hmmm….

Sigh…. I have to admit that I don’t actually know how to do this. I suspect that I can use some of Unicode’s control characters like START OF GUARDED AREA and END OF GUARDED AREA or …. I don’t really know.

When I find out, I’ll repost. If you know, please share!

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