Earlier today I ran some tests to see how text-wrapping/hyphenation of long uninterrupted strings works in browsers. I tested both “normal” strings and strings of emojis.
The tests (and its rendering results per browser) are stored on Codepen and embedded below:
These tests left me with some core questions:
- Why do some emojis get text-wrapped, and some not?
- If the above is a feature: is there a list of emojis – or can we detect which emojis – that get text-wrapped (and those who are not) available somewhere?
- Why do emojis get text-wrapped, and not hyphenated?
1. Why do some emojis get text-wrapped, and some not?
This is dependent on the “Line Breaking Property” which is set for/on a character.
The Line Breaking Properties Specification defines a set of possible classes:
- Allows a break opportunity after in specified contexts
- Prevents a break opportunity after in specified contexts
- Allows a break opportunity before in specified contexts
- Prevents a break opportunity before in specified contexts
- Allows a break opportunity for a pair of same characters
- Prevents a break opportunity for a pair of same characters
These classes are then combined into properties. To us relevant properties (extracted from the spec) are:
Characters with this property do not require other characters to provide break opportunities; lines can ordinarily break before and after and between pairs of ideographic characters.
Ordinary Alphabetic and Symbol Characters
Characters with this property require other characters to provide break opportunities; otherwise, no line breaks are allowed between pairs of them.
It’s these properties that can then be assigned to a specific character.
Say a character has the
AL Line Breaking Property set, then it means that no line breaks are allowed between pairs of them.
Characters (and thus emojis) have a “Line Breaking Property”, which applies one or more breaking classes onto the character. Two of the possible values for said property are:
(A)classes = allow breaks before and after the character
(XP)class = don’t allow breaks in between pairs.
2. If the above is a feature: is there a list of emojis – or can we detect which emojis – that get text-wrapped (and those who are not) available somewhere?
The answer to question 1 clearly indicates that it’s an actual feature. Khaled also sent me a link to a plain text file mentioning the Line Breaking Properties per character. Linking back to the tests I ran, we can extract these values for 💩 and ⚠️:
- 💩 =
- ⚠️ =
The plot thickens, right?
💩 and ⚠️ have a different Line Breaking Property set:
- 💩 =
ID= breaks allowed before and after the character
- ⚠️ =
AL= no breaks allowed in between pairs.
2b. (Bonus question) Can I somehow force emojis with the
AL-property to split in between pairs?
Yes you can! From the spec:
ZWSPas a manual override to provide break opportunities around alphabetic or symbol characters.
ZWSP = ZERO WIDTH SPACE (
U+200B or HTML
Manually sprinkle a
ZWSP character in between pairs of
AL-emoijs to provide break opportunities.
Using CSS you can use
word-break: break-all; to allow breaks be inserted between any two characters.
3. Why do emojis get text-wrapped, and not hyphenated?
Browsers use a language-based hyphenation dictionary to apply hyphenation. The dictionary to use is defined by the set language on a document or element. From the CSS Text Module Level 3 Spec:
Correct automatic hyphenation requires a hyphenation resource appropriate to the language of the text being broken. The UA is therefore only required to automatically hyphenate text for which the author has declared a language (e.g. via HTML
lang) and for which it has an appropriate hyphenation resource.
(*) As seen in the tests it should be noted that firefox follows this guideline quite strictly, as hyphenation only works when explicitly setting the
lang attribute to a one of its supported languages (see tests). Chrome and Safari, apparently, are not so strict in this and use a default language. There’s a bug filed for Chrome on this.
There is no hyphenation dictionary for emojis.
Emojis don’t hyphenate because they have no hyphenation-dictionary. For regular text, be sure to set your
lang attribute if you want hyphenation to work properly. Also: IE/Edge don’t like my tests, apparently.
Now, that was an interesting journey I must say. I now understand why certain things (should) happen. 🙂
Remains – as per usual – a few browser-specific quirks to be answered …
- Why, in Chrome, is hyphenation not applied on the last string?
→ It’s a bug! and has been fixed in Chrome 56 and up.
- Why, in Firefox, does the container stretch out on the ⚠️-test, whilst other browsers overflow?
- Why, in IE11/Edge, does the 💩-test not wrap, whilst other browsers do?
- Why, in IE11/Edge, does hyphenation not work even though it should? Setting the
en-US, or setting the
htmlyield the same result.
- Why, in Chrome and Safari, is hyphenation applied even when the required
langis not set?
→ Bugs for Chrome and Safari have been filed.