Sunday, April 9, 2017

The mysterious "J" instead of a smiley face

I am sure many of you received emails with a "mysterious" capital "J" character in the sentences like "Thank you J". And I am sure many of you know the answer. But just in case you are still wondering what this means - here is the answer.

You may have figured out from the context that "J" stands for a smiley face. And you will be right. But why "J"? After all it doesn't really resemble a smiley face.

What does J mean in the email messages?

I will use a short email that I received earlier this week as an example:

Looks absolutely fine in my Outlook 2016. But in a different mail client the smiley face is replaced with a capital "J". Let's look at the actual HTML code of this email:

<body bgcolor=white lang=EN-US link="#0563C1" vlink="#954F72"><div class=WordSection1><p class=MsoNormal>Team effort! Strength in numbers <span style='font-family:Wingdings'>J</span> <o:p></o:p></p><p class=MsoNormal><o:p>&nbsp;</o:p></p>
Interesting! Where Outlook renders a smiley face we actually have a span tag, that switches to the Wingdings font. And that span contains a single capital J character.

<span style='font-family:Wingdings'>J</span>
To understand what's actually happening here we need to launch a Character Map application built into every version of Windows.

Let's select the Wingdings font there and type a capital "J"

Wingdings font - capital "J"

See the smiley face there? Now it all makes sense. It's Outlook's way of embedding a smiley face into the email body. I've seen this issue for quite some time, so this decision was made most likely before a wider adoption of the Unicode. Those email clients that support both HTML and the Wingdings font will render a smiley face properly. Sometimes HTML tags might be stripped out, encoding may change from server to server, Wingdings may not be supported etc - in those cases the end result will be a capital "J".

Note - this is not the same smiley face that is corresponding to a Unicode character U+263A (decimal 9786). This one looks like this: ☺

Unicode character U+263A - smiley face

So, now you know what this mysterious "J" means and where it comes from. Hope you've enjoyed this quick investigation.