Welcome To 2012: Free Erler Dingbats

Spring… errr… Fall-cleaning amongst the system fonts – two weeks ago it was announced that Matthew Carter’s web standard font families Georgia and Verdana had been expanded and upgraded, and today good news comes from the world of dingbat fonts. FSI – FontShop International contributes to the actualisation of the language of symbols by offering the TrueType font Erler Dingbats free of charge to computer users worldwide.

Erler Dingbats is the up-to-date symbol collection copywriters and social media users have been waiting for for years. Not only does it boast modern aesthetics and a consistent graphic style; the font also adheres to the most recent technical requirements. It follows the standard Unicode-Block for Dingbats (positions U+2700 to U+27BF), which contains the symbols and decorative glyphs according to the character lay-out of the original Zapf Dingbats by Hermann Zapf, published by the International Typeface Corporation (ITC) in 1978. Erler Dingbats was already featured in the book decodeunicode – Die Schriftzeichen der Welt, edited by Johannes Bergerhausen and Siri Poarangen (page 444 & 445), because it is the first dingbat font which fulfills the unicode requirements to 100%. And in a bold move to increase its chances to become the new standard, FSI decided to offer Erler Dingbats free of charge for any type of use (private, commercial, OS).


The complete set of 191 characters in Erler Dingbats.

The character set of Erler Dingbats comprises exactly 191 symbols. Most of them are valuable components for efficient visual communication; for example arrows, check boxes, crosses and check marks, stylised punctuation marks, writing tools, as well as three sets of circled numbers. Contrary to many other standard dingbat collections Erler Dingbats has a consistent and contemporary graphic style. No wonder since Erler Dingbats was derived from the 800-glyph strong comprehensive character set of FF Dingbats 2.0, which was released in 2009. However over 80 additional glyphs had to be created, and the already available ones were revised where necessary to achieve a unified design.


New characters missing in Zapf Dingbats that were added to make the font 100% compliant with the Unicode-Block for Dingbats (positions U+2700 to U+27BF).

The past few years the use of symbols in communication is on the rise again, since browsers, smart phones, social media apps and messenger programs (e.g. iMessage for iOS) now support the unicode standard. “For a long time we had been annoyed by the fact that the symbols offered by Twitter and Facebook are either to wispy, or too small, or simply old-fashioned”, Johannes Erler and Henning Skibbe – the designers of the new Erler Dingbats – confessed to Fontblog. “This is the reason why we built our own symbol character set which we have already been using for quite a while. Because numerous friends asked us whether they also could have the font we took our idea to FSI. Together with the talented font technicians of the FontFont Type Department we fine-tuned it into Erler Dingbats, in order to spread it far and wide.” The best way to go about this is by giving the font away free of charge, so millions of users worldwide can benefit from these improved, up-to-date symbols.

For more information download the brochure and the Erler Dingbats TrueType font on www.dingbatsfont.com.


Outdated and often mismatched symbols in the standard dingbats font ((blue) compared to their up-to-date contemporary and style-consistent versions in Erler Dingbats (red).

Common Questions

What does the name “Erler Dingbats” mean?

The first half of the name is a tribute to its designer Johannes Erler. The word “dingbat” has for decades been a common English typographic term referring to printer’s ornaments.

As strictly speaking it is a FontFont, why isn’t it called FF Erler Dingbats?

While indeed the font originates from the FontFont stable it does without the trademark FF prefix in its name, because as a free font it promotes the unicode concept and quality.

What does the Unicode-Block for Dingbats exactly define?

The Unicode-Block for Dingbats (2700-27BF) contains a collection of symbols and decorative glyphs according to the character lay-out of the original Zapf Dingbats by Hermann Zapf, which is the de facto industry standard. It mainly consists of arrows, ornamental punctuation and clips, circled numbers, crosses, stars, as well as mixed signs and symbols on different kinds of topics.

What differentiates Erler Dingbats from other dingbat system fonts?

Apart from the fact that it is 100% Unicode compatible, Erler Dingbats is a newly designed and up-to-date collection of glyphs with a consistent graphic language (line width, grey value, roundness, level of detail, character width, etc.).

Can I substitute the standard dingbat font on my computer with Erler Dingbats?

In principle, yet that doesn’t mean your operating system will accept Erler Dingbats as the new standard dingbat font. The system fonts on Mac and in Windows usually are “hardwired” to the operating system. For example this means that if you type the “writing hand” symbol from Erler Dingbats after you have uninstalled the standard dingbat font, there is a possibility that the corresponding unicode glyph U+270D from a pre-defined OS substitution font is used – for example from Arial unicode – if it is available.

As Erler Dingbats is a free font, can I distribute it myself or offer it as a download, for example in a free font collection?

No. Please always refer to the official download source www.dingbatsfont.com. In case of an update or a recall new data will be available immediately at that URL.

Why doesn’t Erler Dingbats include contemporary symbols such as mobile phone, WiFi or digital camera?

Because Erler Dingbats strictly adheres to the unicode standard, no additional glyphs were included. For a comprehensive collection of contemporary symbols see FF Dingbats 2.0.

Which characters were included in Erler Dingbats that are missing in Zapf Dingbats?

There are a number of symbols displayed in light green in the illustration above, amongst others the fist glyph, the flat hand, the spark, the white exclamation and question mark, the individual and double loop. For the first time in the entire history of Unicode standard, the full encoding range for dingbats (U + 2700 – U + 27BF) is now covered by a complete, contemporary quality font.

Why does the Maltese cross in Erler Dingbats differ from the one found in Zapf Dingbats?

The unicode slot U+2720 in Zapf Dingbats contains an iron cross instead of the Maltese cross. Erler Dingbats strictly adheres to the unicode standard.

I would like to use Erler Dingbats on my iPhone… is that possible?

At present the iOS operating system offers 59 font families. Deleting any of these fonts or installing additional ones without jailbreak your iPhone is not possible. We have informed the team at Apple responsible for the support of the OS fonts about the release of Erler Dingbats, which was taken up with interest.

Will the coloured Emoji symbols introduced with OS X Lion soon replace the dingbat fonts?

The Emoji characters are actually coded in accordance with unicode and enjoy the priority in iOS, so for example a monochrome heart dingbat in a Tweet will be represented by a multi-coloured Emoji symbol on the receiver’s end. Since the heart is included twice in the standard dingbat system font – in both the default “heart” unicode slot and the “playing card” slot – an increasing number of iPhone Twitter users are baffled by their admissions of love being communicated with playing cards.

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3 Comments:

  1. Thanks for the free download of Erler Dingbats. When I open the TrueType file to print it, all the symbols appear as square boxes. What now?

    Posted by Bill Poehler on Nov. 14, 2011
  2. Bill, have you read ‘Erler Dingbats Keyboard Layout.pdf’? The characters in Erler Dingbats are encoded with the corresponding unicodes. If you want to easily access them with a normal keyboard (without modifier keys and cryptic numeric values), you need to install the custom keyboard layout first. Alternatively, you can directly input the unicode values, e.g. via the OS’s character palette, a helper app like PopChar, or a website like http://copypastecharacter.com/

    Posted by Florian on Nov. 14, 2011
  3. Thanks, Florian. I will give that a try.

    Posted by Bill Poehler on Nov. 15, 2011

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