Notes from syncing has weird font and formatting

Discussion in 'iPhone Apps and Games' started by AppleMicrosoft, Aug 4, 2017.

  1. AppleMicrosoft

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    I created an Exchange account on my iPhone SE and sync'd notes with my Windows PC. On the PC, AkrutoSync acted as the Exchange server.

    The odd thing is that even though notes created on the iPhone have the default font (looks like Helvetica or Arial), the notes that sync'd with Exchange server have a font that looks like Times. Furthermore, there is paragraph level formatting in that each new line has liberal amounts of (wasted) space preceding it. Not all lines have this spacing.

    This is all the more odd because the Notes app on the iPhone doesn't seem to provide a way to specify formatting of any kind. It looks like it was meant to be a text only app. With the odd formatting above, however, it seems that the Notes app does have an innate ability to represent formatting, even though the user is not given the means to specify formatting.

    To me, the obvious question is how this formatting is getting embedded into the notes that are synch'd with the Exchange server. Two possibilities come to mind. The first is that the concept of formatting is foreign to notes on the Exchange server, and iOS is imparting these formats to the iOS version of each note as part of the synching process. The second possibility is that Exchange server notes do support formatting, and the Exchange server is specifying this additional formatting during the synching process.

    I tend lean toward the conjecture that Exchange server notes do not support formatting, as I've never seen notes with formatting before. At least on my Windows machine, there is no way to apply formats to text within notes.

    It is also possible that Windows/Office notes support formatting, but this isn't being specified by the Exchange server in the synching process -- it might be iOS imparting these formats during the synching process.

    Can anyone shed some light onto what goes on during the synching notes with an Exchange server, and more importantly, how to get rid of the formatting that plagues the notes in iOS?

    Thanks.
     
  2. AppleMicrosoft

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    I don't know if this provides a hint as to possible causes, but I find that if the text of a note contains multibyte characters (see UTF-8 on wikipedia) then the iOS note takes on the (apparent) Arial/Helvetica-ish system default font. If there is not even one character that is multibyte, then the iOS note takes on the hard-to-read Times-ish font. So far, the unwanted vertical spacing occurs in the latter.

    One might presume that the former is preferred, but in fact, they come with an even bigger problem -- all the new-lines seem to be missing. Unreadable. So I went through all the notes in Outlook on the PC and replaced multibyte characters with single-byte approximations. For example, the bullet symbol was replaced by asterisks. It's a bit tricky because some of the multibyte characters are hard to find, e.g., even a space mutlibyte (it's obviously some variation of the single-byte space that we all know and love). Other multibyte characters were vowels with accents -- I replaced them with their unaccented versions.

    Anyways, this makes the notes readable, but the Times-ish microfont and the haphazard verticaal spacing is far from ideal. Thanks for any suggestions as to a better solution.
     
  3. AppleMicrosoft

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    I assembled the following screen shots into a slide deck, in the course of communicating with AkrutoSync. Each slide compares the look on Outlook versus the look on the iPhone. I've uploaded these slides as 1.png to 4.png. In all but the last slide, the note looks normal on Outlook, but abnormal on the iPhone.

    Slide 1 shows a typical note that looks normal on Outlook but displays on the iPhone with Times-ish microfont:

    Slide 2 shows what happens when I add a single multibyte character to the text. The only difference from slide 1 is the bullet symbol. Notice how the font is right (the system font, sans serif), but none of the newlines are displayed:

    Slide 3 shows AkrutoSync's test. It shows the same disparity as slide 1:

    Slide 4 shows what an uncorrupted note created on the iPhone looks like. It has the system font (sans serif) and newlines are displayed:

    I mentioned that there was sporadic extra vertical spacing in some notes. I can no longer find an example, and I strongly suspect that the erratic spacing was the result of some of the other multibyte characters that I mentioned.

    If a note is a text-only object, then no notes should have any formatting. The note should have no font attribute, and the font in which the note is displayed should be determined strictly by the app or host system, not on the basis of individual notes (as seems to be the case here). Yet somehow, the notes for which updates propagate from Outlook to the iPhone *are* taking on individual, non-standard fonts. The presence of a multibyte character in the note seems to force the Notes app to use the standard font, but also causes the newlines to be not displayed.

    I don't expect the iPhone to display notes with the same font as Outlook, but neither should it start selectively displaying some notes with a nonstandard font (which unfortunately has poor legibility) and other notes without newlines.

    AkrutoSync has clarified that their syncing is text-based only, so their syncing is not responsible for the inconsistent manner in which notes are displayed. It makes me wonder whether the Notes app exhibits this same bizzare behaviour when syncing with other Exchange servers.
     

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  4. Ledsteplin

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    That looks like the Noteworthy font style. Are you sure there's not an option in Notes to change the font. There used to be on iPhone, but I haven't seen it in a while. Noteworthy was one of 3 options.
     
  5. AppleMicrosoft

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    I've googled and searched. It may have been possible at one time, but not now, as far as I can find. The problem also seems to afflict certain notes. The notes without multibyte characters have weird font & size. The notes *with* multibyte characters have "normal" fonts, but the newlines don't show. And these two conditions only seem to afflict notes synched from the PC to the phone, not vice versa (then again, for notes composed on the phone, I'm not sure how to create multibyte characters).
     
  6. Ledsteplin

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    Which one has the different font? The yellow looks sort of like Noteworthy. But on closer look, it may not be.
     
  7. AppleMicrosoft

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    On all slides, the right most pane is the snapshot from the phone. The different font is the Times-ish black letters on white background, slides 1 and 3. This is the unexpected font. The phone pane in Slide 4 shows what a new note created on the phone looks like. Everything looks normal, with newlines showing, and the font correspond to the sans serif font used everywhere else on the phone. Slide 3 shows a note pushed to the phone from the PC will also display with the phone's "normal" sans serif font *if* the note's content contains a multibyte character (the bullet); however, the consequence is that none of the newlines show on the phone (though they do show on Outlook). I suspect that the multibyte character befuddles the import function, it throws up its hands, and says "here, display yourself with the system default font". It also gets befuddled by newlines, and it may be that the code that handles the befuddling multibye character is getting the DOS line endings and not recognizing them as newlines. I am assuming that iOS is a Unix environment, which uses only a Carriage Return for a newline, while DOS uses abutted Carriage Return and Linefeed for a newline. I could be wrong about iOS Notes getting confused by the Unix line endings, as one would expect the DOS line endings to show up as extra vertical space rather than the lack of newlines.

    On all slides, the black letters on yellow background is how Outlook displays the content of a note. This has been consistent throughout the years, both across Windows versions and Office versions. As far as I know, it is unrelated to the phone and how it displays each note. I strongly suspect that the contents of each individual a note is considered text-only, i.e., no formatting is specified by or within each note. Seemingly paradoxically, however, If I cut and paste the text into Word 2007 in a Windows 2007 system, the font shows as Comic MS Sans. I suspect that this font info is not associated with each note, but because Outlook uses that font to display the content of each note, it also embeds that font into the copy/paste clipboard along with the text content. I'm not sure how I developed this impression -- possibly because notes in Outlook have no mechanism for the user to specify formatting, so I assumed it was text only.
     

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