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Topic: Notes from syncing has weird font and formatting

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Old 08-04-2017, 06:24 PM
#1
 
Junior Lounger
 
Join Date: Mar 2011
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Notes from syncing has weird font and formatting

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.
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Old 08-04-2017, 09:12 PM
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Junior Lounger
 
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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 (http://://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UTF-8) 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.
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Old 08-05-2017, 01:53 AM
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Junior Lounger
 
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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. 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:
Click the image to open in full size.

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:
Click the image to open in full size.

Slide 3 shows AkrutoSync's test. It shows the same disparity as slide 1:
Click the image to open in full size.

Slide 4 shows what an uncorrupted note created on the iPhone looks like. It has the system font (sans serif) and newlines are displayed:
Click the image to open in full size.

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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Old 08-05-2017, 05:35 AM
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I'll take a look at this next week when I start syncing with an actual Exchange server at work again. Ping me if I forget.



Have you backed up your iTunes Library this week? If not, you are risking losing your music and playlists....
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Old 08-08-2017, 06:13 PM
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I am seeing some differences.

Outlook originated Notes get a different font on the iPhone than the iPhone originated Notes.
The vertical spacing seems to be the same to me. Quotes are different, but that is the font difference.

My guess on the recipe is that you copied that from a web page somewhere, and the formatting is HTML that does not transfer across the sync. Outlook understands HTML so the formatting remains.

The sync I am doing is without iTunes or the tool you are using. Exchange is keeping them in sync for me. So the font substitution is an iPhone thing to indicate the source of the note. The font looks the same in Outlook.

I have another difference as well. Outlook originated notes have a yellow background. Phone originated notes have a blue background. This is something we are going to have to live with.



Have you backed up your iTunes Library this week? If not, you are risking losing your music and playlists....
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Old 08-08-2017, 11:21 PM
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Does the iPhone originated note have the sans serif font, while the Outlook originated note have the Times-ish font? If so, then we're seeing the same thing.

You said that I copied some of my notes from a web page, and I'm assuming that you're referring to the notes synced from Outlook to iPhone, as they are the ones with the mysterious Times-ish font, unlike the font used everywhere else on the phone. However, I just create those notes as brand new notes in Outlook, then copied the content from a pure text editor (vim).

You said that Exchange is keeping your iPhone synced, and that's sort of what I do. AkrutoSync runs on the PC where Outlook resides. Akrutosync presents an Exchange Server interface to the phone in order to sync with the Outlook contents with the phone.

I'm baffled by the fact that you see Outlook originated notes with yellow background. Are you using iOS 10.x? I wonder if the Notes app is significantly different. As far as I know, Outlook notes don't have formatting, so if a different font or background colour are showing on the phone, it makes me wonder how the Exchange interface is defined. For example, even though Notes on Outlook don't have formatting, it is conceivable that there are be Exchange Server parameters that allow those formats to be specified when pushing notes out. This means that the data model for a note that is being outputted by the server is more complex than the Note that is internal to Outlook.

In fact, AkrutoSync staff asked me to inspect a diagnostic log of the data exchanged with the iPhone. I noticed that the details for notes pushed to the iPhone seem to have extra HTML tags mixed in with the plain text that one sees on the notes in Outlook. So it seems that HTML formatting is being added to plain text notes in the pushing out of notes to the phone. That's what caused me to posit that the data model for notes that are output from Exchange Server is more complex than plain text.

In contrast, notes created on the iPhone and imported to Outlook don't show up in the diagnostic log as having HTML tags. This is consistent witht the fact that they don't show up with weird formatting on the phone. If I edit the same note in Outlook, however, and push it out to the phone, poof, that pushing causes the note to become formatted times-ish. I'm guessing that the Exchange Server protocol allows incoming notes to be plain text, but at least in the AkrutoSync implementation, outgoing notes are HTML. In the AkrutoSync implementation, it seems that the formatting is predefined (Times-ish). I'm not sure if a real Exchange Server would allow plain-text-only outgoing notes without formatting specifications via HTML.
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Old 08-09-2017, 08:13 AM
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Yes the alternate font (which looks like Times New Roman) is used on the Outlook generated notes. The iPhone notes have the San Serif font.

The background color is in Outlook, blue for iPhone generated, yellow for Outlook generated. Not in the iPhone. The iPhone the background color is the same. iOS 10.3.3, Windows 10 Outlook 2013.

You and I have reached similar conclusions. Outlook is HTML formatting their notes, iPhone does not.



Have you backed up your iTunes Library this week? If not, you are risking losing your music and playlists....
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Old 08-09-2017, 09:29 PM
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Junior Lounger
 
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It's possible (and in my view, likely) that Outlook per se maintains notes without formatting of any sort, and it is the data model for notes outputted from the Exchange Server interface that introduces formatting. As I said in my previous message, I do not know whether the Exchange Server protocol allows for an outgoing note that is devoid of formatting. The input notes can certainly be free of HTML tags, according to AkrutoSync's syncronization logs. Perhaps the protocol allows for output notes that are format-free, but perhaps the specific Exchange Server implementations we are using are coded to use HTML formatting with default formats.
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