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Notes from syncing has weird font and formatting

  • 4 August 2017
  • 2 replies

Userlevel 2
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?


2 replies

Userlevel 2
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.

Userlevel 2
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:

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:

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.