One of the biggest issues I encounter when hunting for one of those obscure and uncommon Unicode characters is the fact that there’s thousands and thousands of them in total. I’ve managed to memorize key combinations for the most useful ones (such as the ellipsis), but it’s tough to squeeze too many of them into your brain. Shapecatcher.com eases your pain by allowing you to find that special character by using your visual memory.
We’ve gone over several solutions to finding special symbols before, but this one is really unique. Using Shapecatcher.com, you only have to draw the character that you’re looking for and you are then presented with a list of possible results. It couldn’t get much easier!
How to Use Shapecatcher.com
It’s very simple:
- Visit http://shapecatcher.com/
- Draw the character that you’re looking for in the box:
- Click “Recognize” beneath the box
- Your results will then appear beneath the box:
Shapecatcher.com’s database is huge, currently with 10,877 characters. They do not currently have support for Japanese, Korean and Chinese but do have plans to add that additional support in the future, which would expand their database pretty greatly.
They also offer a page to download fonts so that you can have typeface support for these Unicode symbols within your respective operating system.
On the more technical side, Shapecatcher.com’s Drawbox is reliant on HTML5 and it works very impressively. You’ll notice that the drawing-to-characters matching is incredibly fast, and here’s a quote directly from the website in regards to that:
Each query on this website is processed by a graphics card, making the comparsion process over 15 times faster than on my CPU. In essence, CUDA makes it possible to provide a near realtime expierence and to handle higher loads on this website.
Shapecatcher.com is the real deal and its drawing-matching algorithm is very accurate and works quite nicely, even if you’re terrible at making simple sketches (like me). Here’s a great example.
A simpler solution could be CopyPasteCharacter, where you can register and create a personal collection of your most-used special characters. CPC and Shapecatcher.com in unison could make for an incredibly useful combination. CPC is one of the many symbol applications that we’ve reviewed here at MakeUseOf.
If you dumb things down one step further, you’ve still got Windows’ Character Map to play around with!
It’s the simplest and most convenient alternative to Shapecatcher.com. I’d only recommend putting extensive use towards Shapecatcher when you’re looking for a very specific and uncommon special character. Otherwise, most of what you need should be here (or on OSX’s alternative).
Shapecatcher.com is a great display of the HTML5 technology and a fresh and unique way to find those interesting little Unicode characters we all sometimes must hunt for. Looking for more special symbols? We’ve published articles on smiley face symbols and their meanings, keyboard techniques to create such symbols, and a simple tutorial on how to use your keyboard’s number pad as a tool to hotkey these characters.
Let me know what you guys think about Shapecatcher.com in the comments!