Look up any character or symbol with Shapecatcher


Although you could easily look up any word or concept in a search engine, what would you do if and wanted to look up a character or symbol (say if you were a designer or artist or just interested).

In ‘real life’ you would simply draw it and show it to someone who might now, and that is precisely how ShapeCatcher works.

ShapeCatcher is a free reference for characters and symbols of all kinds.

It offers ‘unicode character recognition’; all you have to do is draw your symbol in the box and Shapecatcher will match it with a list of characters, and give a little bit of information on each, including their  Unicode code point.

More information on Shapecatcher:

  • How to use it: draw your character or symbol with the mouse in the ‘drawbox’ and click ‘recognize’; a list of results will appear, which will include the unicode hexadecimal for each symbol.
  • The database: holds 10877 character glyphs (note: this may have changed as you read this; check out the Shapecatcher site for more updated figures). The database will invariably grow but is limited at the moment by the need to use open source or freely available glyphs
  • Japanese, Korean and Chinese characters: are currently not supported at the date of this writing, because free sources have not yet been found (note: you need to check the site for updates as this may have changed).
  • Font downloads: some fonts are available to download on this page.

The verdict: although I am not a designer and not a typeface/font fanatic (and therefore not likely to appreciate the full practical applications of this tool), I can nonetheless recognize that Shapecatcher is a great tool and such an impressively original concept (how do people think up these things?).

My only criticism of this tool is that t didn’t find some prominent symbols which I threw at it, including a dollar sign with two vertical stripes, the swastika, and the make-love-not-war sign. This is certainly due to the fact that these were note contained in the free glyphs that are used in this tool, and will invariably change as it grows and more symbols are added.

If you can think of the various practical applications that this tool can have please share them in the comments section!

Compatibility: requires a newer browser with HTML5 support. Successfully tested on Firefox 6 and recent versions of Chrome, Opera, Safari.

[Thanks go to reader Panzer for the tip about this great tool].

Visit the Shapecatcher site.