Thank goodness those days are past. Nowadays we all use Unicode, the internationally agreed industry-wide font-encoding standard for all alphabets and scripts, covering all the languages of the world as well as all the phonetic (and other) symbols we might need. A single font can now contain thousands, indeed tens of thousands, of different characters. So we no longer have to keep switching fonts merely in order to include phonetic symbols. In this blog I can be confident that when I input a particular phonetic symbol you will see that same phonetic symbol on your screen, no matter where you are and no matter what platform you are using. (OK, there may be marginal cases where the font you are using falls down over one or two unusual symbols: but then you will probably see a blank square or something similar — you won’t see the wrong phonetic symbol or some ludicrous webding, as used to happen.)
I celebrated this progress and documented the details in the poster paper I gave at the 2007 International Congress of Phonetic Sciences in Saarbrücken. (If you’re interested, here’s the printed version.)
But phoneticians haven’t all caught up.
The next ICPhS is due to be held in Hong Kong in a few months’ time. The deadline for paper submission is the beginning of March, so it’s time for everyone to get their thoughts in order and start writing. The Call for Papers page on the conference website gives the following instructions about phonetic symbols in submitted papers.
• One of the following IPA fonts is to be used for congress papers:
IPA-SAM phonetic fonts: http://www.phon.ucl.ac.uk/shop/fonts.php
SIL phonetic fonts: http://scripts.sil.org/encore-ipa-download
What are these fonts, so brusquely prescribed?
- The IPA-SAM fonts are 8-bit fonts that I created around fifteen years ago. Building on SIL software, they enjoyed some considerable popularity because the encoding and therefore the keyboarding fitted in nicely with the way phoneticians actually use phonetic symbols. Nevertheless, once Unicode became available it rendered these and other specialist 8-bit fonts obsolete. For the last five years or more I have been actively discouraging people from using the fonts I created, because Unicode phonetic fonts are now widely available. Indeed, more and more of the ‘core’ fonts supplied with new computers include all the IPA symbols. So everyone should now use Unicode rather than ‘legacy’ fonts like the IPA-SAM fonts.
- If you follow the ICPhS link to the SIL site, you will see this notice, prominently displayed.
The SIL Encore IPA and SIL IPA93 fonts are obsolete, symbol-encoded fonts. Their use is discouraged. If you decide to download and use these fonts, please note there is no user support for these fonts.
If your university or organization requires the use of these fonts, please request they change their requirement to Doulos SIL, a Unicode-encoded font which contains the complete IPA repertoire.
Yes, their use is discouraged. Did you read that, conference organizers?
The Word template supplied by the organizers for ICPhS conference papers contains the following.
You can use phonetic symbols and special characters in your paper. To make sure that readers of your article can see the phonetic symbols in the PDF document, all special symbols must be embedded in the PDF. Depending on the software you use to produce the PDF the details may vary. In our experience the fonts are usually embedded, but this can be checked e.g. by inspecting the "Document Properties -- Fonts" in Acrobat Reader.
It is recommended to use one of the following fonts to show phonetic symbols (links for free download can also be found at the Congress website):
• IPA-SAM phonetic fonts 
• SIL phonetic fonts  (Unicode is accepted)
“Unicode is accepted.” As an afterthought. Big deal.
Where have the congress organizers been for the last ten years? Unicode should be required. And legacy fonts firmly deprecated.