We should standardize our use of unicode accidentals versus keyboard equivalents.

Why there's a problem

Questions and Answers that use the unicode sharp (♯) and flat (♭) symbols (for example) are not directly findable in search results.


I posted an answer to this question: Is there such a thing as F♯ position on the piano?

Originally, the question and answer used the keyboard # sign. Later, they were edited to use the unicode ♯ symbol.

Now if I search for "user:70803 is:answer [piano] F#", the answer does not show up in the results.

However, if I search for "user:70803 is:answer [piano] F", it does.

As best I can tell, the ♯ unicode character is ignored in searches. Searching for "user:70803 is:answer [piano] F♯" gives the same results as "user:70803 is:answer [piano] F".

This is true generally, not just for my intentionally limited search.


I propose a vote. Suggested solutions would be posted as Answers to this Question, with the top vote-getter being the solution adopted by MP&T. Discussion of solutions can happen in comments and/or chat. The voting period would initially be open-ended to allow for as much participation as possible.

I've included a few Answers, but please add others. If you want to be able to vote for your own solution, let me know in the comments or on chat, and I'll post it for you.

Related questions and issues

UPDATE: So far, there is some support for requesting that unicode accidentals and their #/b substitutes be made equivalent in searches. Just bumping the question to see if there's any more input from the community.

UPDATE 2: One more bump a few years later to gauge any new/changed interest. So far, support for making unicode and keyboard #/b symbols search-equivalent remains the clear leading option.

  • 3
    Maybe I'm in the minority, and I know this was just a thought experiment, but how often do users search for such a specific thing (a specific symbol by a specific user)? I've found that different members of the community have different approaches to this, so searching "F sharp" will naturally lead me to a thread where at least one user wrote "sharp," whereas others may have written # or ♯. In other words, it seems to all come out in the wash. Of course, if a solution is easy to implement, I'm all for it.
    – Richard
    Sep 17, 2020 at 14:08
  • 1
    @Richard My specific search was only to keep the results to a small, easily observed set. The bigger issue would be in searching for something like "Chopin Prelude in Eb". But you've articulated the core question exactly: is there enough redundancy built into how the community writes questions and answers that the person searching for the Prelude can reasonably find it, or would they get too many results, or miss the desired result?
    – Aaron
    Sep 19, 2020 at 22:48

3 Answers 3


Place a request that # and ♯, b and ♭, etc. be made equivalent for the purpose of searches.

(Possible variation: make sharp, #, and ♯ search-equivalent)

  • 6
    In addition, it would be great if SE offered tools for typing musical characters easily. Sep 24, 2020 at 16:40
  • 1
    What scares me with this idea is the fact that people will prefer using unicode characters over "standard keyboard characters". And since I can see the latter and not the former, it's not very practical to understand questions/answers.
    – Clockwork
    May 20, 2021 at 13:25
  • @user1079505 Typing them in answers is easy. Just use ♯, ♮, ♭, etc. They don't work in comments or question titles, so the workaround is to type them into an answer edit window and then copy from the preview and paste into the comment or title like this: ♯ ♮ ♭. There are plenty of online references for musical symbol HTML entities and the official Unicode Page gives the less friendly numeric versions.
    – Theodore
    Feb 28, 2023 at 16:17
  • This is a better reference for HTML entities. I haven't tried them all in SE on my browser.
    – Theodore
    Feb 28, 2023 at 16:24

This is not a real problem. Just leave it be.


Stop using the unicode characters.

(Possible variation: and revert all existing uses to their keyboard equivalents.)

  • 1
    This would be my preference. I remember stumbling on a post, can't remember which one, nor whether or not it was on this Stack Exchange site. I kept seeing empty squares because my computer/browser just couldn't display the music symbol special unicode characters. I think I had to miraculously find a screenshot among the comments to finally understand what was being discussed.
    – Clockwork
    May 20, 2021 at 13:04
  • 1
    Found it: music.stackexchange.com/questions/107283/…
    – Clockwork
    May 20, 2021 at 13:16
  • 1
    @Clockwork Is this still an issue for you?
    – wizzwizz4
    Feb 17, 2023 at 19:59
  • @wizzwizz4 Ah, it's been a year and a half. Ever since I moved away from Windows 7 and installed Linux Mint after upgrading my computer, I can now see all the music symbols in the answers to that question. So it's no longer an issue for me anymore. Still, I'll keep my vote for this answer, for those who cannot afford to get a new computer/operating system. Thanks for asking.
    – Clockwork
    Feb 17, 2023 at 20:06
  • 1
    @Clockwork For posterity: you should also be able to fix the problem by installing extra fonts, on Windows. (Though that's also not something everybody should have to do.) And while I'm here, an obligatory note that you don't need to buy a new computer to install Linux Mint (installation guide).
    – wizzwizz4
    Feb 17, 2023 at 20:08
  • @wizzwizz4 Yeah, I think I had tried doing that, although some symbols still refused to show for me (it was a partial solution).
    – Clockwork
    Feb 17, 2023 at 20:09

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