IPA in 7 bits
Phonetics students are always plagued with this. How to insert properly IPA symbols on your problem set. The most common way is to use SIL IPA fonts, which are really nice and complete. The backdrop is the pain to insert one by one, as most people do not know the mapping for the non-Roman characters. But it works ibn the end, until someone who has not an IPA font opens it. Weird symbols. Or a different version of the font. These last two problems can be avoided by transforming your document in PDF (use Open Office, preferrably from scratch). But it is still a pain to insert the symbols. Using LaTeX is a bit better in the sense that you just need to have your table and enter the commands, but in the end, probably it requires more keystrokes. What about when you just want to send a phonetic transcription by e-mail.
Most people would agree that Unicode is the ultimate solution, as a standard to encode most characters of world's languages and phonetic fonts. To some degree it already works in the internet, as the folks in Language Log usually do. But Unicode is still far from being THE standard (some say the nice thing about standards is that there are so many...). But hopefully Unicode will be more popular eventually.
An obvious way to make easy the task of representing IPA symbols is to use your good old ASCII. It is already partially overlapping with IPA symbols, but you still need a many more and the obvious solution is to use two ASCII symbols for a single IPA symbol. Not perfect, but it works as long as you have an escape character. Of course, people thought about that long ago. One option is called SAMPA and in its last incarnation X-SAMPA. It is not something to be used in any serious scholar work or to replace IPA, but to make IPA machine readable, and to some point human readable. Of course, you need to learn the mapping. But its universality appeal is undeniable and lies in the fact of using exclusively ASCII characters, which are truly universal. If you are like me, which still writes e-mail in plain, good, old, virus free, ASCII text e-mails, you should give X-SAMPA a try. And here is the table for X-SAMPA with IPA.