Recommendations for Designing Fonts
for Indian languages/scripts
At the Systems Development
Laboratory, we have gained valuable experience in dealing with many different
fonts for Indian languages/scripts. The Multilingual Editor and other applications
developed at the lab are used with fonts which provide maximum compatibility
in respect of use across different platforms as well as support a good
set of Glyphs to generate as many conjunct aksharas as possible. We give
below our recommendations for designers who may wish to design new fonts
for any of the Indian Scripts currently in use or even scripts used in
Restrict the basic and the most
important set of Glyphs to about 180. This number is not arbitrary but
has been arrived at after examining the set of glyphs that will get rendered
properly across systems. These glyphs will get rendered properly on a web
browser under Windows9X, X-Windows under Unix, Macintosh and systems recognizing
Place the most essential glyphs
in the upper ASCII region so that you may perform data entry directly using
standard editors and word processors. Provide for punctuation and special
characters as required but leave out the Glyphs corresponding to "<"
, ">" . "&" and "!". These are used by many applications which interpret
HTML documents. What is implied here is that these glyphs be retained for
these symbols and not the glyphs of the script for which the font is being
designed. It is best to leave out these four even if one would want to
use the Entity reference to these glyphs.
Place the remaining glyphs in
the upper ASCII region between 160 and 255 but leave out a few glyphs that
will create problems. Please refer to the chart at the end of the page.
Glyph 173 (Soft Hyphen) will not render in recent systems. Hence it should
also be excluded.
The arrangement of the Glyphs
may be made according to the requirement of the designer. Those who want
sorting order maintained will usually place the glyphs according to the
alphabetical order, as in the fonts provided by CDAC. Others may place
the glyphs according to a transliteration scheme, as in SANSKRIT 1.2, Xdvng
The glyphs arrangement shown
here is compatible with ISO-8859-1 encoding and these glyphs will render
correctly under Win9X and Unix. However, about fourteen of these glyphs
may not render properly on a Mac unless the document is encoded in native
Mac format (Mac Roman).
The following Glyph positions
in ISO-8859-1 are not defined precisely in terms of a unique name for the
glyph. It is a good idea to leave these out for total compatibility. However
on a Windows machine, these will (most likely) work.
175, 180, 184
Glyphs that do not render
properly on a Mac where the document is in ISO-8859-1.
188,189, 190, 208, 215, 221, 222, 240, 253,254
Glyph 173 is likely to be
incorrectly interpreted on WinXP/2000 systems.
Java based applications also
reserve the exclamation mark. It is therefore not a good idea to put a
local language glyph at code position 33.
recommended Glyph positions are shown below.
It is the experience
of the development team at IIT Madras that these glyphs render properly
on all the platforms if the native encoding scheme
is used in each case. This means that you can perform data entry
on any system (Linux, Mac and Win9X) using appropriate methods for typing
in a Glyph. The glyph positions shown with a question mark in red are the
ambiguously defined positions. The glyphs shown enclosed in red rectangles
are the ones which do not get rendered with Browsers on a Mac if the document
is in ISO-8859-1. However, these will show up correctly if the document
is in the Native Mac encoding. It may also be kept in mind that some Browsers
may not render glyphs above 128 (as is the case with Internet Explorer
for font conversions across platforms
There are many font conversion
utilities that are freely available. There is an interesting utility called
crossfont which may be used for generating Mac fonts from Windows Truetype(.ttf)
Under Linux, one can use
the GNU font conversion utilities to go from Metafont to PostScript.
Font Monger allows conversion
from PostScript to Truetype and may still be available for free download.
Truetype to BDF and PCF is
easily done through utilities available under Unix.
Aid to view the Glyphs
of installed fonts on a Windows system
Often one wants to look at
the glyphs present in a font so that one may get an idea of the aksharas
which may be rendered properly. Please visit the page describing the method.
Basically a .doc file is provided which you may view under Word.