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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 earlier writing.
  1. 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 PostScript fonts.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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 etc.
  5. 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).
Points to remember

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.

168, 175, 180, 184

Glyphs that do not render properly on a Mac where the document is in ISO-8859-1.

166,178,179,185, 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.

The 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 5.0).

  Suggestions 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) fonts. 

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.

Viewing Glyphs


Acharya Logo
Text in Brahmi script at the Gate of the Great Stupa at Sanchi. The text records the donation of the pillar by a desciple of Arya Kshudra. The text reads "aya chuDasa atevAsino balamitasa dAnam thabho". More information about the Brahmi script is presented under Languages and Scripts.

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