Contact Us


Initiative B@bel

WSI Guidelines


















Type Design


Design Tools



Font Downloads










Font FAQ



NRSI: Computers & Writing Systems


You are here: General
Short URL: http://scripts.sil.org/NRSIUpdate15

NRSI Update #15 – June 2001

Lorna A. Priest (ed.), 2001-06-01

In this issue:

Introducing Melinda Bowman

by Melinda Bowman

I was born in northern California and adopted by my parents before my first birthday. I grew up in a small town called Taft, in central California. My parents had one “natural”-born son, had already adopted a boy by the time they adopted me and adopted another boy and two girls after me. It was a wonderful way to grow up! I remember kids at school asking me what it was like to be adopted. My response was “what’s it like to not be adopted?” I knew how much my parents loved me and wanted me before they’d ever met me! How much more loved could a kid be!

In October 1994, I moved to Houston, Texas to be near my two sisters and their families who had moved to the area earlier in the year. I learned about SIL from some friends and made a trip back to California in the summer of 1995 to meet with some people from SIL. Little did I know, I was to meet my future parents-in-law at that time. A year later, I came to the Dallas area to visit with the couple I had met. I met their son, Drew, at that time. We were married the following year.

I came to work with the NRSI team in February 2001 as the administrative assistant. I have a lot to learn about the work that goes on here and it is an exciting challenge. The people here are great and are very willing teachers! Over the next couple of months, one of these willing teachers, Peter Martin, will be teaching me how to create and manage web content.

Free, downloadable, OpenType-based Unicode Syriac fonts

by Bob Hallissy

The Syriac Computing Center (SyrCOM) of Beth Mardutho has released version 1.1 of a collection of OpenType-based Syriac fonts for use with Windows XP, Office XP, or Internet Explorer 6. The fonts are free, though SyrCOM encourages voluntary donations.

Here is a sample screenshot showing several of the fonts:

From their FAQ:

Question: Will the fonts work under Windows 95/98/ME?

Answer: Yes and No! You will not be able to write Syriac under these platforms as they are not Unicode-compliant. But you can read Syriac texts and web pages using Internet Explorer 6.0.

Question: Which languages and dialects are supported in the fonts?

Answer: Classical Syriac, Swadaya (the Eastern Neo-Aramaic dialect of the Assyrians and Chaldeans), Turoyo (the Central Neo-Aramaic dialect of the Syriac Orthodox of Tur Abdin), Garshuni (Arabic written in Syriac), Christian Palestinean Aramaic (also called Palestinean Syriac).

Question: Which scripts are supported?

Answer: Estrangelo, Serto (West Syriac), and East Syriac.

Question: How many fonts are there?

Answer: Over a dozen and the list is growing.

For further information and download instructions, visit their web site at  http://www.bethmardutho.org/.

Graphite: Coming Soon to a Computer Near You

by Sharon Correll

A powerful, extensible, smart rendering package for Windows has been a need in SIL for many years and we are excited that version 1.0 of Graphite (originally known as “WinRend”) is virtually complete. By using a smart renderer in linguistic applications, field workers have the prospect of being able to work with linguistically clean and consistent data in order to obtain a correct display.

The first version of Graphite will include the following capabilities:

  • contextual letter form selection, insertion, and deletion
  • complex position adjustments based on context, such as stacking diacritics
  • glyph attachment points
  • ability to access font metrics
  • bidirectionality (as needed for Semitic scripts)
  • ligature creation and editing
  • Indic reordering
  • end-of-line and cross-line contextual behavior
  • run-time-selectable script variations

More advanced capabilities such as justification and automatic glyph collision avoidance are possibilities for future versions.

Currently there is one application that can render using Graphite: WorldPad, a basic text editor built using the  FieldWorks framework. (FieldWorks is a suite of linguistic applications under development by SIL’s Language Software Development department.) Eventually all of the FieldWorks tools will be able to use Graphite.

Graphite Font Development

As powerful as the Graphite package is, it is only half of the complex-script rendering picture. The other half involves smart fonts that can interact with the Graphite engine to actually perform all these complex behaviors. These fonts need to be developed using the Graphite Description Language (GDL), a rule-based programming language that is part of the Graphite package. As part of the Non-Roman Technical Consultation in September, we are planning to spend a significant amount of time training the attendees in GDL programming, with the hope that a number of these individuals will be able to begin implementing a Graphite font for the complex scripts with which they are familiar. Whether or not you are planning to attend NRTC, you are welcome to obtain a copy of Graphite and try using it to develop your own smart font.


Graphite continues to generate interest from individuals and organizations outside of SIL. In our contacts at conferences and workshops, we have been frequently urged to pursue an open-source approach for ongoing development; one computational linguist stated that open-sourcing Graphite would be “a gift to the human race.” Plans for open-sourcing (not only Graphite but also the FieldWorks package being developed by the Language Software Development group) are currently in progress, and we are finalizing the details of our licensing agreements and various logistical details. One outside group has definite plans underway to port Graphite to be used in a Linux application; another has expressed interest in a Java port. Integrating Graphite rendering into a variety of third-party text-processing and linguistic applications is another need that could possibly be met by open-source development.

Keyman 5 release

by Lorna Priest

Keyman 5 has now been released and can be downloaded at:  http://www.tavultesoft.com/keyman/downloads. Keyboards can be written for both Unicode and ANSI input. Keyman 5.0 has been separated into two products: Keyman (the runtime portion for people wanting to use a keyboard someone else has developed) and Keyman Developer (for those who will be developing keyboards).


Keyman is free for all non-commercial and non-governmental use. This is fairly close to the previous usage, but non-profit organisations can now use Keyman (runtime) for free.

SIL has an agreement with Tavultesoft which allows SIL members free use of Keyman 5, including Keyman Developer. If you are interested in this, contact me for registration details. There will be an Intranet site soon which will give details of registration codes.

For non-SIL, note that Keyman Developer is still a 30 day evaluation license, with US$50 or US$35 registration depending on location and educational status. More information can be found at:  http://www.tavultesoft.com/keyman/register/.

Some of the major features of TIKE (Tavultesoft Integrated Keyboard Editor) are:

  • Keyboard Wizard, for creating keyboards visually
  • Package Editor, for creating a package of keyboard, fonts and files for distribution
  • Installer Editor, for creating a Keyman runtime that includes your keyboards
  • Integrated Compiler, to compile keyboards and packages
  • Test Window, for testing your keyboards
  • Character Map, which supports viewing Unicode fonts under Windows 95/98
  • A bitmap editor in TIKE
  • Complete syntax highlighting in TIKE
  • Virtual key input
  • Keyboard hotkeys
  • Named deadkeys

A User’s experiences

I've been testing Keyman for several months now and really like the program. Some things which are helpful to be aware of:

  • It is very important to uninstall previous releases of Keyman 5 before installing the newest version.
  • If you used earlier betas there is a difference in the way you select keyboards. Microsoft’s input method selector/indicator on the taskbar is no longer used for selecting Keyman keyboards. Another icon has been added to the taskbar (in addition to the standard indicator), and it is this which is used to select Keyman keyboards.
  • Keyman keyboards take precedence over Windows keyboards. If you want to use a Windows keyboard you must select “No Keyman Keyboard”.

In Windows 2000 most MS Office 2000 programs seem to be able to use Unicode keyboards. Using Keyman, I've typed small amounts of data in Word 97 and Word 2000, Access 2000, Excel 2000, NotePad, WorldPad, WordPad and yes, even in Paint and Notes! (In Notes I had to go to File/Preferences/User Preferences/Basics and then under “Additional Options” check “Enable Unicode display.”) I could use a Keyman keyboard which used ANSI (but not Unicode) in FrontPage 2000. I was not able to type using either ANSI or Unicode Keyman keyboards in Publisher 2000 but for some reason I could use an ANSI keyboard in Publisher 97. Attempting to use any Keyman keyboard with PowerPoint 2000 hung PowerPoint.

There are some problems with using Keyman with Office XP (beta) products. Word 2002 (beta) hung consistently when I tried to type keys which were not in the keyboard (like a space). On the other hand, I have not had problems typing in Publisher 2002 (beta). Marc Durdin (Keyman developer) does not plan to address any difficulties with using Keyman and Office XP until Office XP is officially released.

For Windows 9x machines Marc has prototyped support for entering Unicode data in MS Word; see the MS Word add-in (available for download) on the same page as Keyman itself. Also, Keyman supports the WM_UNICHAR message (an addition to the Windows spec that we suggested to Microsoft and that they adopted recently). This makes it possible to enter any Unicode character into apps that also support this message on Windows 9x, regardless of codepage support. On the application side, this is currently supported in WorldPad and Publisher 2002 as well as any applications that are based on version 4 of Microsoft’s RichEdit control.

Important Note

JAARS has not yet given a recommendation for Keyman 5 to be widely deployed, and they may not yet feel ready to offer support. There are still some bugs people are encountering. You can make good use of Keyman 5, but you might encounter problems, and support cannot be guaranteed. If you do have problems, you can let me know, although we cannot guarantee to help with the problems. If these are new issues, we will report them to Marc Durdin.

ABS Macros 1.6 released

by Bob Hallissy

The ability to display right-to-left and other complex scripts is built into the standard edition of Microsoft Office 2000 and Microsoft Office XP. Additionally, the ability to handle RTL scripts is not dependent on underlying Windows support, so it works even on English editions of Windows 9x. All of this is a significant change from previous Office products for which Microsoft made customized editions of the applications for different areas of the world.

The ABS Macros template provides helpful hints on the use of Arabic-based script (ABS) in Word 2000 or Word 2002 (the version that ships with Office XP) along with some macros designed to deal with various ABS-related issues. Included are general instructions for getting RTL scripts to work, known bugs and weaknesses, how Word handles ABS digits, and some macros to work around digit display problems. This template requires Microsoft Word 2000 or later for Windows. These macros do not work on Word 97 (or earlier) for Windows or Word for the Macintosh.

To obtain a copy of the latest ABS Macros package, click here.

XML 2000

by Dennis Drescher

Editor's Note: This is a very brief portion of Dennis’ report on the XML conference.

From December 3-8 I had the opportunity to attend the XML 2000 conference held in Washington D.C. The conference was sponsored by the GCA (Graphic Communications Association) and was held at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel. Having been to XML ’99 the previous year I expected a similar experience. However, I was pleasantly surprised. This is a report of my time spent at the conference.

The conference was broken up into several parts. On Sunday I attended one of the many tutorial classes being held. Monday was the Special Interest day and on Tuesday the conference plenary sessions began. On Tuesday afternoon most of the track seminars started as well.

In addition to the conference, like many other events of this kind, there was an exposition taking place as well. About 70 exhibitors from all around the XML (eXtensible Markup Language) world were represented there. In addition to these there were about four or five other exhibitors in the New Technologies section. This is a special section that makes space available to companies, organizations or individuals who have a new kind of XML technology they wish to demonstrate. This is a good way to get exposure.

The aspect of this conference that struck me the most was the potential for networking among this community. These people are willing and able to help us if we can accurately describe our needs and give them an opportunity to help. On Friday, day six, I initiated a meeting that I hope will begin a move toward this.

Another thing about this conference that I found different from others I’ve attended or heard about is that its content, for the most part, is visionary. The people who present at and attend this conference are not necessarily interested in the latest and greatest software and what to do with it. The majority of attendees at a GCA XML conference are more interested in forging the standards that will be employed in tomorrow’s software. I think there is a level at which we in SIL can be involved in the standards process. However, more important than that, I think we need to be fully aware of the different aspects of the XML family of standards. We need to think about where they might fit in our day-to-day work flow and, yes, dream a little. In the not-so-distant future virtually all the software we use will be affected in one way or another by XML. Changing over to this software will not necessarily be easy, but the more knowledge of XML we have, the more efficient the changeover will be.

For more information on the general proceedings, the conference web site can be accessed at this address:  http://www.gca.org/attend/2000_conferences/XML_2000/.

Circulation & Distribution Information

The purpose of this periodic e-mailing is to keep you in the picture about current NRSI research, development and application activities.

© 2003-2017 SIL International, all rights reserved, unless otherwise noted elsewhere on this page.
Provided by SIL's Non-Roman Script Initiative. Contact us here.