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Welcome to Computers and Writing Systems
Click on the map above to watch animated presentations on scripts. Requires Flash installed.
The Non-Roman Script Initiative
The NRSI is a department of SIL International, whose task is to provide assistance, research and development for SIL International and its partners to support the use of non-Roman and complex scripts in language development.
Our vision is that language communities are effectively using their preferred writing system on computers without technical barriers.
Recent additions and updates
SIL Font Subsets
SIL's Non-Roman Script Initiative has created very comprehensive fonts for Latin and Cyrillic character sets. These are very large fonts that cover just about every need we know about in the Latin and Cyrillic world. Now, as we move into the age of mobile phone and web usage, everyone wants fonts that are small and compact. Our fonts are over a megabyte each and that is considered much too large for mobile phone usage.
We have now created subsets of our fonts for different regions of the world. These fonts currently contain OpenType smart code. Each regional font only contains the characters (and glyphs) that are known to be used in that region of the world. We have attempted to use the most common glyph required for that region.
Charis SIL is a Unicode-encoded serif font. Besides having a comprehensive inventory of glyphs needed for almost any Roman- or Cyrillic-based writing system, it also contains the entire inventory of the International Phonetic Alphabet. It has built-in “smart-font” capabilities, so diacritics are properly placed.
Charis is similar to Bitstream Charter, one of the first fonts designed specifically for laser printers. It is highly readable and holds up well in less-than-ideal reproduction environments. It also has a full set of styles - regular, italic, bold, bold italic - and so is more useful in general publishing than Doulos SIL. Charis is a serif, proportionally-spaced font optimized for readability in long printed documents.
28 Oct 2014 — New Update!
Doulos SIL is a Unicode-encoded serif font similar to Times New Roman. Besides having a comprehensive inventory of glyphs needed for almost any Roman- or Cyrillic-based writing system, it also contains the entire inventory of the International Phonetic Alphabet. It has built-in “smart-font” capabilities, so diacritics are properly placed.
Doulos is very similar to Times/Times New Roman, but only has a single face - regular. It is intended for use alongside other Times-like fonts where a range of styles (italic, bold) are not needed.
Gentium — a typeface for the nations
Home page for the Gentium, Gentium Basic and Gentium Plus fonts.
Gentium is a typeface family designed to enable the diverse ethnic groups around the world who use the Latin script to produce readable, high-quality publications. It supports a wide range of Latin-based alphabets and includes glyphs that correspond to all the Latin ranges of Unicode.
Andika is a sans serif, Unicode-compliant font designed especially for literacy use, taking into account the needs of beginning readers. The focus is on clear, easy-to-perceive letterforms that will not be readily confused with one another.
Harmattan, named after the trade winds that blow during the winter in West Africa, is designed in a Warsh style to suit the needs of languages using the Arabic script in West Africa. This page is intended as a feedback mechanism for development of the Harmattan font.
Doulos SIL Cipher
The Cipher music notation is used throughout Indonesia and China for all kinds of music. The font is not intended for general orthographic use. This solution is primarily intended for fairly straightforward songbooks for singers, not for complex instrumental music. It can handle harmony lines fine, but not a lot of intricacies or subtleties (e.g. no staccato).
SIL Corporate PUA Assignments
Reference information on Unicode private-use character assignments used within SIL International. Revised for Unicode 7.0
The Mondulkiri Font Family
The Mondulkiri fonts provide Unicode support for the Khmer script. These fonts are provided free of charge. Previous versions of the fonts have been available since 2003 but are now available on the SIL website. There are four main fonts available. The Khmer Mondulkiri and Busra fonts have just been updated and now also work on Mac OS X.
The ShiShan fonts provide support for all Miao (Pollard) characters which are in Unicode 6.1.
This package provides tools through which you can change the encoding, font, and/or script of text in Microsoft Word and other Office documents, XML documents, and SFM text and lexicon documents. It also installs a system-wide repository to manage your encoding converters and transliterators (TECkit, CC, ICU, Perl, or Python-based, as well as support for adding custom transduction engines).
Ukelele is a Unicode keyboard layout editor for Mac OS X versions 10.2 and later. Version 2.2.6 is available for download, and can be used on Mac OS X 10.4 and later. The previous stable release of Ukelele, version 1.8.4 (universal binary, for Mac OS X 10.2 and later) is still available for download. This version works on Mac OS X 10.4 (Tiger) to 10.9 (Mavericks).
Scheherazade is an extended Arabic script font designed by SIL International for modern Unicode-based systems using Graphite and OpenType for complex-script rendering.
Home page for the Abyssinica SIL font. Abyssinica SIL supports all Ethiopic characters which are in Unicode including the Unicode 6.0 extensions. As far as we are aware, all languages of Ethiopia are now fully represented in Unicode.
This is the home page for the "Mingzat" font (and other resources) for the Lepcha script. The Lepcha script is used by the Lepcha language community of South Asia. The name "Mingzat" means "treasure of letters" in the Lepcha language.
Annapurna SIL Fonts
Annapurna SIL is a Unicode-based font family with support for the many diverse languages that use Devanagari script to produce readable, high-quality publications. The design is intended to be highly readable, reasonably compact, and visually attractive. These fonts are named after the majestic Annapurna mountain range of Nepal.
Roman Script to Arabic Script Conversion
The SIL Converters software provide the framework to convert your texts from Roman script to Arabic script. This document is not a manual of SIL Converters or the TECkit mapping language but attempts to highlight some principles that need to be considered when converting text from Roman script to Arabic script.
Tai Heritage Pro
Tai Heritage Pro, version 2.500 is now available in regular and bold faces, with both OpenType and Graphite rendering. This Unicode font continues the tradition of the Tai Heritage typeface, which is designed to reflect the traditional hand-written style of the Tai Viet script.
Nastaliq Character Set Recommendations
Developing comprehensive fonts can be quite a challenge. There are over 340 characters in the Arabic Unicode blocks (not including the presentations forms). For many of those characters, there are up to 4 different forms. An Arabic script font can require many, many glyphs.
When you get to the needs for Nastaliq (slanted style), the size of font is increased exponentially. We have taken a survey of the required character needs for a Nastaliq style font and listed them here. This list is smaller than the complete list of Arabic script characters. Our hope is that all type designers who are designing fonts for the Nastaliq style will be willing to add these characters to their fonts. This would be a great service to the languages using Nastaliq.
New and improved Graphite website! Most recently: Version 4.2 of the Graphite compiler has been released for Windows, and Firefox 11+ now includes Graphite support.
The FontUtils package provides a plethora of command line tools for manipulating TrueType fonts. These tools are essential to NRSI's font development processes.
Unicode BMP Fallback Font
Intended for debugging, this font contains a glyph for every character in the Basic Multilingual plane (including Private Use Area) of Unicode 6.1, each glyph consisting of a box enclosing the four hex digits identifying the Unicode scalar value.
The Namdhinggo SIL Unicode font for the Limbu script is still in development. However, we believe the font is useful in its present state and thus we are releasing it as a "Font in Development".
Encore2Unicode update for Unicode 6.1.
Encore2Unicode is a command-line utility for Windows that can examine a font built using the Encore font system and create a draft TECkit mapping table for converting data using that font to (and back from) Unicode.
Unicode Character Properties Excel Workbook
Various files from the Unicode Character Database (6.1) compiled into an Excel workbook.
Padauk is a smart font capable of rendering Burmese and the Myanmar script.
Using SIL Fonts on Web Pages
2011-07-28 Andika and Gentium Basic are now available for use on web pages via the Google Web Fonts service, with more to follow in the future.
SIL fonts can be successfully used on web pages. There are many strategies available, and some tricks to making them work well.
Basic Set of characters needed in a Non-Roman font
Some people have asked what a basic character set for a Non-Roman font should include (besides the Non-Roman characters). The chart on this page is our recommendation for a basic set of characters. It includes the union of Windows CP1252 and Mac-Roman.
SIL TypeTuner Web
TypeTuner Web (or TTW) is a web delivery system for customized versions of SIL fonts. Now including: Andika, Charis SIL, Doulos SIL, Gentium Plus, Lateef and Scheherazade.
Articles of general interest
The NRSI Model for Implementing Writing Systems
Over its short history, the Non-Roman Script Initiative of SIL International has developed a model for using computers to implement the various writing systems that are needed for text input, storage, processing, and output.
The Digital Divide
SIL chartered the Non-Roman Script Initiative (NRSI) to enable ethnic minorities to bridge the digital divide. NRSI participates in the work of the Unicode Consortium, an international nonprofit founded to establish a universal standard for representing each character of all the world's writing systems on the computer.
An introduction to keyboard design theory: What goes where?
Designing a keyboard is relatively easy: you just allocate codepoints to keystrokes. The difficulty comes when trying to decide what codepoints to assign to what keystrokes. Do you design based around the characters on the keytops of a user's keyboard or the relative position of the keys? What do you do if you want to be able to type more characters than there are keys in your keyboard?
A glossary of terms associated with implementing writing systems compiled by the NRSI.
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