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NRSI: Computers & Writing Systems


You are here: General > Initiative B@bel
Short URL: http://scripts.sil.org/babel

SIL International Contributions to UNESCO Initiative B@bel

Victor Gaultney, 2003-10-31

From January to October of 2003, SIL International was engaged in a cooperative project with  UNESCO as part of UNESCO’s  Initiative B@bel effort. The goal was to enable the development of complex script support in information and communication technologies (ICTs). This was done through preparation of documents to guide development, technical tools for complex script support, and two example script implementations. These items are available from pages specifically prepared for each item — links are below.

UNESCO's Initiative B@bel website lists the results of our collaboration  here.

Project Components

Guidance Documents

Guidelines for Writing System Support

This document describes the key issues around supporting complex scripts in ICTs. It is intended as a guide to the planning and development of writing system implementations. It introduces a model for writing system implementations, outlines the development process, and highlights keys to project success.

These Guidelines are written primarily for policy makers and professionals, but includes introductory technical material in later sections. This covers important topics regarding encoding, keyboarding and rendering. It gives specific guidance on working with Unicode™, including how to propose new characters for submission.

This document can be found here.

A related document — Resources for Writing Systems Implementation using Copyleft and FLOSS (Free/Libre and Open Source Software) — has also been prepared, but was not part of the UNESCO project.

Intellectual Property Concerns in the Development of Complex Script and Language Resources

The goal of this paper is to highlight some of the intellectual property (IP) issues and problems, and document the areas that specifically would need to be addressed in the development of models for writing system implementation development and distribution.

This document is temporarily unavailable. We apologize for the inconvenience.

A further document gives general information on Font Licensing and Protection Details.

Complex Script Data Exchange Format

This document describes a subset of the XHTML/CSS standard that provides the equivalent functionality to WorldPad's XML format. This will enable WorldPad to function as an editor for documents that can be accessed over the Internet and viewed in a web browser.

This document can be found here.

Technical Tools

These software tools are based around SIL’s Graphite technology, and are focused on providing applications to use with complex script smart fonts.

Project SILA — Graphite-Enabled Web Browser

SILA is a version of Mozilla that is capable of rendering text using
SIL's Graphite rendering technology. In every other aspect this software
is a standards-compliant program and behaves similarly to other versions
of Mozilla, including the ability to display standard HTML and XHTML
with CSS stylesheets.

A document describing the project and an installer for the application can be downloaded here.

Graphite Edit Control

This is a beta version of a basic Graphite edit control for data input
applications. It includes a software development kit (SDK) that includes: a binary DLL for Windows 2000 and XP, a developer guide for integrating into host applications, well commented source code, a simple Windows (2000 & XP) based test application for testing the control.

A document describing the edit control, including links to the various components, can be found here. The original project specification is here.

WorldPad — Graphite-Enabled Text Processor

This is a simple text processor based on SIL’s Graphite rendering technology. It is available for Windows 2000 or XP operating systems, and is capable of exporting data
encoded according to the data exchange format for complex scripts.

It can be downloaded here.

Sample Script Implementations

These packages are intended to be examples of complex writing system implementations, and contain:

  • Graphite-enabled fonts
  • Keyboards for data entry
  • Sample data for demonstration and testing
  • All source code
  • Screenshots

Two implementations are provided, one for the Myanmar script and a Pan-African one that covers many Roman writing systems used across Africa.

The implementations can be downloaded here.


A list of the people who contributed to the SIL’s work for Project B@bel is available here.

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