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Resources for Writing Systems Implementation using Copyleft and FLOSS (Free/Libre and Open Source Software)

Nicolas Spalinger, external contributor, 2004-01-20


Although many of the solutions mentioned in this document can be very helpful for those interested in implementing writing systems, SIL International has not tested them, does not make any specific recommendations or specific claims about their legality or suitability for use. It is the user's responsibility to test the maturity and to understand the licensing of the following items before using, modifying or redistributing them.

Comments and feedback welcome. If you have experience with any of the projects mentioned below, feel free to add a comment.
Please use the "Add a response to.." link at the bottom of this page. Thank you.

  1. Introduction
  2. Use Existing Writing System Components
    1. Fonts
      1. Copylefted fonts
      2. Freeware fonts
      3. Public domain fonts
    2. Libraries and rendering toolkits
    3. General Input Methods and keyboarding tools
    4. Language specific IM (Input Methods) and keyboarding tools
    5. Keyboards (copyleft and freeware)
    6. Character mappers and glyph selectors
    7. Locales and related tools
    8. Printing systems - Device independent files and PDF generation
  3. Read documentation about WSI components and frameworks
    1. i18n primers
    2. Howtos, FAQs, man pages and tutorials
    3. Examples of language howtos
    4. Papers from the i18n specialists within the FLOSS community
    5. Publications about font technologies
  4. Configure your Desktop Environment (GNOME or KDE on the X Window system) for specific language needs
    1. Under GNOME
    2. Under KDE
    3. Other font tools
    4. Manual font installation at command-line level
    5. Command-line tools
    6. Font Matching and Anti-aliasing settings
    7. Other font management tools
    8. Dotfiles and important configuration files and directories in your filesystem
      1. Dotfiles
      2. Directories
    9. Some useful environment variables
  5. Create your own WSI components based upon the existing copyleft models and tools
    1. Font creation, conversion and modification tools
    2. Localisation teams and translation statistics
    3. Localization tools
  6. Plan a Free/Libre and Open strategy for your WSI components
    1. Be aware of open standards and build interoperable and sustainable WSI components
    2. Licensing and cooperative development models
      1. Compare the copyleft vs. proprietary models
      2. Understand and choose the appropriate license
      3. Beware of software patents problems
    3. Partnerships and funding
  7. Set up your FLOSS WSI project and get the community's interest and help
    1. Understand the basics of Free, Libre and Open Source software development
    2. Learn and contribute to the discussion on the major i18n mailing-lists
    3. Learn how to package and deploy your WSI projects
    4. Create and publish documentation for your WSI components
    5. Create training material for your WSI
      1. Typing
      2. Language learning software



Are you looking for ideas, information and tools to enhance or start from scratch a WSI (Writing System Implementation) or one of its components for a specific language community? This collection of links will help you use copyleft and FLOSS (Free/Libre and Open Source Software) technologies and methods to develop, adapt or enhance a WSI.

The  copyleft approach can increase a language community's ability to fully enjoy the benefits of the information age and to effectively reduce the Digital Divide. Using open standards and copylefted technologies can lower the barrier of entry for use, cooperation and dissemination of a particular WSI by bringing cyber-literacy to minority language communities through improved sustainability, interoperability, and capacity building. The cooperative models allow a distributed and networked team to be set up to get volunteers and users more closely in touch with the developers than with proprietary development models. In fact, copyleft and FLOSS are methods of creating software more than just freely available tools.

As a developer - or any kind of contributor - there are many advantages to a well-managed copyleft strategy, you can:

  • Adapt and improve specific existing WSI components to support your language
  • Use the collaborative intelligence and expertise of the FLOSS community to better understand the requirements and the complexity of a WSI component
  • Use the components and the source code created by the FLOSS community as a source of inspiration
  • Use the various creation and modification tools to create new components
  • Set up a participatory and distributed project for your WSI components using the free hosting and cataloging services
  • Make your WSI known, supported, packaged and included on major platforms and distributions to help it work out-of-the-box
  • Track and maintain the adaption of various WSI components to the evolution of your language
  • Create documentation and training material for your WSI using existing documentation and language learning tools
  • Extend the field of use of your WSI with extra components
  • Increase the number of info-tools that support your language
  • Set up and manage a language team to organise software localisation projects
  • Keep a electronic archive of useful interoperable language data
  • Follow more easily the trend of new technologies and new standards and retain interoperability
  • Cooperate and bring expertise to other WSI projects related to your language


It is a good idea to check software catalogs (such as and to keep an eye on community news-sites (such as to track the evolution and the maturity of these various writing systems-related projects. Be aware of the direction of the various leading projects as well as the discussions about new standards. Being able to give input at the right time can dramatically help improve support for your language. You're also very likely to hear about new interesting projects being set up in the meantime.

Use Existing Writing System Components


The major GNU/Linux distributions usually bundle a mix of copylefted, public domain and freeware fonts such as:

courrier, helvetica, new century schoolbook, symbol, times, utopia, lucida, lucidabright, lucidatypewriter, luxi, charter, bookman, open look, avant-garde, chancery, nimbus, palladio, courier, veranda, gothic, tymes, aerial, palatino...

Various models of redistribution restrict the availability of fonts in a default installation, but you can download and add a lot of other fonts including proprietary ones.

Copylefted fonts

A selection of fonts packaged by Mandrake:

A selection of fonts packaged by Redhat:

A selection of fonts packaged by Debian:

A selection of fonts packaged by Gentoo:

The Vera Bitstream fonts from GNOME:

The Toga fonts derived from Vera:

The Arkpandora fonts derived from Vera:

The Culmus Hebrew fonts:

The Paktype Paskistani fonts:

The Free UCS Outline fonts:

The ETL Unicode font:

The Bengali/Bangla fonts:

The Mayayalam font:

The Stix scientific fonts:

The Dustimo fonts:

The GNU Unifont:

The Linux Font Project:

The Linux Libertine Open fonts:

A set of Cyrillic fonts:

A set of Tamil fonts:

The JHCFonts fonts:

The URW++ standard PostScript fonts:

The HindiFreehand fonts:

The Wadalab Kanji fonts:

The Legendum and Garioger OpenType fonts:

The Malayalam Keli True type and Opentype font:

The Andagii TrueType font and the Penuturesu Linear B script font:

The Junicode (short for Junius-Unicode) medievalist font:

The Khotot Arabic fonts:

The StayPuft MS Comic-like font:

The Isabella calligraphic hand-style font:

The ClearlyU BDF Unicode font:

The Gimp fonts:

A font catalog and with the corresponding source and data files:

Freeware fonts

These fonts are redistributable for free but with restrictions — no source and data files available and no modification rights.

The Code2001 Plane 1 Unicode font:(with experimental provisional scripts added to Plane 15)

The pxl2000 font:

A selection of original font designs:

The free font archive:

George Williams's Unicode fonts:

Various other freeware fonts collections:

The font section from the Google/DMOZ directory:

SIL's Fonts in Cyberspace has now been moved to here:

 Finding Software on ScriptSource

Public domain fonts

These fonts are available for redistribution with less restrictions but source code and data files are most of the time unavailable.

The Ghostscript fonts:

The Kanji scripts fonts:

The Electronic Font Open Laboratory:

The Raghu OpenType fonts:

Libraries and rendering toolkits

Freetype: a free and portable TrueType font rendering engine, developed to provide TrueType support for a variety of platforms and environments. FreeType is a library which can open and manage font files as well as efficiently load, hint and render individual glyphs. FreeType is not a font server or a complete text-rendering library.

The Freetype alternate packages: it is worth noting that you can get alternate Freetype packages from special repositories in software patent-unencumbered countries. A good example of this are the Freetype plf (Penguin Liberation Front) packages with hinting enabled

Pango: a library for layout and rendering of internationalized text as well as handling Unicode strings and complex bidirectional or context dependent shaped strings

QT: The KDE toolkit

GTK+: The GNOME toolkit

WxWindows: another cross-platform UI library

XFree86: The free implementation of the X Window system

Xouvert: The open development community for the new improved X Window system

X11 for Mac OS X: the extensions and contributions to X11 (X Windows) by Apple

Cairo: a vector graphics library with cross-device output support

Freedesktop: a standards initiative for all the desktop-related technologies. The cooperation initiative between the leading desktops environments: GNOME and KDE

xlibs: the X Libraries and Protocol Headers Project

directfb: a library that provides hardware graphics acceleration, input device handling and abstraction, integrated windowing system with support for transparency

GLTT: a library for reading and drawing TrueType fonts in OpenGL

FontTools: a library for manipulating fonts

STFS (Standard Type Services Framework): a portable and extensible software framework for rendering typographically sophisticated text

libunicode: a set of charset converters and string manipulation functions for the Unicode standard

ICU (International Components for Unicode): a portable, open-source C/C++ Unicode library with: charset-independent locales (and multiple locales simultaneously supported in the same thread), character conversions, formatting/parsing for numbers, currencies, date/time and messages, message catalogs (resources), transliteration, collation, normalization, text boundaries (grapheme, word, line-)), etc.

ICU4j: a Java Unicode library with extensions to the core Java internationalization libraries: enhanced number formatting and parsing, customizable BreakIterators, additional Calendars (Japanese, Buddhist, Hebrew, Islamic), Business Holidays, Normalizer, optimized international searching, UnicodeSet and Transliteration, SCSU, etc.

fribidi: an implementation of the Unicode BiDi (bidirectional) algorithm

Protobidi: a prototype bidirectional widget

libots: a text summary library

gtkspell: a set of tools to allow highlighting and replacement of misspelled words in a GtkText widget

Enchant: the new cross-platform abstract layer to spellchecking

libSDL_ttf: a True-type rendering library for SDL (Simple Direct Layer)

ucdata: a library to handle character properties, case, decomposing and combined classes

librecode: a transliteration, non-ASCII to ASCII conversion library

Computational Resources for Linguistic Research

SILGraphite: the new generation smart rendering engine and CTL (Complex Text Layout) library

General Input Methods and keyboarding tools

gswitchit: the XKB toolkit (configurator, indicator) for GNOME

K_TTY: a Keyman style keyboard interpreter for the console and attached (or pseudo) terminals (including X terminals, remote sessions, etc.) for IPA and non-roman scripts input

edk (Enhanced Dispositionned Keyboard): an enhanced input method

xvkbd: a virtual (graphical) keyboard program for X

tkxinput: a set of tools to bring Xinput management capabilities to the Tk toolkit

SCIM (Smart Common Input Method): a development platform that significantly reduces the difficulty of input method development. SCIM splits input method into three parts: FrontEnd, which handles user interface and communication with client applications, Server, which handles the key event to string conversion work, and BackEnd, which manages all of the Servers

IIIMF (Internet/Intranet Input Method Framework): a set of tools designed to be the next generation of input method framework which provides the following capabilities:

  • Multiplatform, platform independent
  • Multilingual and Full Unicode support, but satisfactory for native speakers
  • Windowing System Independent
  • Multiple language engines concurrently run
  • Multiuser
  • Distributed, lightweight clients and scalable server
  • Extensible in multiple means
  • Input method protocol efficient enough to be used over low-speed modem connection
  • Easy input method engine development with plugin API
  • Easy input method enabling with libiiimcf, even on console apps
  • Small core part to start from

libklavier: a utility library for X keyboard-related projects.

gtkeyboard: a graphical keyboard that can be useful for the physically disabled and for keyboardless workstations. It provides the ability to type into foreign windows, to redirect output, and it also provides many shortcuts for common editing tasks

XKeyCaps: a graphical front-end to xmodmap. It displays a keyboard and lets you remap keys using dialog boxes, rather than having to learn the arcane syntax used by the xmodmap command.

xkb: the standard X keyboard tool

kxkb: the keyboard-switcher in KDE (part of the kdebase package)

gkb: the map selection applet for setxkbmap or xmodmap in GNOME

settxkbmap: the command-line keyboard-switcher

gtk-im-extra: a collection of third party GTK+ input method modules

Language specific IM (Input Methods) and keyboarding tools

Chinput (Chinese input): an input method for Chinese languages

kinput2: an input method for Japanese

skkinput: a simple Kana-Kanji-like Japanese input application (website in Japanese)

im-ja: a generic Japanese input module for GTK+ 2. Currently supported input modes are Hiragana, Katakana, Half-Width Katakana, Zenkaku, Canna, Wnn, and Kanji character recognition

Canna: a CJK (Chinese/Japanese/Korean) input method (website in Japanese)

Interxim: a X11 XIM server that uses the Yudit kmaps files to translate ASCII character sequences to Unicode

imhangul: a Korean input method for GTK+

xcin (X window Chinese INput): a collection of Simplified Chinese input methods based on XIM (X Input Method), including WuBi, PinYin, and QuWei. It is the descendent of gWuBi

fcitfx (Fun Chinese Input Toy for X): a user-friendly input method for Chinese languages

FreeWnn: a free implementation of the most widely-used Japanese input systems

xsim: a simple and fast GB and BIG5 Chinese XIM server

ivrix: a Hebrew input method

acon (Arabic CONsole): an input method for left-to-right Arabic text on the console and ligature processing

zhcon: a fast CJK console system

im-classicalgreek: an input method for classical Greek

unicon: a CJK (Chinese/Japanese/Korean) Linux console input and display system from the GNU Project. Supports console virtual terminals, GPM mouse, keyboard, and almost all video devices using the kernel frame buffer. It supports multiple language fonts with a font manager so each virtual console can display a different font and input method. UNICON also can display IBM table characters mixed with double byte language encodings

Luit: Locale and ISO 2022 support for Unicode terminals

KanjiPad: a Japanese handwriting recognition system. It uses the GTK toolkit for a GUI and Todd David Rudicks's algorithms from JavaDict for Kanji recognition.

Brahmi: Java Input Methods and OpenType fonts for Indian languages

Keyboards (copyleft and freeware)

Inscript Keymaps for Indian languages:

Maltese keyboards:

Keyboards included with SIL fonts: (under SIL academic licensing)

Keyman keyboards:

Character mappers and glyph selectors

Word processors offering a "special character" insertion dialog:

gucharmap: the full Unicode character map for GNOME

kcharselect: the glyph palette for the KDE environment (part of the kdebase package)

Locales and related tools

A collection of locales By Pablo Saratxaga (The Mandrake i18n specialist):

A collection of locales by IBM:

localedrake: the locale switcher from Mandrake (part of the drakxtools administration suite)

redhat-config-language: the locale switcher from Redhat (part of the redhat-config package)

Printing systems - Device independent files and PDF generation

cups (Common UNIX Printing System): the cross-platform printing solution for all UNIX environments. Based on the "Internet Printing Protocol", it provides complete printing services to most PostScript and raster printers

foomatic: a database-driven system for using free software printer drivers with all known free software spoolers on Unix and Mac OS X

ghostscript: a set of software that provides a PostScript interpreter, a set of C procedures (the Ghostscript library, which implements the graphics capabilities in the PostScript language) and an interpreter for Portable Document Format (PDF) files. Ghostscript translates PostScript code into many common, bitmapped formats, like those understood by your printer or screen. Ghostscript is normally used to display PostScript files and to print PostScript files to non-PostScript printers

a2ps: a utility providing pretty-printing capabilities and including support for a wide number of programming languages, encodings (ISO Latins, Cyrillic, etc.), and medias

Tipograf: a frontend to a2ps

PangoPDF: the PDF and PostScript backends for Pango (the internationalization library from GNOME)

LinuxPrinting: a documentation website around printing technologies and hardware for GNU/Linux, xBSD as well as Solaris and OS X

Read documentation about WSI components and frameworks

i18n primers

The GNOME i18n project:

The KDE i18n project:

The Intro-i18n documentation from Debian:

Howtos, FAQs, man pages and tutorials

The Font Howto:

The True type font howto:

The UTF8 and Unicode FAQ:

The Sub-Pixel Font Positioning howto:

The Font de-uglification mini-howto:

The comp.fonts FAQ (unmaintained but still interesting):

The keyboard and console howto:

The XKB Configuration Guide:

The Linux Accessibility howto:

A Unicode bibliography:

A portal on Chinese computing:

Examples of language howtos

The Chinese-Howto:

The Spanish Howto:

The Thai Howto:

The Linux Documentation Project:

The man (manual) and info pages: (you can use the man pinfo yelp or khelpcenter tools to browse the documentation directly on your system, and you can find further documentation in /usr/share/doc/<nameofthepackage>)

Papers from the i18n specialists within the FLOSS community

Owen Taylor:

Noah Levitt:

Pablo Saratxaga:

Keith Packard:

Frank Tang:

Edward Cherlin:

Yannis Haralambous:

Publications about font technologies

"Things we wish we knew when we started on Truetype fonts":

"Fighting Font Frustration" by Steve Coile:

"Using TrueType Fonts with Red Hat Linux" by Dan Kegel :

The "Advanced Font System" White Paper by Redhat:

Configure your Desktop Environment (GNOME or KDE on the X Window system) for specific language needs

Setting up the various WSI components to work smoothly together involves:

  • setting up a locale and a charset
  • viewing a font
  • installing a font
  • modifying and activating the font path
  • generating the index and the cache
  • choosing a font for the console or the Desktop Environment
  • setting up anti-aliasing, scaling, matching

You need to set up these different font types for desktop use:

  • Proportional
  • Serif
  • Sans-serif
  • Cursive
  • Fantasy
  • Monospace
  • Minimum font size


fontilus: a set of extensions for the Nautilus graphical shell to help manage fonts on your system

  • launch the Nautilus graphical shell from a menu or desktop shortcut
  • type "fonts:" in the address bar
  • drag and drop the fonts into your font folder (you can also type "nautilus fonts:" directly from a shell)

(the "gnome-font-viewer" and the "gnome-thumbnail-font" utilities are part of fontilus)

after installing your font you can click on them for a preview

to select a particular font as your desktop font, use "Set as Application Font" entry in the context menu

gfontview: an outline font viewer

gnome-font-properties: a font configuration dialog (part of the GNOME Control Center)

  • type "gnome-font-properties" to choose a desktop font and adjust the anti-aliasing settings

Under KDE

Kfontinst: font installation tool for KDE

  • launch "font install" in your menu under Configuration-KDE->System->Font Install (you can also type "kcmshell kcmfontinst" to access the kcontrol item directly from a shell)
  • use the dialog boxes to browse to your fonts and install them
  • type "kcmshell fonts" to set it up as your desktop font and adjust the anti-aliasing.

Other font tools

xfontsel: a font selection tool from XFree86 to filter fonts by foundry, family, weight, slant, s width, ad style, pixel size, point size, resx, resy, spacing, average height, registry, encoding

The administration tool: a utility to configure and to add new fonts (they will only be available to OOo)

  • type "/usr/lib/openoffice/spadmin" from a shell
  • press the "Fonts" button and point to the folder where the *.ttf files are located.
  • Select them and launch the installation.
  • They will then be copied to ~/.openoffice/user/fonts.

Manual font installation at command-line level

You can also install fonts manually:

  • copy the fonts to ~/.fonts (you will have to create it if it doesn't exist)
  • run mkfontdir to generate the fonts.dir description file
  • run fc-cache to generate the fonts.cache1 cache file

This will only make the fonts available to that specific user (since there are copied to his private home directory).

Command-line tools

fc-cache: a font cache creation utility (part of the fontconfig package)

fc-list: a font-lister in command-line mode (part of the fontconfig package)

mkfontdir, mkfontscale, fslsfonts, xlsfonts, showfont: a set of utilities to handle font configuration (part of the XFree86-xfs package)

Font Matching and Anti-aliasing settings


  • Use the menu entry "Tools -> Options" and then " -> Fonts" to adjust the replacement and font matching capabilities.
  • Use the menu entry "Tools -> Options" and then " -> View" to adjust the font scaling and anti-aliasing.

In Mozilla:

  • Use the menu entry "Edition -> Preferences" and then "Display -> Fonts" to adjust the font settings

Other font management tools

Fontconfig: a set of tools designed to locate fonts within the system and select them according to requirements specified by applications

drakfont: the Mandrake font manager - a flexible font configuration framework

defoma: the Debian Font Manager - automatic font configuration framework

dfontmgr: the GUI frontend for defoma

oto (Open Type Organizer): a tool to show precise font info and allow table mapping

fontlingue: a font management tool with a web interface

Dotfiles and important configuration files and directories in your filesystem

Although all these settings are handled by front-end administration tools, it helps to know where to look for settings in your filesystem.
Here is a selection of these important dotfiles:


  • font-cache-1
  • fonts.dir
  • fonts.scale
  • fonts.alias
  • /etc/fonts/fonts.conf
  • /etc/fonts/fonts.dtd
  • /etc/X11/XftConfig
  • /etc/sysconfig/i18n
  • ~/.i18n
  • /etc/pango/pangox.aliases
  • ~/.xftcache
  • /etc/X11/XF86Config-4


  • ~/.fonts/
  • /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/
  • /usr/share/fonts/
  • .kde/share/fonts/
  • /usr/lib/openoffice/share/fonts/
  • /etc/gnome/fonts/
  • /lib/kbd/consolefonts/*.psf
  • /usr/lib/kbd/keymaps/
  • /lib/kbd/keymaps/

Some useful environment variables







Create your own WSI components based upon the existing copyleft models and tools

Font creation, conversion and modification tools

gfe (GNU Font editor): a graphical font editor based on the GIMP Toolkit

gote (GNOME Opentype editor): an editor for vector fonts

Gribouy: a PostScript font editor

fonter: a interactive font editor for the console

PfaEdit (Postscript font editor): an outline font editor that lets you create your own PostScript, True type, OpenType, cid-keyed, SVG and bitmap (bdf) fonts, or edit existing ones. Also lets you convert one format to another. PfaEdit has support for many MacIntosh font formats

Cfe (Console Font Editor): a font editor allowing various glyph transforming, multi-level undo, and comparing glyphs of two fonts. cfe automatically supports loading of .psf and raw binary fonts

fontutils: a set of tools to access font internals

  • showttf: a tool to decompose a True type (or OpenType) font file into its various tables and display their contents
  • ttf2eps: a tool to extract one (or all) glyphs from a font and convert them into eps files
  • pfadecrypt: a tool to decrypt a PostScript font and convert the byte codes into readable PostScript-like instructions.

otcomp (OpenType COMPiler): a compiler for OpenType fonts (with makefile examples)

PostScript-utilities: a set of tools to handle PostScript and Truetype fonts

tftmod: a utility to edit font tables (a companion to PfaEdit)

truetypeviewer: a useful tool for debugging TrueType instructions and for viewing OpenType Layout features. It supports OpenType single, pair and mark-to-base positioning as well as single, multiple, alternate and ligature substitution

tticomp (True type Instruction COMPiler): a compiler for TrueType fonts

otlegacy: a tool to decompose Unicode characters into their components

freetype-tools and demos: a set of test tools from the Freetype rendering library

A collection of related Perl modules from CPAN (the Comprehensive Perl Archive Network):

ttfquery: a Python module using FontTools to query TTF font files for metadata and font outlines in a cross-platform manner

T1utils: six programs that manipulate PostScript Type 1 fonts. Allowing you to change PFB (binary) fonts into PFA (ASCII) format (and back), translate fonts into a disassembled human-readable format (and back), and translate Macintosh Type 1 fonts into PFB or PFA (and back).

font-tools: a set of font conversion utilities

  • t1asm: a tool to convert pfb font files to pfa fonts
  • ttf2pt1: a tool to convert ttf font files to afm and pfb fonts
  • type1inst: a tool to build fonts.dir fonts.scale Fontmap needed by xfs and ghostscript

lcdf-type-tools: various programs for manipulating PostScript Type 1 and PostScript-flavored OpenType fonts.


  • pfadecrypt: a tool to decrypt a PostScript font (only show the internal font information)
  • pfa2pfb: a tool to convert a pfa font to a pfb font
  • pfb2pfa: a tool to convert a pfb font to a pfa font
  • pfa2bdf: a tool to rasterize a PostScript type1 font and produce a bdf file
  • pfa2afm: a tool to generate an afm file from a PostScript type1
  • pfb2outline: a tool to convert a pfa or pfb file (and its afm file) to an outline font by changing PaintType
  • ttf2eps: a tool to convert a glyph from a Truetype font into an eps (Encapsulated Postscript)

fontutils: a tool to convert between font formats and to create fonts

fontconv: a simple raster font converter

ttf2pt1: a tool to convert scalable and bitmapped fonts into PostScript Type 1

Fondu: a tool to convert between mac fonts (and FONDs) and Unix font formats

TTX: a tool to convert OpenType and TrueType fonts to and from XML

ttf2pt1: a tool to convert nearly all True Type fonts to an Adobe Type 1 .pfa file

Localisation teams and translation statistics

The Translation project:

The man page and howto translation projects:

The GNOME Translation project:

Review the GNOME translation status:

Bring your language to GNOME by setting up a language team:

The KDE Internationalization project:

Review the KDE translation statistics:

Bring your language to KDE by setting up a language team:

Mandrake Linux i10n:

Fedora i10n:

Localization tools

GNU gettext: a set of libraries and utilities from the GNU project for producing multi-lingual messages

gtranslator: an enhanced GNU gettext catalogs (.po files) editor for the GNOME desktop environment

kbabel: A set of tools for editing and managing PO files created in GNU gettext for KDE

intltool (internationalization tool collection): a tool to extract translatable strings from various source files, collect the extracted strings together with messages from traditional source files (.c, .h), and merge translations from .po files into .xml, .desktop, and .oaf files

poedit: a cross-platform GNU gettext catalogs (.po files) editor

getxml: an XML internationalization tool, comprised of getxml-extract (makes the header for GNU gettext) and getxml-merge (merges XML and po files)

phpbabel: a web application making PHP internationalization easier by allowing a net of translators to do translations on a project and to generate include message files automagically (both constants and functions...)

Plan a Free/Libre and Open strategy for your WSI components

Be aware of open standards and build interoperable and sustainable WSI components

The ISO 639 Language Names: The standard names for use in SGML and XML, including a complete list of language name codes

IANA Character Sets: the official names for character sets that may be used in the Internet and referred to in Internet documentation - held at the Internet Assigned Number Authority.

The SIL Language IDs:

The W3C's (World Wide Web Consortium) specification for internationalization (XML, CSS...):

The Charsets:

The Unicode Charts: precise specifications from the current Unicode version

The Script Encoding Initiative: organising new languages additions to the the Unicode standard

The Unicode Test Pages: a set of pages to test the behaviour of Unicode-capable applications online

World Wide Web Consortium: resources from the international web standards organisation covering code tables, Unicode, HTML and XML with links to other resources and forums about internationalization and localization issues relating to character sets.

Resources from the Unicode Consortium:

The Free Standards Group: an important standard body

Li18nux: The Linux internationalization project

The RFCs (Requests for Comments): the standards of the various building blocks of the Internet

IDN: the Internationalized Domain Names (IDN) Committee for multilingual Internet addresses

Licensing and cooperative development models

Compare the copyleft vs. proprietary models

If you're serious about creating a sustainable WSI component, you need to think about the following items:

  • dissemination and acceptance
  • standards compliance
  • mixing FLOSS components with non-free/proprietary components
  • balance between non-profit and commercial involvement
  • short-term benefit vs. long-term benefits
  • evolutivity of the WSI components to the future language needs
  • adaptability of the WSI components to related languages
  • cooperation and partnership

Understand and choose the appropriate license

FSF licence review


FDL howto:

Beware of software patents problems

Software patents are an increasing threat to interoperability and independant software creation. As a WSI component developper or contributor, you must be aware of this important issue.

Example of the aliasing and hinting patent from Apple and other similar problems:your project may be safe in some countries and a big hassle in some others

FFI (Foundation For a Free Information Infrastructure): a non-profit association registered in Munich dedicated to the spread of data processing literacy. FFII supports the development of public information goods based on copyright, free competition about open standards.

Partnerships and funding

There are other models than commercial-only WSI components:private/public/funding has to be considered for minority-friendly low-commercial-value WSI components

Look for possible partners for WSI development:

  • Trusts and Foundations interested in literacy and WSI availability
  • Government and UN agencies
  • Friendly font foundries
  • NGOs and non-profits
  • Foundations
  • Academic communities

Set-up a micropayment funding model:


The street performer models:

The Potlach protocol:

Look into research grants and awards:

  • academic funding
  • awards and grants
  • contest and competitions

Set up your FLOSS WSI project and get the community's interest and help

Understand the basics of Free, Libre and Open Source software development

The concept of copyleft:

The GNU project:

The Linux kernel:

A timeline of Unix and GNU/Linux:

What is Free Software?

What is Open Source?

The GNU Coding standards:

The Software Project Management Howto:

The Software Release Practise Howto:

The Jargon File: a comprehensive compendium of hacker slang illuminating many aspects of hackish tradition, folklore, and humor (very useful to somewhat understand the values and the mindset ot the FLOSS community)

The Open Source, Free Software and copyleft classics:

OpenSources: Voices from the Open Source Revolution

The Cathedral and the Bazaar: Musings on Linux and Open Source by an Accidental Revolutionary

Free Software, Free Society: Selected Essays of Richard M. Stallman

Free as in Freedom: Richard Stallman's Crusade for Free Software

Code and Other laws of Cyberspace:

The Future of Ideas:

Distrowatch: a good review website for the many major and specialized GNU/Linux distributions (with precise package version tracking)

Learn and contribute to the discussion on the major i18n mailing-lists

The Mandrake-i18n mailing-list:

The Redhat-i18n mailing-list:

The Debian-i18n mailing-list:

The GNOME-i18n mailing-list:

The KDE-i18n mailing-list:

The XFree86-i18n mailing-list:

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Learn how to package and deploy your WSI projects

RPMS howtos:

Smart package managers (with repository creation tools):

Community sites that offer to host your WSI component project and set up a distributed team so that speakers and specialists can contribute:

If you feel like it you can also set up your own team platform using FLOSS groupware:

Community sites and software catalogs where you can announce your project to make users and developpers aware of your project and get some potential contributors:

Freshmeat: the largest FLOSS catalog

Footnotes: GNOME desktop news

The Dot: KDE desktop news

Slashdot: the huge news portal

Create and publish documentation for your WSI components

manedit: the ManEdit UNIX Manual Page Editor is an editor specifically tailored for UNIX manual pages. It has a preview viewer, uses the manual page XML format for easy editing, and comes with a tutorial and reference guide and templates

docbook: an XML and SGML dialect that enables you to author and store document content in a presentation-neutral form that captures the logical structure of the content. Using the modular DocBook stylesheets and related resources, you can transform, format, and publish your DocBook content as HTML pages and PDF files, and in many other formats, including TeX, RTF, FrameMaker MIF, JavaHelp, Microsoft HTML Help, UNIX man pages, and TeXinfo

yelp (gman): The man and info interface for GNOME

khelpcenter: The man and info interface for KDE (part of the kdebase package)

Create training material for your WSI


gtypist (GNU typist): a universal typing tutor

ktouch: a program for learning how to touch-type

typingtrainer: a typing skills training programme. Allows teachers to examine and record student's typing speed and accuracy

Language learning software

klettres: a tool to help learning the alphabet and practise reading syllables in different languages

flashkard: a vocabulary training tool. It is designed to be used in any situation where a fixed set of vocabulary (technical or linguistic) is to be learnt

vocabularytrainer: a flashcard training system for learning words in foreign languages. You can use language modules to change the language of its interface and can choose one of three learning modes (Random, Often-unknown words, and Seldom-asked words)

kvoctrain: a vocabulary trainer from the KDE project

Minivoki: a minimal console-based vocabulary learning aid which has some interesting features. It comes with Korean, Chinese, and Japanese input parsers, 7-bit input for 8-bit characters like accents, one-direction-only word pairs, learning and test modes, and some others features

zaban: a multimedia database of human languages. It provides the flash card functionality people often use for learning foreign languages. You can enter words (both text and sounds) from multiple languages and have them played back to you in multiple ways. It has support for many different alphabets, audio recording, playback, and compression, configurable auto-cycle with audio playback, a shuffle mode to rearrange the order of playback, searching with regular expressions, configurable keymaps, and support for user generated lists. The sample database contains Swahili, Farsi, Hebrew, and English

hanzim ("Hanzi Master"): an interactive visual dictionary for learning and seeing relationships between Chinese radicals, characters, and compounds

kanjidrill: a multiple-choice Kanji quiz program that helps people learn Japanese characters with dif

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