Sunday, December 27, 2009

New Khmer Font for OS X

Thanks to Danh Hong a new font for reading/writing Khmer script in OS X is available hereor here. You can find related info in my earlier article.

I encourage readers to give the new font a try and let us know if you find any issues. I'm told it will also work right in Word 2008 for Mac if you set the 'enable all ligatures' option under Format/Font/Advanced.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Using Linux for Language Input

Sun's free VirtualBox software has made it extremely easy to run Linux concurrently with OS X, and there are various HowTo's on the web (e.g. this one) for doing it. Some reasons this could be useful are a) to use the variety of Windows fonts available for Indic and SE Asian scripts where the Mac only has a couple or none, and b) to use input methods for these scripts which are not yet available for OS X.

I installed Ubuntu this way and everything worked well. It comes with the IBus framework that includes a large number of IM's -- For example there are 6 for Devanagari (Inscript, Phonetic, Remington, iTrans, Typewriter, Harvard-Kyoto). You can also install the SCIM platform if you want. Copy/paste from the included OpenOffice suite to OS X apps was no problem.

A couple drawbacks: I could not find anything like Keyboard Viewer (or Help files) to assist in figuring out how various IM's or layouts work, so you need to get that off the internet or someplace else. Also Ubuntu only lets you have 4 ordinary keyboard layouts active at once (the number of IM's seems unlimited).

I tried out Linux once before 10 years ago...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Fixing Keyboard Type Problems

Macs normally have one of three different physical keyboard types, which Apple calls JIS (for Japan), ISO (used in Europe, for example) and ANSI (used in the US). ISO has one key more than ANSI -- it is located between z and shift -- and JIS has quite a few differences.

Sometimes a machine will forget which type keyboard is attached, with the result that certain keys get transposed from what the user expects. The fix for this is run the Keyboard Setup Assistant again. Sometimes there is a button for "Change Keyboard Type" visible in System Preferences/Keyboard. If not, you can try trashing the file


Another possibility may be to open Terminal and type:

sudo open /System/Library/CoreServices/

Sometimes, when JIS is involved on a laptop, one may have to follow the procedures in the SMC Resetting instructions.

If none of those work, this Karabiner option may be helpful.

For reference, this doc shows the different keyboards supplied by Apple around the world.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Doing Multilingual Text in TeX

TeX is a typesetting software popular in the scientific world for producing high-quality documents. The newest versions support Unicode and opentype fonts and can generate multilingual pdf output. The learning curve is steep, however, because TeX is the opposite of WYSIWYG and the user needs to know a lot of commands.

If you want to give it a try, download and install the large or small packages from here. Open TeXShop, set the mode to XeLaTeX, and choose the XeLaTeX template. Toward the bottom you will see how you can name fonts and test text in various scripts. Hitting the Typeset button will generate a .pdf. I tried adding Hindi, Tibetan, and Egyptian Hieroglyphs and it seemed to work fine.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Multilingual Braille Converter

OS X comes with 5 Unicode Braille character fonts. In looking for some way to use them other than input via the Character Palette, which is very cumbersome, I came across this online Braille Converter. Besides English, it also appears to handle more than a dozen other languages.

Writing Ancient Egyptian 2009

In an earlier article I wrote about typing Egyptian Hieroglyphs using non-Unicode systems. Now Unicode version 5.2 includes the Gardiner set of 1071 Hieroglyphs, and you can input them from the Character Palette using the font Aegyptus.

For info relating the Unicode set to the Manual de Codage (MdC) system, see this note.

I wonder if one could make some kind of useful keyboard IM for these using the OS X Custom IM Generator…

(12/1/2009) A reader has posted an experimental MdC IM .cin file here. Others are encouraged to give it a try.

Friday, November 20, 2009

OS X 10.6: Switching the Arabic-PC Keyboard

It was an excellent idea for Apple to include an Arabic - PC keyboard layout in Snow Leopard. But one has to wonder where they got the mapping they used. A poster in the Apple forums pointed out that the character Thal ذ (U+0630) is at an obscure non-standard location (Option/alt + 3) and the character Shadda ّ (U+0651) is not present at all, at least on an ANSI keyboard.
Normally, as shown here, these characters are on the leftmost key of the top row. On an ISO (102-key) layout, they should be next to Return.

For an alternative layout that I think comes closer to what PC users expect, try this one.

Oddly enough, the Arabic - PC layout that was included in Leopard is OK.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Three Keyboards for Canadian French

Recently someone asked for a Canadian French keyboard layout, and to my surprise I found that there are at least 3 of them in use, all quite different. Apple provides Canadian French - CSA with OS X, and another one, Canadien Français, with a Quebec flag icon, can be found here. Finally, there is the Canadian French which Apple provided with OS 9. You can get this one from my iDisk.

This graphic shows the differences in the layouts.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

How to Convert Old .rsrc Keyboard Layouts

Originally Mac keyboard layouts came in the form of .rsrc files. Unfortunately these sometimes no longer work in the latest versions of OS X, or don't work for all apps. Thanks to info on the Ukelele site, I've located a way to convert these to the newer .keylayout format.

Download and install the Apple Font Tool package from here. Then put your old .rsrc keyboard file in your Home directory, open Terminal, and type

klkchrtoxml name.rsrc

If all goes well, you should find a new file, name.rsrc.keylayout, in your Home directory. There will also be an .icns file if your old layout had an icon in it. If that command doesn't work, you can also try

kluchrtoxml name.rsrc

Friday, November 13, 2009

iPhone/iPod Touch: Useful Language Apps

A key feature of the iPhone/iPod Touch is the ability to draw Chinese and Japanese characters on its screen. I don't know how useful this is for creating text, but it is an invaluable replacement for radical/stroke analysis when looking up these characters in a dictionary. For Japanese I am using the app Kotoba and for Chinese DianHua.

Other language apps I've found so far that seem especially useful or high quality are the mobile version of Google Translate, the Larousse Dictionnaire de Français, the Classic Greek dictionary Lexiphanes, and the Latin dictionary Lexidium.

Additional suggestions by readers are most welcome.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Expanded Unicode Input on iPhone/iPod Touch

I've been looking for a way to generate any Unicode character on an iPhone or iPod Touch but have not found an app yet which does this. I tried a variety of charts and virtual keyboards reachable via Safari, and the best one seems to be

Macchiato's Character Picker

You can adjust the page size and save it to one of the app screens, and then select the character range that appears on the virtual keys and input them into the text box at the top. Unfortunately the device keyboard pops up after every entry, but you can dismiss that. In order to copy/paste the result you have created, you must let the Apple keyboard remain after inputting your last character.

(12/15) The iPhone/iPod Touch app Unicode Table now has a copy/paste function for individual characters which is easier than using the website mentioned above.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Reading the Blog on the iPhone/iPod Touch

Google has a service that reformats your blog feed so it is optimal for mobile devices such as the iPhone and iPod Touch. To see this blog on your device, point its browser


and make a bookmark or save it to your home screen.

Friday, October 16, 2009


I get on Twitter sometimes and see what people are saying about Unicode or other topics of interest. You can participate via the web or use one the large number of dedicated apps.

Twitter supports Unicode, but some apps are better than others. With Tweetdeck, you need to set the font preferences to International. Neither Tweetdeck nor Seesmic will display complex scripts like Hindi correctly, but Tweetie and Echofon do. Those are the only ones I've tried so far.

Jim DeLaHunt has done a survey of language use on Twitter, check out this page. The top 5 are English, Portuguese, Japanese, Spanish, and German.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

British English Localizations Coming?

UK users have long complained about the lack of British English localization (or "localisation") of OS X and Apple apps, but I see that the new iTunes 9 does have one. To activate it you must put British English at the top of the list in System Preferences/Language & Text/Languages.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

OS X 10.6: Changing Default Font for Trad. Chinese

Apparently a number of Traditional Chinese users find the new font used by Snow Leopard by default for that language (HeiTi TC) to be inferior to that used in Leopard (LiHei Pro). A utility called TCFail has been created to change it back. See this page for info:

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

New Malayalam Font for OS X

Thanks to Vinod Prabhakaran for alerting us to the availability of a new, free OS X font and keyboard for Malayalam. You can get it here:

Readers who know this script are encouraged to give it a try and provide feedback to its creators.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

OS X 10.6: Some Font Improvements

Looking further into Snow Leopard's fonts, I've found a couple of interesting refinements:

The character repertoire of Geneva has been expanded considerably. Ranges added are Greek, Ogham, Cyrillic Extensions A and B, plus two blocks from Unicode Plane 1, Ancient Symbols and Old Italic.

The new monospaced font Menlo has a broader than expected script coverage, including Arabic, Greek, Cyrillic, and Georgian in addition to the normal Latin. Lao is also present, but about 20 characters seem to be missing.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard): New Language Features

Here are the new language features I've seen so far in Snow Leopard 10.6.0:

1) Chinese handwriting input is possible for laptops with Multi-Touch trackpads when using Apple Chinese IM's.

2) The Chinese Pinyin input method is improved and some new Heiti and Hiragino CJK fonts are provided.

3) Polish is included the list of built-in spellcheckers, and you can now add .dic/.aff format dictionaries from other sources (e.g. OpenOffice ). Also you can set the system wide spell checking language without changing the system language itself.

4) The ability to set the keyboard layout as the same for all docs or different for each doc, present in Tiger but omitted in Leopard, has been restored.

5) Bidirectional text (e.g. English/Hebrew) now has system-wide settings for split-cursor, and for RTL, LTR, and Default text directions. (But it looks like RTL problems in iWork/iWeb have not been addressed).

6) VoiceOver is now able to handle all 18 system languages (but only English is provided by Apple).

7) Unicode is upgraded to the latest version (5.1 of 4/4/2008)

8) A "US International - PC" keyboard layout is included, which will be welcomed by Switchers accustomed to using this for W. European languages. (Another has been available on the Web for some time, however.)

9) Hitting Space while holding down Apple/Command will produce a list of active keyboard layouts in the center of the screen, which can be selected via the mouse or the up/down arrows.

10.6 has no new localizations for OS X or any new languages for reading and input.

Also it appears that File > Get Info no longer has a Languages tab, which makes it hard to run an app in a language other than that of the OS. A workaround may be here.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Hebrew Display Issue

Recently in the Apple Discussions a user had some problems making Hebrew Final Kaf plus Sheva display correctly. Getting this right requires that the font have enough smarts to combine the two characters involved (U+05DA and U+05B0) properly, putting the Sheva inside the Final Kaf instead of just underneath its vertical stroke, as is done elsewhere. Apple's Hebrew Qwerty keyboard layout also requires that you type Shift + k to get Final Kaf rather than just Kaf. This graphic shows how different Hebrew fonts I have on my Leopard system render it in TextEdit. Unfortunately 4 of the 5 supplied by Apple don't do a good job.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Why No Mac Browser Support for Vertical Text?

The ability to display webpage text in vertical format is highly desirable for Chinese, Japanese, and possibly other languages. Recently I checked Safari 4.0.3, FireFox 3.5.2, and Opera 9.64 and found that they still cannot do this in OS X, using this test page.

Same failure for Google Chrome.

I understand that Win IE (starting with version 5.5) is the only browser which has this feature.

Can it really be so difficult?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Braille Output Available in New Languages

Thanks to Archie Robertson there are now free Braille output packages available in French, Norwegian, Danish, German, Greek, Cyrillic and Hebrew. For info see this page.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

New Language Features in Windows 7

MS has announced that Windows 7 will be released in October. This blog article gives info on some of its improvements in the area of internationalization. Notable are a large number of new fonts and some 38 OS localizations.

This page lists the 150+ keyboard layouts apparently available.

OS X 10.6 is apparently staying with the 18 localizations available in 10.5.

Monday, July 20, 2009

New Nastaliq Font For Pro Arabic Script Apps

In an earlier article we provided information on the limited possibilities for displaying Nastaliq-style script in OS X. Recently DecoType, which produces software for top-end Arabic script typography, has released a new font for doing Nastaliq with WinSoft's Tasmeem plug-in for Adobe InDesign ME. Further info can be found here.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Typing Khmer

Khmer is the official language of Cambodia. Currently the only way to read or type this script correctly on a Mac is to acquire the Xenotypetech Language Kit.

Free Khmer fonts for Windows are available here, but various characters will not display properly in OS X. For a free keyboard layout to use with these, download and install NiDA_Khmer_Mac.1.0.keylayout from this site.

If you have a copy of OpenOffice 2.3/2.4 (the one that used X11, not version 3.0), I think windows Khmer fonts may display correctly in that app.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

iPhone 3GS Has Multilingual Voice Control

According to the info on Apple's website, the new Voice Control feature available in the iPhone 3GS can handle 21 languages, including 3 varieties of Chinese, and 2 each of English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Multilingual Voice Over, where the iPhone can speak song titles and artists's names, is also available in 24 languages, as listed here.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Typing Tajik

Tajik is a variety of Farsi/Persian spoken primarily in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, but also Iran and Afghanistan. In the former two countries, it uses the Cyrillic alphabet with 6 characters beyond those found in Russian. OS X includes the fonts necessary for this language.

You can get experimental Cyrillic Tajik keyboard layouts here. The QWERTY version has a graphic to show the character location. The PC version has the special Tajik characters on the Alt/Option layer of the normal Russian keys. Leave a comment if you find errors or think improvements are desirable.

Monday, June 8, 2009

OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard: Specs Released

Apple has announced that the next version of OS X, 10.6 Snow Leopard, will be available in September, and posted its tech specs. As far as I can tell from what has been released, 10.6 will have no new language localizations (I would have expected perhaps at least Arabic) and the only expansion in language input capability may be Chinese handwriting for machines with a multitouch trackpad.

Under Key Technologies the specs say "Unicode 4". Hopefully this is a typo, since Unicode 5 has been available since 2007.

The Accessiblity page indicates that VoiceOver will be able to do all 18 system languages, but the extra voices will have to be purchased separately.

PS (6/17): I see the specs have been updated to say Unicode 5.1.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

New Stuff in Unicode 5.2

For those interested in the evolution of Unicode, reliable info on what will be included in Version 5.2 (probably being finalized and released around October) is now available. New scripts are Egyptian Hieroglyphs, Avestan, Tai Tham, Tai Viet, Bamum, Imperial Aramaic, Inscriptional Pahlavi, Inscriptional Parthian, Javanese, Kaithi, Lisu, Meetei Mayek, Old South Arabian, Old Turkic, and Samaritan.

For more details, see Andrew West's excellent article.

Of course we are still a long way from having fonts available that incorporate this Unicode update.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Another Chinese Encoding Puzzle

Someone on the Unicode list had a text where strange escape codes had replaced accented chracters. For example the word "clichés" was printed as clich\x{5ee5}. The escape code presumably represents Unicode U+5EE5 or 廥. How could that happen? It turns out that this character has the code E973 in Big5, and that E9 73 in Latin-1 is és. So somehow a Latin-1 text was read as Traditional Chinese in Big5, then read again as Unicode and the non-Latin bits converted to escape sequences.

To make such a text readible, one can convert the the \x{abcd} escapes to the ꯍ html format, view the text with a browser, copy/paste to a text doc, save as Big5, and open as Latin-1.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

iPhone 3.0 Software Adds Languages

In today's presention regarding the next version of iPhone software, which is supposed to be released sometime this summer, Apple indicated that it will include new languages and keyboards.

Unfortunately I have not found any info yet about which ones (though I would expect at least Arabic/Hebrew, Greek, and Thai might be among them). If anyone has details, let me know.

PS As of 3/25 I have seen online photos or other reports indicating new keyboards are available for Arabic, Greek, Hebrew, Indonesian, Malay, and Thai.

PSS Apple issued the tech specs for the iPhone with 3.0 software on 6/8/2009. It confirms UI, keyboard, and predictive dictionaries for Arabic, Thai, Greek, and Hebrew.

PSSS When made available 6/18/09, 3.0 has off/on switches for two keyboards not mentioned in the tech specs, Bulgarian and Macedonian. But these keyboards do not work.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

New Scottish Gaelic Spellcheckers

Thanks to Sealgar IT, users of Scottish Gaelic (Gàidhlig) can obtain new spellchecking dictionaries for this language for use with CocoAspell and with OpenOffice 3 from this page.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

New iPod Speaks 14 Languages

The new iPod Shuffle has a "Voiceover" feature which can speak song titles and artists names in English, Chinese, French, Italian, Portuguese, Turkish, Czech, German, Japanese, Spanish, Dutch, Greek, Polish, and Swedish.

Hopefully this will find its way into future versions of OS X (where Voiceover is currently only English, unless you purchase additional 3rd party voices).

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Montenegrin Keyboard

Montenegro became independent of Serbia in 2006. For those who might want to use Apple's Latin and Cyrillic Serbian keyboard layouts with the Montenegrin flag showing in the Finder, the files for this can be downloaded here. For information on the status of Montenegrin as a language, see this article.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Endangered Languages

UNESCO has just announced the publication of a new edition of its Atlas of the World's Languages in Danger. For the first time this has been put on the internet as an interactive web page. You can check it out here.

New Syriac Font for OS X

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Adobe App Language Improvements

Adobe's InDesign and other apps have suffered in the past from various limitations regarding the scripts and languages they can handle, but this situation is being improved via their World-Ready Composer. Some useful info on what can now to done can be found in this article in Thomas Phinney's new blog.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Typing Chemical Drawings

An earlier article provided some info on inputting mathematical equations. Similar issues arise when you need to input drawings of chemical structures, which use their own special "language". The basic approach is to use a separate app and then copy/paste the results as an image or pdf into your document. Links to the main OS X tools are below. I think the first two should be free. This page gives some useful general info on the topic.






Chem 4-D Draw

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Apple US Offering Non-English Keyboards

I'm not sure when they started doing it, but the online AppleStore now offers a choice of physical keyboards with most Macs: English, Western Spanish, French, and Japanese. Earlier you had to buy your machine in another country to get a non-English keyboard.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Mellel Expands Language Features

The new 2.6 version of the Mellel word processor adds support for import/export of a number of CJK text encodings and for vowel marks in Windows Hebrew fonts.

Mellel is considered the best OS X word processor for RTL scripts.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

New CJKV Reference Book

Those interested in some of the nitty-gritty for doing Chinese/Japanese/Korean/Vietnamese on the computer will want to check out the newly-published 2nd edition of CJKV Information Processing by Ken Lunde, Adobe's senior expert on this topic.

I got a copy and think it is a very valuable reference, with tons of stuff that is hard or impossible to find elsewhere. The chapters on input methods, typography, and gaiji were especially useful to fill gaps in my own understanding.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Nisus Writer: Interesting Language Features

Users sometimes complain in the Apple Discussions about the problems that can arise in coordinating the selection of keyboard layouts, fonts, and spell checking when doing multilingual work in OS X. Anyone in this situation may wish to have a look at Nisus Writer Express or Pro (trial downloads available).

The Nisus apps have preference settings where you can determine the keyboard layout, font, and spell checker for any "language" you select from the list produced by clicking on the toolbar Language icon or the Format > Language menu. Plus you can define custom "languages" and also set a keyboard shortcut to activate any individual language on your list.

I haven't myself come across any other word processor with such flexibility in this area. If readers know of one, post a comment.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

iWork 09 Has New Localizations

Apple's latest upgrade of iWork finally has the full set of 18 OS X localizations. Previous versions only had 8. Aside from that, however, I was not able to find any improvements in language capabilities. In particular, longstanding bugs in input/editing of RTL scripts like Arabic and Hebew have not been fixed. The ability to use Windows Arabic fonts, introduced in TextEdit with OS X 10.5, is still absent in these apps. Options for vertical layout and ruby annotation which Japanese/Chinese language users want have not been added. And the strange Unicode input bugs described here remain.

The new iWork requires 10.5.6 or 10.4.11.