Thursday, December 22, 2011

Loeb Classical Library Greek/Latin Texts Online

Anyone interested in finding downloadable copies of Loeb bilingual Greek/Latin classical texts, many of which are out of copyright, should check out this site.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Reading Non-Unicode Kurdish

I recently got a query from a user indicating that Kurdish in Windows docs was appearing on their Mac with various Arabic language letters where Kurdish characters should be.

I could not figure out how that would happen, until I stumbled across a wikipedia article telling how special "Ali" fonts had been devised to let Windows users who only had an Arabic keyboard layout could still create text that looked Kurdish. Luckily the same article provided the address of an online site which can translate the non-standard "Ali" encoding into real Kurdish Unicode.

The same site can be used to convert a number of other non-Unicode Kurdish font systems.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Internationalized Domain Names Revisited

Since my earlier article on this topic, updated specifications for Internationalized Domain Names (IDNA2008) have been published. As a result, users can probably expect to see a rapid increase in urls written in scripts other than Latin.

Because of security concerns about phishing and other possible misuse of IDN's, browser makers have adopted (differing) mechanisms to filter the way users see such urls in the address bar after they click on a link.

Safari will display urls in their Unicode form for any script on a well-hidden, user-editable "whitelist." Others are displayed in a Latin "punycode" version.

Chrome displays urls in their Unicode form as long as they contain characters from a single language among those on a list set by the user in the browser preferences and do not contain any "blacklisted" characters. Otherwise in punycode.

Firefox and Opera display urls in their Unicode form only if they are on a "whitelist" of approved domains maintained by Mozilla and do not contain any "blacklisted" characters. Otherwise in punycode.

I had a look at the Safari script whitelist and it seems to me that it could be a good deal longer without causing any additional problems. As a "script" can sometimes cover many languages, Apple's method seems rather less restrictive than those used by the other browsers. Whether that is better for the user I don't know.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Typing N'ko

The N'Ko (ߒߞߏ) script, used for writing a number of West African languages, was the topic of a NY Times article recently.

For those wishing to read/write N'ko on OS X, try the font and keyboard available here or the kit from XenoTypeTech.

For using N'Ko on iOS devices, get the Tw Tool N'ko app.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Classic Mongolian Script Input for iOS

Classic Mongolian Script is notoriously difficult to input and display on a computer -- OS X 10.7 still cannot handle it -- but there is now an app for this for iOS devices: Mongolian Type Writer. Emails, for example, include both a graphic in vertical format and a text file in horizontal format.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Fixing Chinese Display in iOS

In the Apple Support Communities someone reported they were seeing the Japanese version of Han characters when they should be seeing the Chinese version. This can happen because the default Han font used by iOS for plain text is determined by the order of languages on the list in Settings > General > International > Language.

To make sure the default font is for Chinese, one fix is to switch the OS to Chinese and then back to English, which should put Chinese in second place on the list. Info on how to switch languages when you don't know one of them can be found here.

Even with rich text where correct fonts are specified in the markup code, Mac apps may not recognize them if they are not present in OS X, and the same fix would be required in that case.

An example of the difference:

Japanese Version and Chinese Version .

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Alternative Cherokee Keyboard Layout

The Cherokee Qwerty keyboard layout provided with OS X is not ideal, because the key sequences required for some characters do not match those normally used by this language -- e.g. Ꮭ is typed R-A instead of t-l-a.

Using a script created by SIL, I have put together an experimental alternative layout which avoids these issues. Readers are welcome to test it and report any problems.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Google Translate for iOS Adds Indic Languages

The Google Translate app for iOS described in an earlier article has been expanded to cover a number of additional languages, including experimental support for Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Tamil, and Telugu.

Text translation is now available for 63 languages, voice input for 17, and text-to-speech conversion for 24. I find the audio input/output features kind of amazing.

Friday, October 28, 2011

OS X 10.7 Lion Can Now Use Windows Indic Fonts

A reader of this blog has pointed out to me that, apparently without any notice, Apple has expanded OS X support for OpenType font features, so that at least some apps can now use Windows fonts as well as the AAT fonts supplied by Apple for complex Indic scripts like Devanagari. A good test is to use the font Sanskrit 2003 in TextEdit.

This is a major improvement, because it opens up a much larger range of fonts than have been possible up to now for scripts used by a major segment of the world population. Unfortunately my tests (so far only with Devanagari) indicate that this capability is not yet available in iWork apps or Openoffice or Mellel. But it does work in Nisus Writer.

I understand that this new feature should be available in any apps that use Core Text.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Full List of iOS5 Keyboard Layouts

Scripts for which iOS5 does have font support (so it can display web pages, email and other text) but still no keyboard for input are Gujarati, Gurmukhi, Tamil, Telugu, Sinhala, Oriya, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali, Armenian, Georgian, Lao, and Yi

Certain apps can be used to create custom keyboards that may be useful.

Pages for iOS 5 Has Special Formats for Chinese/Japanese/Korean

The latest version of iOS Pages, 1.5, which requires iOS 5, provides some CJK-specific text-formatting features, including emphasis styles, list styles, and phonetic guides. For details see this page:

It appears that vertical text is still not supported.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

New Language Features in iOS 5

New OS Languages: None

New Keyboards: Hindi, Hawaiian

New Dictionaries: Hindi, Hawaiian, Estonian, Latvian, Cherokee

(Keyboards still without dictionaries: Bulgarian, Icelandic, Macedonian, Serbian, Tibetan)

(Fonts still without keyboards: Gujarati, Gurmukhi, Tamil, Telugu, Sinhala, Oriya, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali, Armenian, Georgian, Lao, and Yi)

Note that SIRI is only available on the iPhone 4S and is not part of iOS 5 for other devices at this point.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

New Language Features in iPhone 4S

At the 10/4 event announcing the iPhone 4S, Apple said the "Siri" personal assistant of this device will include dictation capabilities and its other speech recognition features in English (US, UK, Australia), French, and German. More languages were promised for later (including Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Italian, and Spanish in 2012). I understand that an internet connection is required.

The 4S also for the first time includes a Hindi and Hawaiian keyboard. There are new dictionaries for Hindi, Hawaiian, Estonian, Latvian, and Cherokee.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Typing Dhivehi/Maldivian

Dhivehi/Maldivian is spoken by about 350,000 people in the Republic of Maldives. It uses the right-to-left Thaana script, for which OS X does not yet have either a font or a keyboard layout.

For a keyboard layout, try this:

For fonts, try these:

I'm not sure which app will display Dhivehi most correctly -- try TextEdit, Open/Neo/LibreOffice, and Mellel. Feedback from readers about whether any of these do a good job with this script would be welcome.

Monday, September 5, 2011

OS X 10.7 Lion: Possible Fix for Missing Chinese YiTian IM

There have been several complaints in the Apple discussions about the omission in Lion of the YiTian keyboard layout in the Traditional Chinese Zhuyin IM. A recent post recommends Yahoo KeyKey as an alternative:

I don't know enough about this to evaluate it, and would welcome any comments by readers.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Odd Chinese Display Issue

If you are seeing something strange where the Simplified Chinese character 门 (men2, U+95E8) should appear, there is nothing wrong with your system or app. It turns out that the Hiragino Japanese fonts supplied with OS X have an unusual version of this (the left character in the graphic below), which I've been told can be found in Japanese handwriting (see example 2 at this page ). Normally Japanese computer text will have the Traditional character 門 (U+9580) instead.

To fix this display issue, so you get the character on the right side of the graphic, make sure that in System Preferences/Language & Text/Language you have Japanese lower on the list than Chinese, or use the Edit button to uncheck the box for Japanese.

One might consider this to be a bug in the font.  Following the Unicode Standard, this version of the character should be invoked by the data sequence U+95E8 U+E0100 (or E0101), where the second element is an ideographic Variation Selector.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

OS X 10.7 Lion: Fixing Mixed Localization Problems

I've seen several reports in the Apple Discussions from users who have system alerts or other menus/dialogues in two languages at once, such as English and Arabic, or English and Danish.

A possible fix for this is to go to system preferences/language & text/language and use the Edit button to uncheck the box for the language you don't want and then restart.

Friday, July 22, 2011

OS X 10.7 Lion: Getting Rid of "Character Picker"

A new Lion feature taken over from iOS is the "Character Picker", which generates a popup menu of accented characters when you hold down the base letter on the keyboard. Some users detest this, as it stops the key repeat function which normally results when you hold down a key. To get rid of Character Picker, open Terminal and type

defaults write -g ApplePressAndHoldEnabled -bool false

and then restart.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

OS X 10.7 Lion Chinese Improvements

A bug: Bopomofo input is messed up when the candidate window is vertical. Switch to horizontal to get it to work right.

(Fixed in 10.7.2)

OS X 10.7 Lion Adds Major New Language Capabilities

New OS and App localizations: Arabic, Czech, Hungarian, and Turkish. These bring the total to 22.

New languages supported with both fonts and keyboards: Bangla, Georgian, Kannada, Khmer, Kurdish, Malayalam, Myanmar, Oriya, Sinhala, Telugu, Urdu. These have about 600 million speakers all together.

New languages/scripts supported with fonts only: Ethiopic/Amharic, Lao, Emoji

New languages supported via voices: Arabic, Chinese, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French, German, Greek, Hindi, Hungarian, Indonesian, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Slovak, Spanish, Swedish, Thai, Turkish. These must be downloaded separately.

New Spellcheckers: None

Other new features: Support for vertical text in TextEdit, access to accented characters via a pop-up dialogue when you hold down a character, improved Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese input methods, British English modules in, support for Windows Indic fonts in TextEdit.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Pinyin Keyboard for iOS

Pinyin is the official standard for using the Latin script to represent Mandarin Chinese. There is now an app which makes it really easy to type Pinyin on iOS devices and then email the result or copy/paste it to other apps:

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Typing Nuosu Yi

Nuosu Yi is spoken by a couple million people in SW China and is written using several hundred characters representing individual syllables. Further info can be found on the Babelstone Yi Page, and links to several useful resources are available here.

Both OS X and iOS come with fonts for reading/writing Unicode Yi.

The logical way to type Nuosu Yi is with an input method like those used for pinyin Chinese. You can obtain such an IM via this link.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

iOS 4 Display Languages

While the "supported" languages for iOS are listed in the tech specs for the iPad and related devices, iOS 4 also includes fonts that permit display of a number of additional languages and scripts in apps such as Safari, Mail, and Pages. These include Devanagari, Gujarati, Gurmukhi, Tamil, Telugu, Sinhala, Oriya, Malayalam, Kannada, Bengali, Armenian, Georgian, Lao, and Yi.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

No New Localizations for Pro Video Apps

I had thought that Apple might add more language localizations when totally redesigning Final Cut Pro, but from the Mac App Store entry which appeared today these remain at the traditional 4: English, French, German, and Japanese. OS X Lion and its non-pro apps will have 22 when released this summer.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Romanian & Slovak Localizations

Anyone interested in Romanian language localizations of OS X and some apps should check out this site. For Slovak, see here.

Monday, June 6, 2011

OS X 10.7 Lion: More on New Language Features

Apple has released more info on new features in OS X 10.7 Lion. Of interest related to languages are:

+Voices in 23 languages (compared to 1 in Snow Leopard).

+Safari support for vertical text and Web Open Font Format (WOFF)

+New System Localizations in Arabic, Czech, Turkish, and Hungarian

+iOS-like access to accented characters via a pop-up dialogue when you click on a character

+General support for vertical text in apps other than Safari

+Fonts added for Bengali, Kannada, Malayalam, Oriya, Sinhala, Telugu, Ethiopic, Lao, Khmer, and Myanmar, plus color Emoji

+Improved Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese input methods

Friday, June 3, 2011

Extra Spell Checking Dictionaries for OS X 10.6

Apple provides only a limited selection of spell checkers for OS X. But you can also add dictionaries used by OpenOffice. You just put the .dic and .aff files in Home/Library/Spelling.  Sources for these:




What you download from the second source will have the extension .oxt. You need to change this to .zip, then double click on the file. The resulting folder should contain the .dic and .aff files.

Oddly those sites have nothing for Turkish.  For that try this one:

For Greek, go here.

For Finnish, go  here.

For Catalan, go here.

For Czech, go here.

For info on making dictionaries, see >this page

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Reading/Writing Burmese/Myanmar in OS X

Burmese/Myanmar is spoken by an estimated 42 million people in S.E Asia. Support for this script is not yet included in OS X, but XenotypeTech offers a commercial kit for the Mac.

Sources of free fonts and keyboards are:

There seem to be two standards in common use. Some info about their differences can be found here.

Burmese/Myanmar on iPad and Other iOS Devices

Those wishing to read and write Burmese/Myanmar on iOS devices should try the apps iMyanmar and MMKeyboard.

I would be interested in any reports about how well they work. These apps incorporate a Burmese font to make up for the lack of one in iOS.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Custom Keyboards for iOS Devices

While there is still no way to create custom keyboards for iOS the way you can for OS X, I have seen two apps which let you produce keyboards that can be used to generate text for emailing or copy/pasting into other apps. These are UniKey and Unicode Map. UniKey comes with keyboards already made for Georgian, Armenian, Chess, and Afrikaans.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Reading Non-Unicode Indic Language Web Sites

Earlier I mentioned the Padma extension to Firefox which lets you read web pages in various Indic languages that require custom fonts. I have recently found a Gateway site which converts a number of such sites to Unicode so you can read them on any browser, as long as you have a Mac Unicode font installed for the script:

Scripts covered are Bengali, Devanagari, Gujarati, Gurmukhi, Kannada, Malayalam, Tamil, and Telugu.

This site might be especially useful for the iPad and other iOS devices where you cannot install Firefox or add custom fonts.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

iOS Has No Capital Sharp S (ẞ)

A poster in the Apple Support Communities recently pointed out that iOS devices cannot display the character Latin Capital Letter Sharp S (U+1E9E), which was added to Unicode in 2008 and can potentially be found in German language text. Oddly even the full OS X only has one font that includes this character, Geneva Regular. For some background, seeß

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Unicode Demo

For a page that displays all 109,384 characters in Unicode 6.0 in succession, go here:

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Slavic Language Transliteration Tools

Danslav Slavenskoj has recently published as series of useful extensions for the Safari and Chrome browsers that will transliterate among a number of Slavic languages. You can find them at

(Note that these change the way text is displayed on the browser, and you may mistakenly think that something is wrong with your system if you forget that you have them activated.)

Google Translate App for iOS Offers Audio Input/Output

The Google Translate app released in February for iOS devices has the capability to transcribe speech in one language, translate it into another, and then speak out the translated text. I tried this with some simple phrases and found it kind of amazing.

The languages covered for speech input besides English are Japanese, Chinese, Afrikaans, Czech, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Turkish. Speech output includes these plus Arabic, Danish, Finnish, Greek, Haitian Creole, Hindi, Hungarian, Norwegian, and Swedish.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Online Customized Font Maker

I recently discovered the SIL TypeTuner site, which may be of interest to others. It enables you to download customized versions of the SIL special language fonts Andika Basic, Charis SIL, Gentium Plus, Doulos SIL, Lateef, and Scheherazade with a range of special features which you can select from a menu. To try it out, go to

I assume that these fonts can also be embedded in webpages using @fontface, so that you can create webpages that will display the special features of your custom font even though the viewer has not installed it on his machine.

Monday, March 7, 2011

OS X 10.7 Lion: New Language Features?

Apple's recent preview of OS X 10.7 Lion does not mention any new language features, but some of the rumor sites like Macrumors and Appleinsider have published reports of a) Arabic system localization, b) voices for text-to-speech for languages other than English, and c) access to accented characters via a popup menu when a key is held down.

Update: A 4/8 report by Appleinsider indicates TextEdit will now have the vertical text layout capability considered important for Chinese and Japanese.

Lion is scheduled for release in the "Summer of 2011."

Thursday, February 17, 2011

More Indic Fonts for OS X

As mentioned in an earlier article, iOS currently includes fonts for a half-dozen Indic languages which are not yet part of OS X (Bengali, Oriya, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, and Sinhala). Thanks to Nick Shanks there is now a way to use them in OS X as well. See this page for info.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Font and Keyboard Layout for Amharic

For those interested in the Ethiopic script, used to write Amharic, SIL has recently released a new version of its Abyssinica font and OS X keyboard layout, which can be obtained here.

As of OS X 10.7, Apple provides a font for this script called Kefa (but no keyboard layout).