Monday, December 13, 2004

Free Unicode Font Listing

My brother is sufficiently fluent in French so that he and his wife were once mistaken for Belgians in Paris. My brother was of course highly gratified, but his wife was incensed, she being Parisian.

My relationship with languages is different. I went for breadth rather than depth, working at one time or another on Hebrew, Latin, Russian, Swahili, French, German, Korean, Japanese, Sanskrit, Chinese, Spanish, Yiddish, and Classical Greek, and noodling around with dozens of others. For example, in the Slavyanka Russian Chorus we sang in Russian, Church Slavonic (old Bulgarian), Ukrainian, Macedonian, Georgian, and Armenian, but we didn't always learn what the words meant. I also worked in mathematics, music, and APL (A Programming Language with its own character set), so I was a natural to get involved with Unicode, the single character set for all languages, and everything else besides.

Of the 31 national writing systems in modern use, the Linux software on my computer supports 25, omitting Tibetan, Sinhala, Ethiopic, Cambodian, Thaana, and Cherokee. Of these, the Yudit Unicode editor supports Tibetan, Ethiopic, and Cherokee. As it happens, I have a need for Sinhala right now, and no obvious way to fill it short of organizing a Linux localization project for Sinhala among my friends in the Sarvodaya Movement in Sri Lanka. (Yes, I must go do that. Good idea.) I can view Sinhala in the Firefox browser and in several text editing and word processing programs, but I can't really edit it or practice writing.

Anyway, I have an unusual need for large Unicode fonts covering many writing systems, and small Unicode fonts covering whatever is missing from the big ones. There is a new resource for finding such fonts, the Unicode Font Guide For Free/Libre Open Source Operating Systems Web page. It lists two Sinhala fonts, so now I just need a keyboard layout.

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