Tibetan Unicode Installation

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This article describes how to install the required software in order to be able to display and edit texts encoded in Tibetan Unicode


In order to be able to view and edit Tibetan texts encoded in Tibetan Unicode you need three components:

One of the major advantages of Unicode is that Unicode applications do not need to understand the rules how to create glyphs for a given language. The actual knowhow how to create Tibetan stacks resides within the unicode font and the complex script support of the operating system.

Once all three components above are available, standard Unicode applications can be used to create, edit and display Tibetan texts.

A particularly useful Unicode application is OpenOffice. OpenOffice 2.4 is available for Windows, Linux and Mac (see http://www.neooffice.org and comments below) so Unicode documents created with OpenOffice can efficiently be shared across platforms. See also: Configuring OpenOffice for Tibetan script.

Use the Tibetan Unicode Test Page to verify your installation.

Microsoft Windows

Unicode Tibetan in Windows Vista

No software needs to be installed: Windows Vista already contains all three required components: an input method (see Control Panel / Regional and Language settings for a Tibetan keyboard), support to display Tibetan script and a Tibetan font, Microsoft Himalaya.

In addition you might want to install additional Tibetan Fonts (all existing Unicode fonts seem to work well) or an alternative Tibetan Input Method.

You can directly start using Notepad, OpenOffice or the latest Microsoft Office version to create Tibetan documents in standard Unicode encoding.

Unicode enabling Windows XP:

Enabling complex script support

Microsoft Windows XP supports complex scripts, the feature to correctly display Tibetan stacks, only with Microsoft Office 2003 SP1 and later (also available with Microsoft's free Word Viewer ). However it is possible to install support for Tibetan complex scripts for all applications (e.g. Web browsers and OpenOffice).

An excellent description of how to update Windows XP can be found at the THL or the NLB sites.

Installing a Tibetan input method

Again, THL gives a comprehensive overview on different existing [Tibetan Input Methods].

A good start is TISE which is a Wylie input method.

Keyman is another alternative and Tavultesoft offers a version that is free for home use.

A number of different keyboards for Keyman, including a Wylie keyboard, are available from Tibetan Portal, download Keyman keyboards.

Installing Unicode fonts

Simply install one of the Unicode Tibetan Fonts.

A good start is Tibetan Machine Uni or Jomolhari. [1]

Unicode enabling Linux

Enabling complex script support

If you use a recent version of Gnome, all applications that support Pango, correctly display Tibetan complex script. KDE also supports Tibetan rendering. Installation Packages for the Tibetan Machine Unicode and Jomolhari fonts are included with or available for most popular Linux distributions.

OpenOffice.org 2.4 and above support Tibetan rendering.

Installing Unicode fonts

Any of the Unicode Tibetan Fonts works. Also for Linux, the recommended[1] fonts are Jomolhari and Tibetan Machine Uni.

Installing a Tibetan input method

The Dzongkha XKB keyboard layout in XFree-86 can be used to input Tibetan script. The package UIM contains an input method bo-wylie which can be used to add a Wylie input method.

Unicode enabling Mac OS-X

Mac OS-X uses a different way to render scripts. Support for complex scripts started to appear with version 10.4.8 in Mac OS-X. However unfortunately most existing fonts use OpenType features, that are not correctly supported with current versions of Mac OS-X. Even with a Tibetan Input Method, support for Mac Unicode is currently weak. A key to enable Mac OS-X would be a Platform Independent Tibetan Unicode Font.

On Mac OS-X 10.5 the Safari web browswer works very well to display Unicode Tibetan pages.

Open Office can also be used for Tibetan on Mac OSX (currently under XII Windowing system though a native "Aqua version is under development). Since OpenOffice uses ICU for OpenType layout fonts like Tibetan Machine Uni and Jomolhari work properly.

Additional helpful tools

A number of Tibetan Text Editors and Font Conversion Programs are available mainly for Windows that can be used to convert existing legacy documents in various different Tibetan encodings of the pre-Unicode era.
  1. [FreeDesktop.org: Recommendations for Default Unicode Fonts By Script]