Foreword

Traditionally, computers have been designed with the assumption that English will be the language (or at least, Latin will be the script) in which users will communicate with the system. Only in recent years, we have seen a number of regional teams springing up in all corners of India and her neighbouring countries, each team wanting to "localise" computer software and interfaces for their own languages and cultures. Free Software has become a natural choice for these teams, since it gives them the power and (legal) right to modify the software so as to suit their own language and cultural nuances.

However, documentation regarding the process of localisation is extremely sparse, and since the nature of localisation requires a considerable amount of cross-domain knowledge, things are made all the more difficult. The first major stumbling block that a localisation team usually faces is when they try to come up with a font. Localisation of GNU/Linux into an Indic "locale" in a standards compliant way requires a "special" kind of font, called an Open Type Font. The technology used in an Open Type Font is comparatively new, and naturally, documentation is sparse. The only significant piece of documentation that deals with the process of creating Open Type Fonts for Indic languages is specific to a certain proprietary tool running on a certain proprietary platform. This document tries to outline the process of converting legacy Indic fonts into Open Type fonts, using a Free Software tool called FontForge (formerly called pfaedit).

However, before someone embarks on a mission of making/converting an Open Type font, he/she must also be familiar with at least the basics of Unicode and typography. So the document also contains a basic level introduction to Unicode and typography. Moreover, accompanying the document are two fonts (one for the Bangla script and another for the Devanagari script), which should serve as examples.

Also, a few video clips, illustrating the basic operations in fontforge (importing/exporting fonts, adding OpenType tables, etc) are also included with the document.

The document is Free (as in Free Speech), and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License (GFDL). Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts, and with no Back-Cover Texts. A copy of the license is located at http://www.gnu.org/licences/fdl.html.

The author would like to thank Sarai/CSDS for granting him the fellowship to work on the document. The Sarai/CSDS Free/Libre/Open Source Software (FLOSS) Fellowship programme invites developers/researchers/ programmers (practitioners as well as students) to propose projects in the area of free and open source software applications relevant to educational, social and community needs. People interested in the programme can send in their project proposal, workplan and CV to floss@sarai.net.

He is also grateful to the entire Indic computing computing community, especially the members of Ankur and the Free Bangla Fonts projects, who have been enthusiastically working for the sake of their own culture and language at the time when they should have been studying or sleeping.