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Tamil Font Encoding and Keyboard Layout Standards announced at the
Tamilnet 99 International Conference


Report on the International Conference "TAMILNET 99"
held in Chennai, Tamilnadu, India during Feb. 7 and 8, 1999


In the context of rapid growth in computer and internet technology the worldwide efforts of Tamilians in the use of Tamil fully through internet should be promoted. Their interaction through internet should be expanded. To meet these goals, an International Conference -Tamilnet'99 - held on 7th and 8th Feb 1999 arrived at the following decisions:-

I.Standardization of Tamil Key Board Layout

1.There has been an evolution of keyboard layouts developed for inputting Tamil characters into computers. Over the years many improvements have been incorporated. In practice there are basically three types of keyboard layouts for Tamil namely, Romanized keyboard layout, Tamil Typewriter based keyboard layout and Phonetic keyboard layout. Of these, the phonetic keyboards have become more popular because of their user friendliness and lesser effort involved. While standardizing the keyboard layout the following aspects were considered.
i.Tamil characters frequently used should be placed in strong finger positions and less frequently used in the light finger positions.
ii.The less frequently used grantha letters should be put in locations with shift key operations.
iii.The short and long vowels shall be kept in adjacent positions for convenient remembrance and easy operations.
iv.Those Tamil letters which normally appear conjointly, such as should be placed adjacently for easy operation.

2. Incorporating the above aspects, a standard for the phonetic keyboard (Figure -1) is adopted. It was also decided that the various key boards evolved in different parts of the world should be documented for reference.

3.Till switchover to the use of Phonetic Keyboard takes place, the Tamil Typewriter based keyboard proposed by the Keyboard Committee constituted by the Government of Tamilnadu during 1997 (Figure-2) may continue without any change.

4.Further, the Romanized Keyboard for Tamil proposed by the Tamil Nadu Keyboard Committee is suggested for use by those familiar with spoken Tamil only and those who prefer English characters for typing Tamil text (Figure-3).

5.Necessary steps may be initiated to encourage widespread use of the Phonetic Keyboard.




II. Standardization of coding of Tamil Scripts.


1. For ensuring compatibility in development of softwares for use of Tamil in computers and internet, a standardized system of encoding should be adopted. For this purpose the following encoding scheme is agreed upon.

i.For softwares based on a Monolingual Glyph Encoding System, the following scheme is recommended. (Figure -4)

ii.For softwares based on Bilingual Glyph Encoding System the following adaptation is recommended. (Figure-5)

2. Realizing the importance and criticality of addressing and ensuring the changeover from the existing codes presently in use, the proposed codes are recommended as draft standard. The draft standard should be made available to one and all from a website specifically created for this purpose and a time frame of 100 days from 9th February 1999 should be provided to facilitate developers to use the draft codes in various computer platforms and software to evaluate for compatibility and adaptability. The decision on the codes to be adopted as the standard should be taken at a meeting to be held by June 1, 1999. The procedure to receive and consolidate the experience feedback on the draft standard will be set forth by a monitoring committee comprising of experts from within and outside India.

3.The Tamilnadu Government should provide encouragement and help to convert the exiting software systems into the new encoding system

4.The present system of Tamil Character Encoding used in UNICODE needs to be modified to suit the special features of Tamil characters. The Government of Tamil Nadu may take steps to undertake the necessary consultations with concerned organizations. An Expert Group on UNICODE for Tamil should be constituted for this purpose which may also consider the following Tamil Character Encoding system (Figure 6).

Use of Tamil in Multimedia, Internet and Computing.


1. To exploit the opportunities to implement the future developments in computers and internet using Tamil, active research should be initiated world wide. For this purpose, it is necessary to create a Tamil Internet Research Centre at the state level and a world wide Internet Communication Facility for Tamil.

2. We should make the rich Tamil Literature and the Linguistic Grammar available in the Internet. It is necessary to develop Computer Software for Tamil dictionary, thesaurus, spell checking, E-mail, handwriting recognition, optical character recognition, voice processing, natural language processing, palm leaf character recognition etc. The Governments in countries having Tamil as an official Language, private organizations and universities should support such efforts.

3. The International Conference on TamilNet should be organized every year.


Announcements of Hon'ble Chief Minister of Tamilnadu during the
International Conference and Seminar TAMILNET 99 held on 7th and 8th Feb. 1999
at "Image Auditorium", Chennai-600 028, India

  • 1. The Government will create a Virtual Thamizh Internet University which could be accessed by all Thamizh-speaking people
  • 2. TamilNadu will also become a member of UNICODE Consortium to get 512 locations for accommodating all the Thamizh letters in the encoding system.
  • 3. A Committee will be set up comprising experts from TamilNadu, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Pondicherry to finalise the recommendations regarding Mono Lingual encoding and Bi-lingual encoding systems. The Committee will submit its report within 3 months.
  • 4. To encourage Thamizh Software, a "Thamizh Software Fund" will be created.
  • 5. Three Research Chairs in Bharathiar University, Coimbatore, Regional Engineering College, Trichy and Anna University, Chennai will be created.
  • 6. TamilNadu and the Thamizh World will be connected through the internet.
  • 7. A State Level ThamizhNet Research Centre for both English and Thamizh users will soon be set up.
  • 8. 1000 Community Internet Centres for both Thamizh and English users will soon be set up.
  • 9. All Government application forms both in Thamizh and English will be made available within the next one year.
  • 10. The proposed codes were being recommended as draft standard and they would be available for Global evaluation on the Internet for 100 days.
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