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Tamil Fonts and Text Convertors for Interconversion of Tamil Text files
between different font encodings


Tamil fonts allow direct display of tamil characters on the screen as you type (WYSWYG/What you see what you get Concept). Once installed in the system, the tamil font can be used on a number of softwares (wordprocessing, graphics, database etc). Tamil fonts are available for use on Macintosh (often as postscript type 1 or truetype) and Windows PCs (as truetype format). A few are in the public domain but several fonts are available commercially.

Types of Tamil Fonts

Some of the tamil fonts are monolingual and use the standard/basic ASCII slots (first 128) to place the tamil characters. There are some bilingual ones which place the roman/english characters in the first 128 slots and the tamil characters in the upper ASCII (128-255 positions). There are no official standards yet on the keymapping employed. Some use the same keymapping as in the classical tamil typewriter while others use the principle of phonetic linkage of tamil character being typed with the roman letter under which the corresponding tamil character is placed.
A table of keymap comparison for different transliteration schemes and tamil fonts (tamil typewriter/phonetic based) is available for reference.

Stand-alone Tamil fonts (Monolingual 7 bit fonts)

As examples of monolingual tamil typewriter keymap fonts, one can cite the Tamillaser font (of Prof. George Hart), Saraswathi ( of Vijayakumar) and Ananku ( of Dr. P. Kuppuswamy).
Tamil fonts such as Palladam (T. Govindaraj) and Mylai (Dr. K. Kalyanasundaram) use phonetic linkage of the tamil character to the roman letters under which the tamil letter is placed. For those who never used a tamil typewriter, phonetic link on keymap is easy to master and can be very appealing. If you want to see a sample output of Mylai, here are the first ten couplets of thirukuRaL thirukuRaL.

Bilingual 8-bit ANSI type Tamil fonts

The second type of tamil fonts are of bilingual type (roman and tamil). They are of the ANSI type - use the first/basic ASCII slots for the roman characters and the upper ASCII slots (129 to 256) to place the tamil characters. The ADHAWIN font that comes as part of the Adhawin package (of Dr. K. Srinivasan), Inaimathi font that comes as part of the Anjal Newsreader (of Muthu Nedumaran) and TamilFix font of Naa. Govindaswamy are examples of this kind.
It is rather tedious to access directly the upper 128 ASC characters - on PCs they are accessed by having the 'alt' key pressed and typing appropriate key number. In Adhawin, Anjal packages, the input is in the form of romanized/transliterated text. Associated keyboard editor/manager or a macro converts subsequently and displays equivalent tamil text on the screen. In majority of cases, keyboard managers/editors that allow switching/toggling between t he tamil set (upper ASCII) and the roman (lower ASCII) characters.

Data Transfer / Transfer of Tamil Script based files between different computer platforms

Exchange of files between two different platforms is possible if and only if the same keymapping is used in the two computer platforms in question. Only a few of the commercial tamil fonts are available in identical form for use on two of the most commonly used platforms, viz. Macintosh and MS-DOS PCs working under Windows. The tamil font MYLAI was specifically designed to serve this purpose and in the last year I have mailed a copy of this font free to several hundred users of the Internet. The font is available in both postscript type 1 form use on Macintosh and in truetype form for use on Windows PCs. The files created on one can be readily transported to the other platform in total integrety and also be sent electronically as plain text (subject to certain minimum constraits).

Interconversion of tamil text files of different font encodings

For wider usage of archived electronic texts, it is essential to have the tamil etexts available in more than one format. Interconversion softwares have an important role to play in this context. Softwares such as TAMILVU and ADHAWIN of Dr. K. Srinivasan (of Montreal, Canada) and TAMILCONVERTOR of Chris Goringe (of Oxford Univ.) allow transformation of plain text files corresponding to mylai format to one of transliterated form and vice versa. Thus files created once using the mylai format either on a Macintosh or Windows PC can be made available inseveral formats for use on Macintosh, Windows PC and even on plain DOS PCs. .

Font, Software Resources

The FAQ of the soc.culture.tamil newsgroup (now maintained by Prakash) provides interesting pointers to various tamil fonts and softwares that are available. The TamilNadu Homepage (originally put up by Rajkumar, now maintained by Siddarthan Ramachandramurthi) on Web also provides useful pointers to various fonts and software packages available for dealing with tamil characters. The South Asia Gopher at Columbia University is another place where one can find many useful pointers to indian language fonts and softwares.
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