TSCII  (Tamil) HOWTO for Unix/Linux

Anbumani Subramanian <anbumani@webname.com>
v1.11, July 20, 2000.


1. Introduction

   1.1 What is TSCII ?
   1.2 Who should read this document ?
   1.3 Contact information
   1.4 Acknowledgments
   1.5 Feedback

2. Tamil fonts

   2.1 What do I need to startwith ?
   2.2 Where do I get Tamil fonts ?
   2.3 How do I unzip the pack ?
   2.4 How do I setup Tamil fonts, once I unpack ?
   2.5 How do I check if I installed the fonts correctly ?
   2.6 How do I setup Netscape to read Tamil pages ?
   2.7 Can I read Dinamani, Dinakaran and other non-TSCII Tamil pages on Unix ?
   2.8 Using Adobe Acrobot Reader on Unix

3. Tamil input

   3.1 Can I type Tamil documents (or mails) on Unix ?
   3.2 Where can I download Tamil editors for Unix ?
   3.3 What do I need for installing Akaram ?
   3.4 How do I setup Akaram ?
   3.5 Is there any other method to type in Tamil ?

4. Printing

   4.1 Can I print documents in Tamil from Unix ?

5. Troubleshooting

   5.1 I get 'Bad value' message. What does it mean ?
   5.2 'xlsfonts' does not show any Tamil font.
   5.3 I have TTF fonts only. Now, how do I install ?
   5.4 I setup everything correctly. But still, I am not able to see Tamil characters in my browser ?
   5.5 No !!! Nothing mentioned in this FAQ works. What do I do ?
   5.6 Why can't I read Aaraamthinai pages ?
 

6. When everything works

 

1. Introduction

This FAQ explains how to setup Tamil fonts on various Unix platforms. This also discusses currently available input methods for Unix. The procedures mentioned here were tested on Sun, HP-UX unix, Slackware and Red Hat linux platforms and have been found to work without any problems.For Win95/WinNT/Mac operating systems, please refer the FAQ at
http://www.tscii.org/Mirror/faq.html

Henceforth, any reference to Unix in this document also implies Linux, BSD Unix or any other variant of Unix.

1.1 What is TSCII ?

For questions, this fundamental in nature, please visit http://www.tamil.net/tscii

1.2 Who should read this document ?

You need to read this document if you are not familiar with installing fonts on Unix platforms. Even otherwise, it is highly recommended if you want to read or write Tamil on Unix.

1.3 Contact information

For any questions regarding Tamil in computers, you can contact the Standards for Tamil Computing group at http://www.tscii.org/Mirror/

This is a part of the TSCII FAQ documents at the above site.

1.4 Acknowledgments

This FAQ was initiated by Dr. Ram Ravindran and hence the author likes to thank him. The credits, if any go to the TSCII group and the errors, if any are purely the author's and are open for correction.

Also, the author likes to thank Chinnasamy Nagarajan for his wonderful 'Akaram' editor, D. Sivaraj and Subramanian for their hardwork, enthusiasm and contributions to Tamil on Unix/Linux.

1.5 Feedback

This document was prepared by Anbumani Subramanian. Your suggestions or corrections to this document are most welcome. You can reach the author through e-mails to anbumani@webname.com.

2. Tamil fonts

Presently, Tamil input/output is available only if you use  X-window (Graphical User Interface for Unix). Console (or text) mode support for Tamil is not yet availabe.

In most cases, the Truetype (TTF) fonts found commonly on the websites cannot be used on Unix platforms. (Some have succeeded to use TTF fonts on Unix by running a true-type font server. The exact setup detail are not described in this document.)

2.1   What do I need to startwith ?

You need Tamil fonts for Unix (not Truetype fonts). Unix fonts can be freely downloaded from  http://www.tscii.org/Mirror/tools.html

2.2 Where do I get Tamil fonts ?

You can get the complete Unix fonts package from  http://www.tscii.org/Mirror/tools.html

Download the fonts to a new directory. For example, under /usr/local/fonts/tscii  (if you have root priviliges) or under
/home/your_user_name/tsciifonts, (if you are a normal user).

2.3 How do I unzip the pack ?

The font pack is in compressed, tar format. So you need to uncompress it first. In the downloaded directory, type the command
    uncompress tsciifonts.tar.Z

Then you will have a file by name tsciifonts.tar. Now, untar this file by typing
    tar -xvf tsciifonts.tar

Now you are ready to setup the fonts.

2.4 How do I setup Tamil fonts, once I unpack ?

See, if you have given read and execute permissions for everyone to the directory where you have the fonts. X-server needs these permissions to read your font files and directory. If not, give permission by the command:

 chmod a+rx your_font_directory_name

You also need to give read permission to the font files. Type,

 chmod a+rx your_font_directory_name/*

Now you can install the fonts using the 'xset' command. At the command prompt type,

 xset +fp your_font_directory_name

The '+fp' in the above line 'adds' the 'font path'. If there was no message - congratulations, you have successfully installed the fonts. If you get any error message, refer Troubleshooting section in this document.

Now, inform (!) your X-server that you added a new font path, by typing

 xset fp rehash

2.5 How do I check if I installed the fonts correctly ?

You can check by issuing the 'xlsfonts' command. This command lists the currently available fonts on the system. Type,

 xlsfonts | grep 'tscii'

on the command prompt. If you see a list of fontnames, your installation was successful. If you donot see anything, then your installation didn't work. Refer Troubleshooting secion of this document.

2.6 How do I setup Netscape to read Tamil pages ?

In Netscape Communicator, pulldown the menu Edit -> Preferences. Under Appearances select Font. Now choose  User-Defined for 'Font Encoding'. Then for Variable Width Font choose any Tamil font. Again select a Tamil font for Fixed Width Font. Then choose Ok and close the window.

Anytime you wish to read Tamil pages, choose View -> Character Set -> User Defined. Your browser will render Tamil characters now.

Choose any Tamil site which uses TSCII fonts. For example, try Dr. Kannan's page on Paasura Madals at
 http://www.angelfire.com/ak/nkannan/Madals/madalindex.html

Note: Everytime you start the X-windows, you need to add the font path with the command 'xset +fp  your_font_directory_name' before starting Netscape. Or you can add this in your initialization script.

2.7 Can I read Dinamani, Dinakaran and other non-TSCII Tamil pages on Unix ?

Yes, you can. But, you need to download their fonts for Unix platforms (if only they have). The glitch is most of these sites, do not offer Unix fonts. Some have not even thought (or donot care ?) of Unix users. Refer Troubleshooting section, if you are strong minded to setup these fonts using other tricks.

2.8 Using Adobe Acrobot Reader on Unix

This is the most cool way for reading Tamil on Unix. No need for fonts, software. With Adobe Acrobot Reader (ver 4.0+), you can read pdf files in Tamil. Check out Dr. Ram Ravindran's pdf file collection at http://www.tamil.net/special

Also, you can print these pdf files directly to a printer. (Adobe Acrobat Reader can be downloaded freely from http://www.adobe.com).

3. Tamil input

This section discusses how to type Tamil documents or mails in Unix.

3.1 Can I type Tamil documents (or mails) on Unix ?

Yes, you can. Thanks to Chinnasamy Nagarajan's cool editor 'Akaram'. It can be used on any Unix platforms. With this editor you can type Tamil documents or mails under Unix. Unlike Windows, on Unix, to send Tamil e-mails, you have to cut and paste whatever you typed in the editor in your mail software.

3.2 Where can I download Tamil editors for Unix ?

You can download the recent release of Akaram from http://www.tscii.org/Mirror/tools.html

3.3 What do I need for installing Akaram ?

Tcl/Tk (ver. 8.0 and above) is the only software you'll ever need. (Tcl/Tk can be downloaded freely from http://www.scriptics.com)

3.4 How do I setup Akaram ?

This is clearly explained in the FAQ for Akaram, which comes with the software.

3.5 Is there any other method to type in Tamil ?

Yes, there are other ways to input Tamil using XKB, xmodmap, etc.. These methods are yet to be investigated. If you are interested, you can join the TSCII group.

4. Printing

This section outlines printing Tamil documents from Unix.

4.1 Can I print documents in Tamil from Unix ?

Printing Tamil documents from Unix is yet to be experimented. But you can print font-embedded Tamil pdf files from Unix.

If you like to play with latex, ghostscript and help other unix users in printing, you can join hands with the TSCII group.

5. Troubleshooting

The most common problems encountered while installing fonts are discussed in this section.

5.1 I get 'Bad value' message. What does it mean ?

That's a very cryptic message. There can be many reasons for this message. The common problem is, you didn't give read and execute permissions for everyone, to your font directory. If your directory has 'r-x' permission, and you still get the message, check the permissions for your font files and fonts.dir file.

Check if you typed the command correctly.

5.2 'xlsfonts' does not show any Tamil font.

Then your fonts are not installed. Check if your xset command was correct. Also, check if the font path has been added (remember, you issued a xset command ?). When you type

 'xset q'

it shows a list of current settings, one of which is fontpath. See if your directory name is present in that font path list. If not, repeat the installation procedure.

5.3 I have TTF fonts only. Now, how do I install ?

Cheer up, since you are ready for a challenge awaiting you. There are three ways to accomplish your ideal. :-)

First, the simplest. Ask !!! Send an e-mail to the TSCII group, as someone might have converted the TTF fonts to PCF format. Few persons to ask are - Anbumani Subramanian (anbumani@webname.com) and Subramanian (rrs16@excite.com).

If you are ready to 'explore your world', one way is to setup a True-type font server, freely available on the internet. Search for 'xfstt'on any search engine.

Another way is to convert TTF fonts to BDF and then to PCF. For this you need the ttf to bdf conversion program (free) from 'fontutils' package available from http://www.gnu.org. Once you have the bdf version, use 'bdftopcf' utility on your Unix to make 'pcf' version. Then do a 'mkfontdir' in the directory, where you have the bdf/pcf fonts and repeat the installation procedure.

5.4 I setup everything correctly. But still, I am not able to see Tamil characters in my browser ?

This can be one of the sites to use poor html tags. Rarely, it's the browser problem. A small hack is sometimes found to work. In the font directory, type the following:

 sed 's/tscii-0/iso8859-2/g' fonts.dir > newfonts.dir
 mv newfonts.dir fonts.dir

Now repeat the Font setting procedure in Netscape, but this time for ISO8859-2 instead of User-Defined.

5.5  No !!!  Nothing mentioned in this FAQ works. What do I do ?

Well... you tried hard to make the cake yourself. It didn't work. Now, have this readymade cake. Download this fontpack with almost
everything you will need for Tamil on the web. (Note: There are some freebies in the pack.  :-)

5.6 Why can't I read Aaraamthinai pages ?

Aaraamthinai pages displayed well in Tamil on Slackware Linux, while they did not work on Sun platforms. So, for reasons
unknown, Aaraamthinai pages pose a challenge (to the author). Mails sent to Aaraamthinai were kindly responded with
"we are working on the problem".

6. When everything works

When everything works (usually it will), you too can join TSCII group and contribute for Tamil on the web. Some challenging tasks awaiting  you are character recognition, tamil DNS, speech recognition etc..