Thursday, June 12, 2008

Complex language support in Firefox 3

Hindi is a language spoken by a little less than one billion people worldwide. One out of every six people in the world speak this language. However it is severely neglected in computing so far, despite being very scientific in grammatical structure.

In Firefox 2 for Mac, hindi language display support was entirely lacking so far, and here is what I used to see when I opened a webpage made in Hindi:

To be frank, seeing all question marks in the browser main window is not a pleasant sight. It's a big warning signal for any multilingual person, leading to abandonment of either the browser or the website.

Interestingly enough, the text in title bar of Firefox 2 for Mac displayed correctly!

Clearly, complex language support was build into Firefox, but it was not being implemented well.

Firefox 2 for windows was able to show some support - it showed the hindi glyphs and many of their combinations well, but display of "matras" (vowel symbols) was inconsistent.

However Safari rendered the entire text beautifully, both in browser window as well as title bar:

I am pleased to report that things are looking very well in the new Firefox 3 release candidate:

In fact, I couldn't tell a difference between the text rendering in Safari vs. Firefox 3.

Firefox3 for windows rendered complex text flawlessly too:

However you can see a noticeable difference in font smoothing and anti-aliasing capability of Windows which is inferior to Mac as usual.

A solid build-in Hindi support in major operating systems today will enable the vast majority of population in India to use computers for their daily use - a huge market that no one can ignore.

Firefox listened, but are others listening?


Anonymous said...

Hello Anil,

I could use a little help with my Mac OS reading Hindi Script mainly in Firefox/Safari. I have the Devnagari font in my font book and can work with them on Word/TextEdit but as I found not on web browsers.

I am running 10.4 Tiger on IBook G3
I did not install the Asian fonts when I upgraded to 10.4 and now I do not have my installation disc handy.

Here's the question " is there any way I can only install the Hindi font by downloading something on the internet without the disc?

Thanks for any help you can provide.


Anil said...

Hi Avinash

The fonts in Mac OS Tiger are located in two folders: 1) /Library/Fonts, and 2) /System/Library/Fonts. You should try to get hold of the following fonts from somebody else who has Tiger: DevanagariMT.ttf and DevanagariMTBold.ttf. Then you can install them in your system. Unfortunately I'm not running Tiger, so I can't help much myself. If nobody else has these fonts, let me know and I'll try to arrange something for you.