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Home  >  Tamil Digital Renaissance > Tamil Fonts & Software > Tamil Font Encoding Standard

Tamil font encoding standard
& standardised Tamil keyboard

The efforts to agree a Tamil font encoding standard and a standardised Tamil keyboard  which took a major step forward  in Chennai in February 1999 at the TamilNet'99 International Conference came to fruition with the unveiling of the new keyboard and encoding scheme by the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Mr.M.Karunanidhi on 13 June 1999.

The Tamil Nadu Government Order of 13 June 1999,  set out the approved schemes of encoding Tamil glyphs as well as the layout for Tamil Keyboard. The Order states that no standard needs to be recommended now for the Romanised keyboard.Tamil  is now, the first language in India to have a standardised keyboard and encoding scheme for use in information technology.

The Hindu reported on 13 June 1999:

"The new standards come into existence from today and the Government will make them available to the users through various forums including the Internet. The keyboard and the coding system are the final results of an international endeavour of Tamil users in which scholars, technologists, linguists and Governments participated. Though it started with a conference in Singapore years back, the decisive phase started with TamilNet99, organised by the State Government in February....

Dr. M. Anandakrishnan, Chairman, Sub-Committee on Tamil in Information Technology (IT) would handle the Rs. 5 crore software development fund and three institutions would work on this. Dr. Anandakrishnan said the software projects under the fund would not be 'pedestrian' but advanced, on development of a Tamil browser, software for English-Tamil translation and voice recognition.

The Chief Minister announced that Tiruvarur District would run a pilot project for information technology in governance. Mr. Karunanidhi recalled the services of the late Mr. Govindasamy from Singapore, who contributed immensely to the standardisation efforts.

Dr. Anandakrishnan, said one of the most important features of the keyboard was that all letters could be typed without using the 'shift' keys. The input for this came from Mr. Govindasamy's 'Kanian' keyboard. The shift-key positions were used for 'grandha' letters and utility symbols like Rs., debit and credit. Some shift-key positions were still vacant and could be used. The left side of the keyboard occupied vowels and the right side, the consonants.

In the monolingual 'Glyph' encoding scheme, aimed mainly at meeting the needs of the software development for desktop publishing and printing industry, the fonts would have 'TAM' prefix as 'TA' was an internationally accepted abbreviation for Tamil in IT.

In the bilingual encoding scheme, which would be useful for simple applications like text-processing and e-mail, the fonts would have 'TAB' prefix. The schemes could be used in operating systems like Windows, Macintosh and Unix.

The State Government had become a member of the 'UNICODE' consortium to facilitate the submission of the character coding standard. The Information Technology Department would send the proposal to accept the encoding standard to UNICODE, whose experts will meet in Chennai on June 24.

Earlier, Mr. Murasoli Maran, Chairman, ReceptionCommittee, said the new standards would help take IT to people. An overwhelming response came from diaspora Tamils, he said."

Tamil Nadu Government Order on Standardisation

Information Technology Department, Tamil Nadu
Government Order.Ms.No.17 - Dated:13.06.99

Abstract : Information Technology - Standardisation of Tamil KeyBoard and Encoding of Tamil Glyphs - Recommendations of the Sub - Committee on Tamil in Information Technology - Accepted - Orders - Issued

Read: 1. Government Order.Ms.No.3, Information Technology Department, dated 19.2.99.
2. From the Vice-Chairman, Tamil Nadu State Council for Higher Education and Chairman, Sub-Committee on Tamil in Information Technology, Letter dated 1.6.99.


In the Government Order first read above, a working Group and an International Technical Committee were constituted to evaluate the technical issues and finalise coding standards for Tamil, based on the consensus arrived at during the International Conference and Seminar on Tamil in Information Technology (Tamilnet99) held at Chennai on 7th and 8th February 1999. To facilitate this process, the TamilNet 99 recommendations were made available on a dedicated internet website http://www.tamilnet99.org from mid-February 1999.

2. Considerable feedback was received from researchers, software developers and enthusiasts throughout the world and these were first analysed by the Working Group and later by the members of the International Technical Committee. Based on the final suggestions of the International Technical Committee, the Sub-Committee on Tamil in Information Technology of the State Information Technology Task Force has proposed monolingual and bilingual encoding schemes for Tamil glyphs and a standard Tamil Keyboard layout. The Chairman of this Sub-Committee has recommended these to the Government for approval

3. The Government, after careful consideration, approve the schemes of encoding Tamil glyphs as well as the
layout for Tamil Keyboard submitted by the Chairman of Sub-Committee on Tamil in Information Technology
as detailed below:

(a) Tamil Keyboard

(i) The approved layout for keyboard is at Annexure - I and it may be named as "Tamil99" Keyboard in English andThamil Visai Palakaiin Tamil :

(ii) The key sequence for the "Tamil99" keyboard is at Annexure - II

(iii) The present layout and sequencing of mechanical typewriter (Remington) keyboard is to be maintained excepting the replacement of the sign " " with the sign "�"so as to make the letter "�" available for typing and to ensure an easy transition to the existing users; and,

(iv) No standard needs to be recommended now for the Romanised keyboard.

(b) Glyph Coding Schemes:

(i) The Monolingual Glyph coding schemes for Tamil is at Annexure - III. This will be useful for meeting the needs of software development for the desktop publishing and printing industry. The fonts based on this scheme will have TAM" prefixed to the font names, since "TA" is an internationally accepted abbreviation for Tamil in the Information Technology industry and "M" denotes monolingual;

(ii) The Bilingual Glyph coding scheme for Tamil is at Annexure - IV This will be useful for meeting the needs of software development for simple applications like text-processing, e-mail etc. The fonts based on this scheme will have "TAB" prefixed to the font names, "TA" being the abbreviation for Tamil and "B" denoting bilingual; and

(iii) Tamil Software developers can provide Tamil Numerals as symbol fonts.

4. Character Coding Standard:

In order to facilitate the submission of a revised character coding standard for Tamil to "UNICODE", the Government of Tamil Nadu have become an Associate Member in the Unicode Consortium, USA.On finalisation of the proposal for revising the character coding standard by the Sub_Committee on Tamil in Information Technology, further action will be taken by the Information Technology Department for sending this proposal to 'UNICODE' for adoption.

5. Tamil Keyboard manufacturers and Tamil Software developers are expected to use the specifications in para 3 above in their products. Future purchases of Tamil Keyboards and Tamil Software by Government Departments/ Undertakings/Corporations/Boards etc., while subject to codal formalities, will be made only from manufacturers who certify that their products conform to these specifications.

(By Order of the Governor)

Secretary to Government

kb1.GIF (140016 bytes)



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