Census 2010 figures show that only 2.3 lakh (0.23 million) Indians listed English as their primary language and around 86 million as their secondary language. In the past four years, 88 million new Internet users were added in India. With more Indians going online, the need for them to communicate, transact and get information in their native language has deepened. We list a few tools and services for typing in Indic languages, which enable users to type using standard computer hardware or mobile phones and tablets.
Baraha Kannada interface (Source: Baraha.com)
Baraha is a free-turned-proprietary Indic language word processor that works with Windows. It supports Devnagari, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Gurumukhi, Malayalam, Oriya, Tamil, and Telugu scripts, which would together enable users to write in 20 Indic languages. It transliterates text typed using Unicode Latin characters to the chosen language. Baraha has a number of features:
- BarahaPad: Standalone editor
- BarahaIME: Input method editor (IME) compatible with Open Office and MS Office
- Conversion of text from one Indic script into another
- TrueType fonts for Indian languages
- InScript, Brhkbd and phonetic keyboard overlays
- Braille script
- Spell check
- Font conversion from Baraha fonts to third party fonts
- Musical notations (Carnatic and Hindustani)
Transliteration using Baraha takes a little time and effort to master as it follows a rigid typing syntax. For instance, the long vowel ‘a’ (─ü) is typed as ‘A’. The cerebral sound of the letter ‘d’ is typed as ‘D’, the dental sound as ‘d’.
Quillpad was born out of the need to phonetically transliterate letters typed using a keyboard layout with Latin characters, such as QWERTY, without learning a typing syntax. It supports Marathi, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Punjabi, Bengali, Gujarati, and Nepali. Quillpad features an online rich text editor. You can save and print documents and share the transliterated content on Facebook and Twitter. The tool uses an artificial intelligence algorithm for predicting transliteration of Roman script input. Quillpad works with both conventional and phonetic spellings. The algorithm can be replicated in other languages as it does not use a dictionary approach. The transliteration gets better with use. The Quillpad Mobile app is available for Nokia devices and the Quillpad Touch for iOS and Android devices.
Google Transliterate suggesting five possible phonetic transliterations
Google Transliterate does not require users to memorise the transliteration scheme. It works on a dictionary-based algorithm and tries to map the Latin characters typed into the online editor with an in-built dictionary in the chosen language. It supports phonetic transliteration using 28 languages, including 13 Indic languages. Transliteration is done using a rich text editor. Like other artificial intelligence algorithms, it learns organically from its user. Google Transliteration is available with Gmail, Orkut, Blogger, Knol and as a browser-based extension. The API is available for website owners to enable transliterated input on their websites.
With the rising popularity of Google Transliterate, Google released the Google Input Method Editor (IME) for offline use. It supports the same set of languages as Transliterate and allows users to type in the language of choice directly from the keyboard instead of copying and pasting it from the transliteration text editor. The IME for every input language can be downloaded for free.
Microsoft Bhasha: Indic Language Input Tools
Microsoft has developed a set of transliteration tools compatible with Windows for typing in the Indic languages. Users may download and install for free either Indic Input 1 or Indic Input 2, both of which are available in Nepali, Marathi, Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Oriya, Punjabi, Tamil, and Telugu. Microsoft also has support for these 12 Indian languages in Windows, Office, and Windows Live. The portal Bhasha India by Microsoft provides several resources for Indic language computing and translation.
iLeap2 and iLeap Office 2000 are Windows-based proprietary software used to create documents in Indic languages. iLeap 2 supports phonetic keyboard, Inscript keyboard, and Indian language typewriter keyboard and WYSIWYG display. Users can make, import and export documents in HTML, BMP, RTF, and JPEG formats. Assamese, Bengali, English, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Oriya, Punjabi, Sanskrit, Tamil, Telugu, and the Diacritic Roman script are supported. A trial version is available here.
InScript Devnagari layout (Source: Wikimedia Commons/ Suresh Kumar Shukla)
InScript, a portmanteau of the words Indian Script, is a keyboard layout developed by the government of India for use with standard ASCII keyboards. The layout developed in collaboration with several organisations supports the standard Roman script and 12 Indian scripts: Devnagari, Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Gujarati, Malayalam, Oriya, and Punjabi. The layout can be downloaded for free. It is compatible with various versions of Windows, Linux, and Mac desktop operating systems. The TDIL (Technology Development for Indian Languages) website houses many resources for using computers in Indian languages such as the localised versions of Bharteeya Open Office and Unicode typing tools.
Panini Kannada keyboard
Named after a Sanskrit grammarian, Panini Keypad is a free, downloadable keyboard layout available for a variety of mobile phones and for PC. It supports Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Hindi, Bengali, Gujarati, Kannada, Malayalam, and Punjabi on phones that work on Java, iOS, and Android. The layout is compatible with touch, touch and type, and type-only phones. You can also download the layout from Mobile9, Getjar, Appia, Mobango, Mobilerated, Phoload, Nokia OVI Store, Sharejar, or Mediafire. The input method editor, which is not free of cost, needs to be downloaded separately. Panini uses a predictive algorithm to determine the characters you’d be typing. Unlike the tools listed above, users can directly type in the language of choice, without transliterating words, using a standard keyboard or keypad layout. Like Quillpad, the tool does not use a dictionary model but a ready corpus of words for predicting text input.
A new and ingenious phonetic transliteration tool, the Indic Typing Tool can be accessed from the browser on iOS devices and works offline. An Android version of the tool is in the offing. The tool is built on a MediaWiki extension called Narayam, which is used for typing on most Indic language Wikipedias. It currently supports 11 Indic languages. Apart from transliteration, it supports a variety of keyboard layouts such as InScript, Probhat (a free Unicode layout for typing in Bengali) and Bolnagari (a phonetic input method for Unicode Devanagari fonts). Read about using this tool here.
Devnagari Keyboard Tiger interface
Devnagari Keyboard Tiger is an Android app that displays a keyboard with the Devnagari script in the InScript layout. It only works with smartphones installed with Indic fonts. It also has English dictionary support. The app costs Rs 77. A free version with fewer features is also available.
There are numerous other free and proprietary tools that let you type in Indian languages using commonly available hardware, such as Cafe Hindi Unicode Typing Tool and Azhagi. MultiLing Keyboard is an app that supports typing in 70-odd international languages including 16 Indic languages.
Cover image: Rohini Lakshane/ 'Bhasha' in Devnagari – Wikimedia Commons
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