moyogo's little blog

Blogging about Open Source, fonts, language technology, maps and random stuff happening wherever I am.


N’ko (ߒߞߏ) on computer

N’ko is this African script that was recently added in Unicode, and thus will be easier to use. However being included in Unicode is just the first step.

Being in Unicode just means that some sequences of bytes are defined to represent some N’ko characters. To be able to use N’ko you need several things. The first is a system that correctly underdstands those Unicode definitions. N’ko being a right-to-left script, sequence of N’ko characters have to be displayed accordingly. Then, like Arabic script, N’ko has words connected together and characters can have initial, medial and final forms depending on where in a word they are. For this you need fonts that have the right various glyphs for those characters and applications that can use those fonts properly. Because Unicode only includes N’ko since it’s version 5.0 which came out in November 2006 most systems do not know how to handle N’ko, for example Windows Vista, which came out a bit after, doesn’t.

The future looks bright however. N’ko support was added to Pango 1.17, the library that handles text layout on Gnome and Gtk+ applications, and is on it’s way to be included on other Linux libraries, on Windows and other platforms like Java. This will take time of course, but for those who can't wait, you can already use N’ko on the next-to-be version of Ubuntu, Gutsy. The GUI font, DejaVu, has basic N’ko support. Funny thing tho', at this moment the tentative Guinea keyboard layout that allows to type N’ko isn't included in
Gutsy. It’s kind of ironic not being able to type something.
There are various options to have a keyboard : install the Guinea keyboard manually, or install the kmfl N’ko keyboard.

Michael Everson has also been working on a N’ko font. Hopefully this will be a great document font widely available allowing people to share documents without trouble.

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