Using Tibetan In Linux

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Using Tibetan in Linux

Contributor(s) to this documentation: THL Staff, David Germano, Zach Rowinski.

Unicode Tibetan is fully supported within Linux operating systems, with all recent distributions providing a font, keyboard, and systems support out of the box. However, you may want to use a different front or input method; in addition, keep in mind that not all software programs support Tibetan Unicode just because the operating system supports it. Finally, you may have files using non-Unicode Tibetan fonts and want them to convert them to Unicode. For additional information, see:

Getting started

Gnome and KDE both provide complete support for Tibetan Unicode. For Wylie input, you'll need to install UIM or SCIM and their corresponding extensions that use the "m17n" database and library (called uim-m17nlib and scim-m17n respectively). The m17n package provides numerous international keyboards, including Wylie. For word processing, install OpenOffice 2.x. Finally and most important, make sure to install a Tibetan Unicode Font (e.g., TibetanMachineUni). The package for Tibetan Machine Unicode in Debian and Ubuntu is called ttf-tmuni.

More recent versions of X have built-in keyboards for Dzongkha and Tibetan. These are sometime more convenient to use given that, unlike UIM and SCIM, you don't need to enable and configure an extra program in order to have access to alternate keyboard; they are built directly into the x. To enable the built-in keyboards in Ubuntu, for example, click on the System menu and then go to Preferences > Keyboard. Within the Keyboard window, click on the Layout tab. Click on the + (plus sign) to add a Keyboard. For Dzongkha, choose "Bhutan" as the country and "Bhutan" as the variant Keyboard. For Tibetan, choose "China" for the country and "China Tibetan" as the variant. Instructions on using the Gnome Tibetan keyboard are available at external link: (It is the same as the keyboard found in Microsoft Vista.)

Installing Tibetan Fonts

True-type fonts used in Windows systems can also be used in modern Linux systems. Just download the font and then put the ttf file (e.g., TibMachUni-1.901b.ttf) in a subdirectory of /usr/share/fonts/, for example, /usr/share/fonts/misc/, or create a new directory such as /usr/share/fonts/tib/. After a restart of the X server (just restart your computer if you don't know how to restart the X server), the font(s) will be automatically recognized by OpenOffice, KDE applications, Firefox etc.

All Linux programs that are linked against a recent version of Pango fully support displaying of Tibetan stacks. Linux can use the same Unicode Truetype fonts as Windows so both fonts and resulting documents are fully interchangeable. UIM offers a Wylie input method for entering Tibetan text.

The best way to create interchangeable documents is to use OpenOffice 2.0.3 or higher with a TrueType Tibetan font. The resulting documents can be displayed with Windows and Linux and with some extra efforts (a converted version of the fonts used is required) on Mac.

Note that some Linux distributions have pre-packaged Tibetan and Dzongkha that are easy to install using the normal apt-get, yum etc. To install the Jomolhari and Tibetan Machine Unicode fonts on a Debian or Ubuntu system, for example, type: sudo apt-get install ttf-dzongkha ttf-tmuni. Note, however, that packaged versions of the fonts have been known to be out of date. For this reason, it is best to download the latest version of the fonts directly and install them into /usr/share/fonts as explained above.

Provided for unrestricted use by the external link: Tibetan and Himalayan Library