Preparing Your Computer For Thdl Use

THL Toolbox > Preparing Your Computer For THL Use

Preparing Your Computer

Most aspects of THL can be viewed with any standard Web browser. However, some special uses of multimedia within the library require free and widespread "plugins", i.e. modular programs that can give enhanced features to one's Web browser. In addition, specialized fonts are necessary to see special diacritic marks used to represent foreign languages in Roman script and to see non-Roman scripts such as Tibetan, Chinese, Devanagari and so forth. Once installed, all these will work automatically.

This site can also be used to prepare electronic classrooms or computer labs. An electronic classroom involves a built in computer system that can be projected on the wall for teacher use, or a more elaborate set up with a computer work station for each student. "Labs" are also frequent in schools - rooms with computers are available for general use by students whether as generic "computer labs", or more specialized "language labs" dedicated to language learning. The computers present in electronic classrooms or labs usually have specific "builds" in terms of their operating systems, Web browsers, plug-ins, software, fonts and the like. Often the administrators of these areas will require advance notice of at least several weeks if not months if alterations in this build are required. Of course if you have a notebook computer and it can be connected directly to a classroom's projection system, then you can simply prepare your own computer – which can often be much easier. Thus if you plan to use THL in your classroom, its necessary to plan ahead!

Contact your classroom or lab adminstrators to find out what "builds" their computers have, and how to request specific modifications. To fully utilize THL, it will almost surely be necessary for certain modifications to be made to these builds. Please review the specific items below to determine what functions you will be need from THL, and locate the corresponding installation procedure. You may want to simply direct your administrative or technical staff to this Web site and specify which items you need.

Warning: if anything doesn't work, first try uninstalling the item completely and reinstalling (for Windows - start:control panel:add or remove programs). Nine times out of 10 this will solve the problem.

For all downloads, try creating a folder in your "My Documents" called "My Downloads", and download everything there for easy retrieval. To open up zipped files, just double click and "extract" using Winzip. If you don't have Winzip, try an evaluation copy from external link: Winzip.

Web browsers

Obviously to use any Web resource, you need a browser to view the Web; however, THL, like many sites, will not work perfectly on all browsers. The following are the main browsers and versions that we try to support:

We welcome comments and suggestions on new browsers to support, as well any problems you have encountered with using supported browsers.

Whatever browser you use, it is essential that you turn JavaScript on - check your browser's help for details. Please note that if you see question marks or other strange characters where you would expect to see text, most likely your browser is not set at Unicode encoding for fonts, but rather some local encoding like Western Europe, etc. For example, in Internet Explorer, you can find these settings under View>Encoding.


Several THL software tools require Java support, i.e. Java Runtime Environment and Java Web Start. If you are running Mac OS X 10.1 or above, these come pre-installed, and you don't need to do anything. (Our Java software does not support earlier Mac operating systems.) If you are running Windows, however, you will need to visit Sun's website to install Java. We recommend installing the latest version (1.4 or above), which installs both Java Runtime Environment and Java Web Start. To do so, visit the website given below and simply click on the "Free Download" and it should download what you need. NOTE! If you ever need to uninstall and reinstall Java from your computer, you will also have uninstall Quicktime and Java Media Framework, and then reinstall them AFTER installing Java. Download Java at:

If you are using a Windows machine (95, 98, ME, 2000, XP), and want to use our QuillDriver/Savant software for viewing audio-video in conjunction with time-coded transcripts, you will need to do the following steps in order. If you run into problems, uninstall all previous versions of Java, Quicktime and JMF, and then reinstall them in the order given.

  1. Install Java painlessly (really!): see above download.
  2. Install Quicktime for Java: During installation of Quicktime (see above) select 'Custom Install' and then mark the 'Select All' box.
  3. (Optional) Install Java Media Framework (JMF): see item 10 below.

QuickTime 7 (or greater)

This plugin is necessary to view videos within our video collection, and the embedded videos within our Environmental and Cultural Geography collection. Installation is simple and detailed on Apple's download page. Note that on Windows machines the operating system does a poor job of making sure videos are played by the right video player. Note also that QuickTime comes pre-installed with Mac OS X. More background and troubleshooting information on the playback of audio-video within THL is also available in the Audio-video Help For End Users. WARNING! If you install QuickTime before installing Java Runtime, you must uninstall and reinstall QuickTime. Download at:

Adobe Reader Acrobat

Adobe Reader Acrobat: this free plug-in allows one to read PDF files. PDF files are essentially pictures of texts, and are widely used to preserve formatting and fonts. The free version allows you to view, but not create, such texts. THL uses PDF format in some instances for textual documentation. Download at:


This plugin is necessary to view interactive maps and slide shows within our Environmental and Cultural Geography collection. Installation is simple and detailed on Macromedia's download page. The only potential pitfall is that some items may use the most current version of Flash, so that if you have an older version installed it may not be sufficient. This is easy to rectify by going to Macromedia and installing the most current version. Download at:


This plugin is necessary to view three dimensional constructions, such as our reconstruction of Meru Monastery in Lhasa. Here are the two options:

  • Cortona: Installation is simple and detailed on ParellelGraphics download page. The only potential pitfall is that sometimes the automated download does not work, in which case the same page offers a manual download for installation. Download the ParallelGraphics Cortona plugin for Internet Explorer at:
  • Cosmo: Though it is not technically supported on newer platforms, many users prefer the Cosmo Player. It seems to work fine on Windows 2000 and XP as well as Mac OS9. Download it and view some interesting VRML resources and links at:

Unicode Diacritic Fonts

These fonts are necessary to view the pages of the library that use special diacritics - like a dot under a "t" or ṭ, a bar over an "a" or ā, and so forth in transliterated Asian names or words. Instead of using idiosyncratic fonts, we use the world's emerging character encoding standard - Unicode - in representing these necessary marks. The problem is that high quality and freely available fonts with the necessary coverage have been slow to emerge. As they do, THL will continue to update its recommended diacritic font. Please refer to the THL Diacritics page on the subject of input methods and instructions for how to adjust your browser in order to view these fonts on THL and other Web sites.

Tibetan fonts

THL is primarily using Unicode Tibetan fonts, which is the permanent solution to global computing with Tibetan script since it uses an internationally agreed upon standard encoding (the numerical representations laying beneath the actual glyphs displaying on the screen). In order to fully use Unicode Tibetan, you need a proper font, operating system support, software support, and a keyboard for input.

  • Unicode Tibetan Font: Download THL's Tibetan Machine Uni, a free Unicode Tibetan font. This is no differnet from installing any other font.
  • Operating System Support: At present we can only offer instructions for Windows platforms. In future months we will provide documentation of the situation with Macintosh and Linux operating systems. Click here for abbreviated instructions for using Tibetan Unicode with Windows.
  • Software Support: Tibetan Unicode should work reasonably well with IE and Firefox browsers, Microsoft Office, and Open Office; other software need to be asssesed. However, they will only work if the system is properly configured. (See link under Operating System Support above.)
  • Keyboard: We offer provisional keyboards using Keyman for THL Extended Wylie input, as well as other input schemes. Click here to download Tibetan Unicode Keyboards. For instructions on installing the keyboards, click here.

Other Asian fonts

For the representation of most Asian scripts in the library, THL is committed to using Unicode-based fonts, such as for Chinese and Devanagari. If you see question marks (??) instead of text in fields that would appear to be expecting Chinese, for example in the THL Gazetteer, most likely you don't have the necessary fonts or your browser preferences need to be adjusted. For further details on Chinese, see:

For further details on Devanagari for use with Nepali, see:

GIS Software

Unlike the other items on this page, this is neither necessarily free nor something with which the ordinary user will want to be concerned. GIS software allows you to create and manipulate databases keyed to latitutude and longitude, and is used in THL to create the base of its Environmental and Cultural Geography collection. Within THL, we provide such materials using Flash, ARCIMS and the gazetteer; however, if a user wants to do specialized work with such files and access their full functionality, it is necessary to use specialized software such as ArcView 8.2 from ESRI. Download at:

Java Media Framework (JMF)

If you are running Windows and you do not have Quicktime, then you must install JMF to run QuillDriver and Savant. To do so, visit the website below. Click on "Java, Solaris and Windows Versions" under "Download", and then select "Windows Performance Pack" to download JMF for Windows. WARNING! If you install JMF before installing Java Runtime, you must uninstall and reinstall JMF. Download at:

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