The Unicode Consortium (http://www.unicode.org/) has done a mammoth task of (a) discovering: all the major scripts of the world, all the letters/ characters in those scripts, the correct form and names of all such characters and (b) assigning an alphanumeric code to each character. This task has been done with the help of many Governments, including the Government of India and has been done for all Indic scripts including Devanagari, which includes the ancient Vedic characters also.
The fonts are like set of designs for given sets of characters (keeping their form intact). Example Arial, Calibri, Mangal, Siddhanta, etc. The fonts which keep the characters identifiable to their assigned alpha numeric Unicodes are called Unicode Fonts. Mangal and Siddhanta are the most common Devanagari fonts. Mangal is freely available with Windows and other operating softwares (of computers and mobiles). Hence Mangal is my first choice but Mangal does not have ancient Vedic characters (example accent numbers of Saamved). So, Siddhanta becomes the next best choice which (though freely available) is not preinstalled in computers and has to be installed. Some other devanagari fonts like Krutidev, etc are not unicode compliant.
The advantages of Unicode Fonts are following:
1) They have been constructed after deep research by authentic institutions and are built to be progressive. They have been adopted by all the operating software making companies.
2) If a document is written in any Unicode Font which is not installed on the reader's computer, even then the document can be read by using other installed Unicode Fonts containing those characters. For example, if a document is written in Siddhanta font, which is not installed on the readers computer, even then the reader can read that document with the available Mangal font unless there are ancient Vedic characters which are not available in Mangal font. This was not possible with Non-Unicode Fonts.
Since each character has an assigned code, the computer recognises them distinctly, even if the font corresponding to that character is not installed. Obviously, the form of that character cannot be displayed in absence of any corresponding font and till any corresponding font(s) are installed, these characters are displayed as rectangular blocks.
3) Google search is possible for texts written in Unicode Fonts.
4) Analytics is possible on the texts written in Unicode Fonts
Given the above advantages, I understand that to move the 'Digitization of Vedas' to the next level, its essential that the texts are typed in Unicode fonts and furthered for appropriate analysis.
How to download / install / activate Devanagari Fonts?
Mangal font is a must in my opinion. Mangal font is by default available in Windows Vista and above versions.
For Windows 2000/XP/2003, first check whether Mangal is already installed or not. Open a new word document, Insert > Symbol > More Symbols. Now look out for Mangal in 'Fonts'. If you can find it, it means its installed, else not. If Mangal is not already installed, then, follow these steps:
A) If you have Windows XP CD:
You must have at least 10 MB of free hard disk space and the Installation Disk of Windows ready, before starting. Please close any open programs.
1. Go to Control Panel (from the “Start” button)
2. Go to Regional and Language Options
3. Click the “Languages” tab
4. Check (click) the line marked “Install files for complex scripts and right to left languages (including Thai)”
When you check this line, a new window will appear, which will give a list of languages that will be installed. This list will include ‘Indic’. It will ‘warn’ you that you need at least 10 MB of hard disk space. Click OK to close this window. Then click OK on the Regional and Languages Options window. You will be asked to restart your computer.
You should be able to view the Hindi / Devanagari text on this site now. You should have windows XP CD OR you should install service pack and go to this location when prompted : C:\windows\ServicePackFiles\i386. This link may also be helpful / required: http://support.microsoft.com/kb/311015
B) Easier Option / If you dont have a Win XP CD
Download "icomplex3.0.0.exe" from the following link and install : http://www.omicronlab.com/tools/icomplex-full.html
You can also download "icomplex3.0.0" from attachments made at the end of this page. Suffix the name of the downloaded file with ".exe" and then install on your computer.
1) This font can be downloaded from the following link: http://svayambhava.org/index.php/en/fonts.
2) Copy the downloaded font file to Windows/Fonts folder.
Siddhanta font software was designed by Mihail Bayaryn. The work on the new font took three years. The font can be used for Sanskrit, Vedic, Hindi, Nepali and other languages which use the Devanagari script. Siddhanta font is published for free as a contribution to human spirit, to support the Sanskrit language and the Vedic culture in the contemporary world. If you want to help this project, contact Mihail Bayaryn at email@example.com. Two more fonts Chandas and Uttara are also very helpful fonts particularly for SaamVeda. Naman to Sri Sri Mihail Bayaryn for his efforts.
The font can also be downloaded from attachments made at the end of this page.
[You may also be interested in BabelMap, which allows you to easily see and select Unicode characters, and to find out which characters are in which fonts. See http://www.babelstone.co.uk/Software/BabelMap.html . In BabelMap, use "Select Unicode block" to get to the correct block of characters. Each of the above characters is in one of 4 different blocks: Devanagari, Devanagari Extended, Vedic Extensions, and Common Indic Number Forms.]
How to write / type in Unicode Devanagari?
This depends on how would be comfortable... typing in English or typing in Devanagari?
If you are practiced in typing in English (QWERTY keyboard) then its better you choose to type in English along with an over-riding transliteration software. The two most popular transliteration softwares are the following:
1) Google Transliterator: http://www.google.com/intl/hi/inputtools/cloud/try/
2) Hindi Writer: Download file by clicking "Direct Download Link" on http://download.cnet.com/HindiWriter/3000-2279_4-10451513.html and then install.
Use help files to understand how these softwares work. They are actually very intuitive and easy.
You may also download "HindiWriterSetup" from attachments at the end of this page, then suffic the file name with ".exe" and then install the application.
If you are a frequent typist in Devanagari, then you should activate the Unicode Keyboard:
To understand the keys and functioning of Inscript Keyboard, follow this link: http://gate2home.com/Devanagari-Keyboard
In "Hindi-Traditional" keyboard layout, Devanagari numerals can be typed by using Ctrl+Alt+Numerals. But there is one problem here. Keys "1", "2", and "3" are default shortcut keys of Headings 1, 2, and 3 respectively. They have to be removed first. Follow the following steps:
- Tools > Customize > Keyboard
- Category = Format
- Choose "Apply Heading 1"
- Click on "Current Keys"
- Repeat for Heading 2 and 3
- Close... close
[A more advanced keyboard option will be "Devanagari-Inscript". But since the number of characters in Devanagari is much more than the number of keys available on the qwerty keyboard, special keys have to be used. Please refer to the key board shown in the above link (gate2home) or download the files "InscriptKeyboard.jpg" & "InscriptKeyboard2.jpg" from the attachments at the end of this page. You can see the following:
1) Some characters in file "InscriptKeyboard.jpg" are in black (center low). These can be typed normally
2) Some characters in file "InscriptKeyboard.jpg" are in dark green (right up). These needs to be typed along with SHIFT key
3) Some characters in file "InscriptKeyboard.jpg" are in blue (left up). These can be typed along with Ctrl+Alt keys
4) The characters in file "InscriptKeyboard2.jpg" can be typed along with SHIFT+Ctrl+Alt keys
But, in this keyboard, keys of 3 and 4 above sometimes clashes with default Windows Keyboard shortcuts. So if such is the case, i suggest use "Hindi Traditional" instead.
Another keyboard option is "Hindi-Inscript. But this does not offer Devanagari numerals. To see a comparision of all these 3 keyboard options - download the file "Devanagari Keyboard.doc"]
All vedic characters with their assigned alphanumeric code can be seen in the attached file "unicode.zip". Apart from the two methods of typing noted above Unicode characters can be typed in one more way. Just type the alphanumeric Unicode of the character and type Alt+x. Try it.
Infact some commonly used Sanskrit keys are inscripted only on "Devanagari - Inscript" Keyboard and not on "Hindi - Traditional". If you are using "Hindi - Traditional", as also suggested above by me, the following Unicode numbers should be kept handy: