The Writing Process

Graham K. Rogers


Fonts and Thai in OSX: Part 1, Out of the Box

By Graham K. Rogers

With the introduction of OSX, Apple changed the way that the operating system handled languages and fonts. Some languages, including Thai, require special treatment, and with OSX, Unicode support is built-in. This support is for those applications native to OSX (written in Cocoa -- Objective C). Other applications need additional software to be able to support Thai. As the subject is large, in this column, I will look at OSX and Thai, "Out of the Box". I will deal with external support for languages in OSX in a later column.

When Panther (10.3.3) is first installed, it is not possible to use Thai, but the steps to making it available are fairly simple. In System Preferences, select "International". The panel that opens offers three buttons: Languages, Formats and Keyboards. Thai is not initially listed in the Languages panel.

To include it in the list, a user clicks on the "Edit" button, about half-way down. A second panel drops down and I counted 80 languages listed. "Pasa Thai" (in Thai) is right at the bottom. Tick the box, and close the panel by clicking "OK".

Thai, or any other language you might wish to install (I have Urdu, Afghan Uzbek and Welsh -- because I can) is now one of the selected languages. I clicked on the item and draged it towards the top of the list (keeping English at the top). It might take a restart to install the language.

Once it is installed, using the "Format" button allows settings such as date and time to be displayed on the menubar or in some applications. To use Thai however, the "Keyboards" button is needed.

The new keyboard is installed by pressing the "Keyboards" button (in System preferences > International) and ticking the relevant box. By default, Apple installs a US keyboard. When a second, or subsequent, keyboard is activated, the US flag appears on the menubar and by clicking on this, a panel appears to allow the other keybards to be used.

Thai can be used with several applications that come ready installed, such as TextEdit (which can now open and save files in .doc format), Mail, AddressBook and iCal. Other applications such as Keynbote (for presentations), and third-party applications such as Web Minimalist and Think Free Office also support Unicode languages. There are now something like 10,000 OSX-usable programs.

Adobe programs (thus far) and Microsoft Office are not written in Cocoa need the external support, although Microsoft Office 2004 -- due to be released shortly -- will support Unicode.

To write Thai script in TextEdit, cick on the flag icon and activate the Thai keyboard. In Mail, this will be "greyed out" when reading a message, whichever language is displayed, but active when replying to a message.

Apple keyboards sold here come with Thai letters and, of course, many shops have the stick-on symbols if needed. Toggling between two keyboards can be done with the Command (Apple) key and the space bar.

Once Thai is active, the font that is used by applications, by default, is Lucida Grande. According to Tom Gewecke (an OSX expert on using languages and fonts) in a reply to a query I made on the Apple forums, "Lucida Grande contains all the characters needed for various Latin scripts (including Vietnamese), Greek, Cyrillic, Hebrew, Arabic, and Thai, plus a lot of symbols and similar stuff. Panther does not use it for Arabic however."

You can of course use italic, bold and other effects, but you are restricted to the one face. Panther comes with five additional fonts (Ayutthaya, Bangkok, Sathu, Silom and Thonburi). To install these, insert the Install Disk number three (3), the one that also includes X11 Windows. Double click on the additional langauges package which is inside the XXXXX folder. These fonts only come in regular (not bold or italic. If you are still using Jaguar, this fonts package is on disk 2.

Some of the OSX applications have font-management facilities usually in the "Format" menu (press Command + T). Keynote has this, while the one in Mail and TextEdit is a more sophisticated utility. At the bottom of the Fonts panel is a tiny menubar -- a wheel icon with an arrow. By clicking on this and choosing "Characters" a user has access to thousands of symbols and letters all of which can be insterted into the document (or message) that is being written.

Althnough I have covered this before, browsers for OSX can also display Thai without problem. I checked using Safari, OmniWeb and Firefox. With Safari, to change the language used, access the View menu and Text Encoding is the last item. This gives a list of available languages, although "Default" works for me.



Return to writing process page