Computer Space: The New Nina fonts and Macros
1. The problem
One of the first problems we had to deal with in publishing Sanskrit- related material on the Internet is the lack of a standard codepage for representing Sanskrit characters that is suited for use with modern operating systems.
2. CS and CSX encodings
The CS and CSX encodings are a de-facto standard used by the majority of South Asian scholars. They have been designed for the original IMB PC and the DOS operating system1 using the default US codepage. One of the main problems encountered in working with CS and CSX encodings is the lack of special characters for most European languages. Many acute and grave vowels have been replaced by Sanskrit diacritics. This makes impossible to use only a CS or CSX font in a document containg Sanskrit together with languages such as French, German, Italian, Spanish.
3. The Unicode standard
The Unicode standard is already implemented in Windows NT systems but does not represent a viable solution to our problems since many operating systems do not have built-in support for it. Moreover, special fonts based on the Unicode standard and designed for WWW publishing, such as Bitstream's Cyberbit2 are still under development and won't be available for a while.
4. The new Nina fonts and macros
Our solution to the problem of publishing Sanskrit together with other languages with diacritics is a new encoding, and a new set of fonts which are compatible with the current standards and operating systems. In order to make space for the Sanskrit diacritics between the 256 characters allowed, we tried to maintain all the characters needed for Western languages without deplacing them. We suppressed only some graphical characters and a few, not very used punctuation marks. Our font is named Nina. It will be available in a few weeks on our www site (http://www.shore.net/~india/ijts/nina.html) in Windows True Type, Macintosh True Type, and Adobe Type 1 (both Windows/Dos/Unix and Macintosh versions), together with a small set of macros for Word for Windows 6.0/7.0 to convert documents automatically to and from the CS/CSX encoding. We will also publish on our WWW pages the specifications of the encoding we have designed so that other people will be able to design fonts and macros, and to make suggestions on how to improve it.