Re: [OpenType] Professional desktop publishing for minority complex scripts in Unicode: XeTeX and UltraXML

From: Christopher Fynn (
Date: Sat Aug 07 2004 - 18:21:42 CDT

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    Sue and Maurice Bauhahn wrote:

    > Unfortunately minority complex scripts
    > have fallen on hard times between professional
    > typesetting applications by large corporations
    > as they increase efficiency. Because these companies
    > tend to produce cross-platform applications, they
    > have chosen to largely ignore the intelligent font
    > handling of the respective platforms.
    > (ATSUI/OpenType-Uniscribe/OpenType-Pango)
    > and substitute their own proprietary solutions.

    > So even if minority complex scripts are handled by
    > the OS...these high-end applications do not support
    > that OS-level handling. Furthermore, there is insufficient
    > economic incentive to implement proprietary solutions for
    > complex minority scripts in their applications.

    Unicode + complex script shaping in the form of Uniscribe has only been
    standard on all current versions of MS Windows since the release of XP;
    on Apple Macintosh unicode + complex script shaping has only been
    available with OS X; - and on Linux with recent builds of Qt & GTK. On
    systems using OpenType for complex scripts there are also still quite a
    number of complex scripts for which support has not yet been
    implemented. Considering the years it has taken to get this level of
    support on all these platforms - and the fact it may take several years
    for the majority of users to upgrade to systems with such support - it's
    not surprising that not many third party applications have yet appeared
    which take advantage of the complex script shaping API's on these

    When considering cross-platform applications one problem is that no
    single "intelligent font" format is supported by built-in shaping
    engines in all operating environments. Even where OpenType shaping
    services for complex scripts are provided by operating systems or GUI's
    there may be little or no support for many of the other OpenType
    features that developers and users of "desktop-publishing" applications
    are interested in.

    My guess is that Adobe is an example of the kind of company producing
    cross-platform applications in this area that you are thinking of. They
    do use their own . OpenType shaping engine "CoolType" which currently
    seems to lack support for complex shaping of Indic scripts - but does
    support OpenType features which other engines don't support. Since they
    have an OpenType shaping engine it would probably not be all that
    difficult to enhance it to support these scripts, but as you say they
    may not see an economic incentive to do so.

    While it's true that some large software companies might not sell many
    licensed copies of their applications in countries using minority
    scripts - their perception might change if say the purchasing
    departments of all the Universities in Europe and America where
    languages using these scripts are taught made support for such scripts a
    *required* feature in software they purchased the companies concerned
    would listen. It also wouldn't hurt if more users filed formal
    feature requests with these companies asking them to add this kind of

    Meanwhile there are some pretty obvious gaps in the market here. Over
    the next few years I wouldn't be surprised to see some useful "desktop
    publishing" applications with support for complex script shaping come
    out of India. After all that country uses more complex scripts than
    anywhere else, has plenty of highly skilled software engineers capable
    of developing these applications, and no lack of entrepreneurs.
    - Chris



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