Join Diane Burns for an in-depth discussion in this video Typesetting Indic languages, part of InDesign: Multilingual Publishing Strategies.
Indic languages refer to the languages of India, and they share many characteristics with some Southeast Asian languages, such as Thai, Lao, and Khmer. The primary writing script of the India is Devanagari. It's a kind of alphabetic system, but consonants and vowels are always written as one unit. And it's often recognizable by a horizontal line that runs along the top of the letters. You may not encounter it all that often, but it's one of the most widely adapted writing systems in the world, and it very possibly could come across to your project desk at some point.
All the Indic languages run from left to right like English, but they require the World-Ready Composer in order to form the letter units correctly. First though, let's talk about the fonts. Fonts for these languages are listed throughout your primary font list. You'll see, if we scroll down here, that we have a few flavors of Devanagari. However, Macintosh users in particular have a very limited selection of Indic fonts. Because of the many listed here, most use an Apple technology called AAT.
AAT stands for Apple Advanced Technology, and it's essentially Apple's version of OpenType, but it's not well supported in InDesign. And what it means for Mac users is that a Mac OS system font like Devanagari MT simply is not supported by InDesign. You can see the letterforms. Here on the left, we have Adobe's version of Devanagari, which is properly formed with the various character joinings. On the right, we have the Macintosh system font. Even though the World-Ready Composer is applied, these aren't formed correctly.
Notice, for example, this character here that's just sort of dangling. It really should be joined to this entire set of syllables here, as you see on the left. For a Windows user, this is simply not an issue. All the Indic fonts installed by the system are well supported by InDesign, and Windows ships with a particularly nice Devanagari font called Mangal. But if you're on a Mac and have a project of any complexity, there's a very good chance you will need to acquire third-party OpenType fonts. Mangal, for example, can be purchased and installed on a Macintosh.
So, when it comes to languages that use the Devanagari fonts and that are cross-platform, there is a grand total of one font, which is Adobe Devanagari, installed by the Creative Suite, and which you see on our brochure here. Let's talk about some other fonts for just a moment. We'll scroll down to the next page here, and let's take a look at Thai fonts on the Macintosh. I'm going to get out of Preview mode here so that you can see a little more clearly. On the left, we have one of several Thai fonts installed by the Mac OS, called Thonburi.
It is correctly formed. However, it is only correctly formed if we use the regular Adobe Paragraph Composer. If we apply the World-Ready Composer, we get the result you see on the right, which are these dreaded pink boxes and lots of square glyphs. This font will work, but the World-Ready Composer is designed to work with open type fonts that don't use AAT technology and will form the glyphs correctly. One other language I'd like to mention is Vietnamese. This is of course a Southeast Asian language, but unlike many of the other languages in Southeast Asian, it's written with Latin or Roman characters.
Vietnamese adds, though, many accents and diacritical marks. And for that reason, you must have a font that specifically covers the Vietnamese character set. Here, we have Myriad, which has good coverage of this language. But if I were to change this to Minion Pro, for example, it does not include Vietnamese coverage, and we'd have lots of those unwanted pink glyphs. Now, let's take a closer look at the layout. If we look at our binding, the document is bound on the left.
As I mentioned, the text runs from left to right. And once you get a font set and apply the World-Ready Composer, it's very similar to typesetting English. In all cases, we have to apply the World-Ready Composer. One other thing I'd like to mention about Indic fonts in general, particularly Devanagari, is that when you have Roman characters, one of two things may happen depending on the font you're using. Many Indic fonts actually don't include any Roman characters in them whatsoever, so we would see dreaded pink boxes here where we have some Latin characters.
Or you may simply not like the default Roman characters in the font you're using. In order to correct that, we can use a simple GREP style that will let us apply any Roman font that we want in this area. Let's take a look at the paragraph style for this text, because we've already included the GREP style within it. I'm going to right-mouse click on this style and come down to the GREP style. And here we've developed a character style called Roman Characters Sans Serif to apply to all the numerals and lowercase and uppercase letters.
We've also made another style that will apply to certain percentage signs or periods if they occur in the text. This makes it very easy to include Roman characters, particularly if they're missing, or just to change the font if you have for example a corporate font that you need to specifically use within this text. Working with Indic languages is pretty straightforward, but finding a good selection of fonts, especially for Mac users, can be a challenge. And if you work on these languages extensively, you may need to acquire additional fonts. Regardless of the scope or frequency of working with Indic and Southeast Asian languages, their form is so different from English, I highly recommend you include someone familiar with the language in the proofing cycle of your projects.
- Topics include:
- Exploring fonts and character sets
- Working with language dictionaries
- Changing language direction
- Typesetting different languages
- Installing scripts and templates for Middle Eastern, Chinese, and Japanese languages
- Understanding the importance of translation
- Choosing the right workflow
- Working with one or more languages in a single file
- Using an XML workflow
- Creating PDFs
- Setting up a Digital Publishing Suite tablet app
- Publishing to EPUB