Monday, June 06, 2005

Using Indian Language in Linux Fedora Core 3

Fedora Core 3 Linux: Working with Indian Languages

Fedora core 3 has built in support for 9 Indian languages, namely – Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, Telugu, Oriya and Malayalam. It means you can work straight out-of-the-box in these Indian languages on Fedora Core 3 Machines. But not really. You need to setup your machine properly to work with a particular language. Further, Fedora Core 3 also gives you six Indian Language Interface, namely- Hindi, Gujarati, Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi & Tamil. You also need to setup your machine to work in these beautiful Indian language environments. Here is how to setup Fedora Core 3 on your computer for Indian languages.

Installation and Setup:

During initial setup of Fedora Core 3, you can choose as many Indian languages you want to work with. If you have not installed additional Indian languages in your existing Fedora Core 3 installation, you can still install additional language specific packages and modules. Simply upgrade your existing Fedora Core 3 installation and choose Upgrade instead of fresh install. Then, when you reach to Setup's selection window “Language Support” which explains you like this – “Choose additional languages that you would like to use on this system” you will find entries of supported Indian languages (See figure 01). Select as many languages you want and proceed. Finish setup and when done, you will be ready to setup your machine further. Please note that this step is necessary since language specific files need to be installed in your machine, without which you cannot use that language, and you have to CHOOSE a particular language to get installed during setup as additional language. However, you can always install language specific locale files and packages manually.

Available Language Environment:

Though Fedora Core 3 supports nine as many Indian language and can show you six as many Indian language interfaces, it does not mean that all the applications and everything else is available in these language environment. In fact most of the language interfaces which is available in Fedora Core 3 is community work and had been adopted from various localization groups such as Indlinux, Ankur- Bangla, Utkarsh, Punlinux etc., and hence what you will see on most interfaces depends on available translated stuffs for that language. Of course, Redhat had included its own translations on many system configuration menus and dialog boxes. Therefore, you will get Gnome in Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Marathi, Bengali and Tamil. Whereas, as of now, KDE is only available in Hindi and Tamil. Still, all Gnome or KDE applications are not available in supported language. It depends on which percentage a particular language and desktop environment is translated. For example, you will find that most of Gnome had been translated in Bengali, Tamil & Gujarati, but there is little stuff available in Marathi. Similarly, in KDE, you will find most of the stuff available in Tamil, but only GUI branches in Hindi. Again, presently, barring some exceptions, only Gnome and KDE applications are available in Indian languages. There are thousands of other applications which are yet to be translated. So, in any language environment, be prepared to get a mixture of environment, i.e. English and the selected language interface, because in any language environment, if a Linux application doesn't have translated string, then it gets displayed in English.

Set your Default Language:

Unless you have set default language as one of Indian language other than English during Fedora Core 3's initial setup, and you start your machine through rough commands such as startx, by default, Fedora Core 3 boots in to graphical mode in English. To change default language of the system, click on Start Menu Button-->System Settings-->Language. If you are not root user, it will ask for root password. Give the valid one and it will open a selection window for you.

Now select one from these: Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil and Telugu. It will then show information “Changes will take effect the next time you log in”. Here, click OK to accept changes. Logout and login again to see your new default language working. Note that this setting is available only when you boot in to graphical mode automatically or through startx command. If you use Graphical login screen such as GDM to start your GUI, your default system language may be changed during such start-up according to settings you define there, which also offers you to select available language environment during graphical login process.

Adding Language specific Keyboards:

Suppose, you have installed an additional language- Hindi, besides the machine default language USA English. Now, you want to work in Hindi. Where is the Hindi keyboard? When you set your machine's default language as Hindi, Hindi leyboard is available, but then how to run commands which can only be run through English? You need to install these language keyboards and keyboard switcher in your user environment. Adding keyboards and keyboard switcher needs different steps each in Gnome and in KDE, and need to setup for every user separately.

Adding keyboard in Gnome:-

In Fedora core 3, you will find top and bottom panel both. You can add keyboard switcher on either or on both. For this, click on any panel, select “Add to Panel”, then select “Keyboard Indicator” on the selection window that appears and click on “Add” Button. You will find that a button named “USA” (or the other default language if set previously) appears on panel. To add additional languages to it, Right click on this button and select “Keyboard Preferences”. Then click on “Layouts” tab and then select the wanted languages from available layouts. For example, select Hindi and close the window. With a small digging here, you will find all the 9 supported Indian languages mentioned earlier.

Now, to switch between different keyboards, say, Hindi and USA-English, simply click on this icon on panel, and it will act as a toggle switch. Often it is cumbersome to click every time during typing to change language keyboard, you can assign special keyboard sequence to change between language groups. You can also assign Language groups to switch between if you have more than a couple of Keyboards installed. To assign language groups to special key-press, Right click on Panel's Keyboard Switcher icon, select “Keyboard Preferences” and then click on “Layout Option” tab. Expand the “Group Shift Lock Behavior” under “Available Options” and select the key-combinations you want to use. For example, Left Alt+Shift to change between groups, and then click “Add” button. Here, you can remove previously assigned key-combinations and can add multiple assignments for same function if it is available there.

Note: Under Keyboard Preferences, you can move the available keyboard position by selecting it and clicking Up/Down button if there is more than one entry. For example, you can move recently added entry Hindi to topmost position. This makes sure that what ever application you start thereafter, it will, by default, start with Hindi Keyboard. However, it is recommended that unless you don't feel strong otherwise, keep the USA-English on top most position since many applications still does not understand commands in Unicode Indic fonts, and some may not support Unicode as well.

Adding keyboard in KDE:-

To set keyboard layouts in KDE, click on Start Menu Button, then click on “Control Center”. On “Index” tab in Control Center's window, you will see various preferences and settings entries which you can modify as per your need. Click on + mark on “Regional & Accessibility” and then select “Keyboard Layout” on the Layout tab on right pan. Select check box “Enable Keyboard Layouts”. You will then be presented with all the available keyboard layouts installed in the system. Select the additional languages you want such as Hindi, Gujarati etc. and click “Add >>” button. Further, to set special keys for keyboard layout switching, click on “Xkb Options” tab. Select check box “Enable Xkb Option” and then under Options, “Group Shift / Lock behavior” select the one you want to use such as Left Alt+Shift to change between language groups. Click on Apply to apply changes.

Your machine is now ready to work non stop in multiple Indian Languages :) हैप्पी कम्प्यूटिंग Happy Computing! (in Hindi/Bengali/Gujarati... font)

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