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2335Re: Inputting the newer unicode characters

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  • Kenneth Beesley
    Sep 4, 2007
      Hi Eze,

      For my Unicode editing needs, I try to survey the field once or twice
      a year.
      It's been a while since I last looked, so my information is probably
      out of date.
      I can't keep up with all the Unicode-editing options.

      My Unicode-editing needs are somewhat unusual. I occasionally need to
      type Arabic script, and I definitely need Unicode combining
      diacritics and
      supplementary characters. I insist on being able to write my own
      input methods,
      and I'd like a solution that works in OS X, Linux and perhaps even
      I haven't found a perfect solution yet for my needs.

      On the Mac, which I use most often, TextEdit (supplied with OS X) does a
      much better than average job of _rendering_ the Unicode characters
      that you
      type. It has a built-in set of default fonts that so far have
      rendered almost
      anything that I've wanted to type, including Shavian and Deseret.
      diacritics are (to the extent that I've tested them) handled
      acceptably, even
      rather well--this is a weak point in many other allegedly Unicode-
      savvy editors.
      However, if you are used to a full-featured text editor like vim
      or emacs, then TextEdit hardly seems like a text editor at all. Too
      limited in
      commands and overall functionality. I'm glad that TextEdit is
      but I use it reluctantly.

      TextEdit can use Apple Input Methods, many of which are supplied, and
      you can (with some difficulty) define your own so that you can type in
      Arabic, Cyrillic, Greek, Shavian, Deseret or whatever using your own
      keyboard mapping or input method. I'm a firm believer that you ought to
      be able to define your own personal input methods (or keyboard-layout
      so that you can do it Your Way, even if dozens of input methods
      are already available. There are (or were) some bugs in the
      interpretation of Apple
      Input Methods, and fixing them seems to be very low priority at
      Apple. I need
      to recheck the status.

      I need to take another look at the commercial text editors available
      for OS X.

      I also work a lot with Unicode in XML, and I have purchased a license
      for the oXygen
      XML editor. oXygen is Java-based and so can use Java Input Methods,
      are much better documented and easier to define than Apple Input
      oXygen can also be used to edit plain-text Unicode files. It renders
      to the extent that Java Swing text widgets render Unicode, which is
      well. Installing new Unicode TrueType/OpenType fonts inside your Java
      installation, to allow the rendering of exotic characters, can be a
      for the casual user.

      In addition to the commercial oXygen, there are a few other Java-based
      text editors that you might explore. I need to look at them again.
      such editors are based on Java Swing text widgets, can use TrueType or
      OpenType fonts, and Java Input Methods. You can define your own Java
      Input Methods, but it'll be hard if you're not a hacker. The freely
      available kmap_ime.jar
      and kmap_ime_gui.jar are Java-Input-Method wrappers that allow you to
      use input methods expressed as Yudit-style .kmap files as if they were
      Java Input Methods. (Yudit .kmap files are very similar in format
      and semantics
      to the vim keymap files.)

      The Yudit editor is notable for its flexible handling of fonts,
      rendering Unicode, and
      allowing you to define your own input methods easily, but like
      TextEdit it hardly seems
      like a text editor at all to someone used to emacs or vim.

      Traditionally I've used emacs, but emacs does not use Unicode
      instead providing what I find to be an awkward and very incomplete
      way of
      mapping between its internal MULE-encoded internal representation and
      Unicode files on input/output. In practice, the set of input methods
      available for emacs is MULE-based and closed. emacs has seriously
      dragged its
      feet on Unicode implementation.

      When it comes to Unicode implementation, vim is (in my opinion) much
      promising than emacs. Vim seems to do an excellent internal job of
      reading, editing,
      and writing Unicode. Vim keymaps, for typing in Unicode chars, are
      easy to define or modify, and they fit my needs perfectly. The
      remaining problems
      (from my point of view) with vim are these

      1. Failure to render Unicode characters from the supplementary area
      (I can't
      edit a screen full of question marks)
      2. The limitation to fixed-width fonts (A profound nuisance/
      limitation. Vim
      on Linux can use variable-width fonts, but it still works much better
      with fixed-
      width fonts.)

      On Linux, consider Java-based solutions such as oXygen. In Gnome
      gedit, but (the last time I looked) the definition and addition of
      new input
      methods for gedit was poorly documented and required some background
      hacking. I managed it once, but it's not acceptably easy or acceptably
      documented, in my opinion.

      I'm not acquainted with KDE (the alternative to Gnome in Linux). Is
      out there acquainted with the kedit editor?

      I'm not acquainted with Microsoft/PC solutions.

      I need to look at OpenOffice solutions.

      Corrections/Comments/Suggestions would be Very Welcome

      I don't have an axe to grind--I just need to edit Unicode (including
      Cyrillic, Supplementary Characters, Combining Diacritics) and I
      insist on
      being able to write my own input methods. I'd like a solution (with
      methods) that works across multiple operating systems. I'd like to use
      TrueType/OpenType fonts, without a fixed-width limitation, and be
      able to
      use virtual fonts that combine glyphs from a set of user-designated real
      fonts. And I want a full-featured user-interface like that in vim or

      I would welcome pointers to other Unicode-editing solutions that I
      may have overlooked.


      On 31 Aug 2007, at 15:48, Eze wrote:

      > Thanks a lot to you both for your insights. Ken, if I may ask, what
      > exactly do you use to see/work with/input unicode characters? All
      > information will be appreciated, such as linux distribution, desktop
      > manager, text editor, etcetera.
      > Best regards,
      > Eze
      > >

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