Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Indian languages work better in Linux

I've been reading Hindi websites on Linux for a while now. Recently, I had the chance to try out Hindi on Windows, and was shocked at how poor the fonts were.

Have a look at the comparison of the same Google News website opened in a Windows installation versus a Linux installation: the difference in font quality is startling.

Here is a snippet of Google News in Hindi in Windows:

And here is the same in an Ubuntu session:

The Linux fonts are less choppy, and the page of text looks much more smooth.

For the comparison, I used a vanilla Windows XP with SP2 against Ubuntu Hardy Heron. Both are running Firefox 2 on the same website. No tweaking was done on either installation to change the font quality. No extra fonts were installed on either system. Full screen shots are provided here: please click on the images to see the entire window.

Click on the image to see the Windows session:

Click on the image to see the Linux session:

In addition to having beautiful fonts, Linux (Ubuntu, Fedora, SuSE) supports Hindi typing out of the box. For Windows, an extra download is required. All my tests relate to Hindi, but not other Indian languages. I suspect that support for other Indian languages is just as good -- perhaps someone else can post a comparison including other Indian languages as well.

Ideally, this post should have been written in Hindi. The reason this was still done in English was to convince people to try out local language websites, since this is something that many people are unaware of. Mac, Windows and Linux can all help you read local language websites.

Another reason for this post being in English is my laughably slow Hindi typing speed. With some help from klavaro and gtypist, this should stop being an hurdle.