Announcing CSX+

John Richards jhr at ELIDOR.DEMON.CO.UK
Thu Jun 11 15:39:52 UTC 1998

Dr. Smith writes

> Subscribers to the Conv-dev mailing list on transliteration of
> Indian languages <conv-dev at> may already be aware that there
> is a proposal to implement a new computer encoding (character set)
> for use with material in such languages. The new encoding is to be
> based on the existing CSX character set, which is probably the most
> widely-used such encoding, and has been dubbed "CSX+". The intention
> is that it should be as nearly as possible compatible with CSX, so
> that most CSX users could start using CSX+ fonts and notice no
> difference; however, it will extend the CSX set with extra
> characters, in particular those required by the draft ISO standard
> which the Conv-dev discussion has produced. This amounts to an
> attempt to provide the most useful possible set of "Indian" accented
> characters, and I should welcome input from others to ensure that
> the best choice is made.
> 10. I would welcome comments on these proposals. However, there are
> real constraints on the time that can be spent on a discussion, so I
> hope it can be brisk and focused. I should say that it would be very
> hard to persuade me to make major changes in the areas covered by
> paragraphs 2-5 above; most useful would be advice on which
> characters ought to win the scramble for the last few places. I
> shall place a copy of this message on Conv-dev also, but I suggest
> that discussion takes place on Indology <indology at>.
> I shall be happy to do a reasonable amount of message-forwarding for
> Conv-dev members who do not subscribe to Indology.
> 11. After, say, two weeks of discussion, I shall finalise the CSX+
> standard and build a set of fonts to implement it: virtual fonts for
> TeX, and Type 1 PostScript and TrueType fonts for PCs and
> Macintoshes. (I do not have access to good Mac font software, and
> would only be willing to make a Mac translation of one of the five
> typefaces that I shall build for the PC: would anyone else like to
> volunteer to do the job?) The fonts should be available within a
> matter of a few days once the standard is agreed. As time permits I
> shall also try to produce programs to handle conversion of text in
> other encodings to CSX+.

I am sure we have all used CSX fonts and benefited from having even a
provisional "standard", but that the "definitive" Indology character
set should necessarily be based on the present CSX is perhaps not
quite so obvious. It has had the advantage of a certain quasi official
seal of approval, and there have been enough implementations of the
CSX configuration to make it quite widespread - in the still very
limited circle of computer-literate Indologists. It MAY be that a
further refinement of the CSX allocations is the right way forward,
but there are also strong arguments AGAINST it.

Is it right, primarily, for the English-speaking scholars of the
present generation of Indologists to tie the future of Indology fonts
to what suits US very well, but not others. The CSX font has moved all
the accented characters of other European languages off their
traditional locations - which makes the effective use of a CSX font by
speakers of languages other than English a major problem. It is not
that there is no ROOM for the accented characters. They have just been
shunted aside out of the way as unimportant in a rather blythely
cavalier fashion. I do think that before we perpetuate this injustice,
we should think carefully whether it is really necessary and
justified. In many ways, the Nina 1.0 font, although itself neither
beautiful nor bug-free is IMO a better allocation of characters.
Traditional accented characters are left in their accustomed
positions, and can therefore be used equally conveniently by both
English-speakers and others alike. Surely that is preferable to a font
that can ONLY be used satisfactorily by English-speakers.

Although English-speaking myself, and myself quite content with the
CSX layout for my own use, I would personally, advocate that any
future attempt to arrive at a true "standard" for an Indology font
should have EVERYONE'S convenience in mind. I think it is more
important to arrive at a good and just final solution than to arrange
a "quick fix" for just Anglo-American convenience. An extended
Classical Sanskrit eXtended will condemn non-English speakers to keep
changing font every time they want to revert to commentary in their
own languages. Would the Anglo-American fraternity be happy with this,
if the boot were on the other foot?

I dare say the result is effectively a foregone conclusion (unless a
good number of other Indologists take the same line!), but I would not
like the above point to be passed over simply by default.

John Richards
Stackpole Rectory, Pembroke, UK
jhr at

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