SIL International Home

SIL International Media Release

OpenOffice accepts Graphite software for version 3.2

(September 2009) SIL's Graphite smart-font technology has been accepted for version 3.2 of OpenOffice.org. Beta versions of OpenOffice already incorporate Graphite version 3.0. This development integrates the Graphite smart font rendering engine for complex roman and non-roman scripts and writing systems into OpenOffice, the well-known cross-platform office suite.

Graphite is designed to be an extensible mechanism adequate to handle any orthographic phenomenon that might arise in any writing system based on any modern script.

Many writing systems around the world have complex rules governing the way scripts are written. These writing systems require smart font technology in order to be rendered properly on computers. Examples of smart font rendering are diacritic placement, contextual shaping, ligatures, reordering, splitting and bidirectionality.

Graphite and OpenOffice

Graphite was first designed on the Windows platform (Windows 98 and later) and then ported to Linux. Other applications that support Graphite include XeTeX, Firefox, Thunderbird and SIL FieldWorks, a suite of linguistic and anthropological research tools.

Why was Graphite developed?

Much language development work has been among preliterate ethnolinguistc communities, or those that are literate only in a national or trade language. In cases where there is no written form for the local language, orthography development is a significant part of literacy promotion efforts. Diverse linguistic, sociological, cultural and political factors play into orthography design. Often it is necessary to adapt the script of the national language for use with local languages.

Smaller local languages may be quite unrelated to the national language. Therefore, it is common to find linguistic phenomena in the local language that are not present in the national language, and which might complicate the issue of orthography development. For example, a local language may be tonal while the national language is not. This may require tone diacritics to supplement the national writing system.

Computer implementations of writing systems for many local languages require processing that is not supported in implementations developed for languages of wider communication. For example, the leading smart font technology, OpenType, targets majority-script solutions, while Graphite is designed for minority languages. Some of these local languages have special rules about how diacritics are positioned or how adjacent characters combine. Other scripts that have not yet been set up for computers must be represented entirely using Unicode Private Use Area characters.

Related links of interest