The synthesis of the keyboard layout and Unicode fonts makes typing in Gujarati far more easier than with other types of fonts.
The challenge one faces typing in Gujarati is the variety of conjuncts that can be formed with “half” consonants and “full” consonants. There are too many characters to be mapped on a standard keyboard. Hence, the non-Unicode fonts make use of extended character code pages to map these extra characters. The dilemma is having to use character codes to type in these characters, making typing Gujarati a very slow process.
Default Gujarati Keyboard Layout Key Maps
The solution to this is the Gujarati keyboard layout used for Unicode Gujarati fonts. Images 1 and 2 below show the default Gujarati keyboard layout included with Windows. This layout is for any Unicode font, not just Shruti font which comes preinstalled with Windows. I will explain how this keyboard layout makes typing Gujarati easy.
Image 2: Default Gujarati Keyboard Layout - Shift State
The Versatile Virama and Forming Conjuncts
With Unicode fonts, typing a combination of characters results in automatic character substitution (and punctuation positioning) if they have a conjunct form. It’s an “intelligent” system that processes your input as you type and makes the appropriate substitution. These substitutions are programmed in lookup tables within the font itself. Here’s an example:
Typing NISHCHAY (નિશ્ચય) in Gujarati using a non-Unicode font would require using a character table to look up શ્ચ and then typing in its code. However, with a Unicode font, one would type:
When typing this combination, the font itself looks up the combination of શ and ચ to make the substitution automatically. All these keys are mapped on a regular keyboard. The ્ symbol is called the virama. It enables us to combine the sha and cha to make the shcha. The method work for all conjuncts. One only needs to know which consonants form the conjunct. Table 1 shows the common conjuncts and their component consonants.
|ત + ર||ત્ર||tra||દ + ર||દ્ર||dra|
|દ + દ||દ્દ||dda||દ + વ||દ્વ||dva|
|દ + ધ||દ્ધ||ddha||દ + ય||દ્ય||dya|
|શ + વ||શ્વ||shva||શ + ર||શ્ર||shra|
|શ + ન||શ્ન||shna||સ + ત + ર||સ્ત્ર||stra|
|શ + ચ||શ્ચ||shcha||દ + મ||દ્મ||dma|
The order of entry depends on the pronunciation. The one that is pronounced first will be typed first. In most cases, it’s apparent which one is pronounced first.
Conjuncts with ર
The ર, although a special case because it’s half form is a punctuation-like character, also follows the same rule. When half of ર is the first consonant, it is call a reph and looks like a swoosh: અર્પણ, સમર્થ. When ર is the second consonant, it’s a slant: બ્રહ્માંડ, ક્રિયા. Whether ર precedes or follows other consonants, the correct form is substituted automatically when the virama is used in between. For complex conjuncts, we follow the same rule. ઈર્ષ્યા requires two viramas.
પ્રાર્થના = પ ્ ર ા ર ્ થ ન ા
In ઈર્ષ્યા, note the placement of the reph, despite that we typed ર first. In પ્રાર્થના, we have both forms of ર.
The following consonants have a different form of conjunct with ર: છ, જ, ટ, ઠ, ડ, ઢ, and દ. These X + ર conjuncts are formed with a caret-like character on the bottom: છ્ર, જ્ર, ટ્ર, ઠ્ર, ડ્ર, and ઢ્ર, while દ + ર is દ્ર.
In the example of નિશ્ચય, note that િ followed ન although its placement precedes ન. This is the sequence for all punctuations. The base is always typed first, then the accents. Usually, we see no more than 2 true punctuations, excluding the reph. When two punctuations are encountered, the ANUSVARA is the second punctuation. The anusvara is always typed after the other punctuations, if any. The following is an example of punctuation order:
અ ર ્ ધ ુ ં = અર્ધું
Typing the anusvara before the U vowel give us a malformed word. It has to be placed after the U vowel.
As long as the developer of the font has created thorough substitution tables, you will obtain the desired result. If you obtain something undesired, it could have been an error in the tables.
Disadvantages of Default Layout
As you can see, the concept of typing in Gujarati are sound and easy. However, the layout of the keys in this default keyboard layout is impractical for the English keyboard. The default Gujarati keyboard layout has the following disadvantages.
- The placement of consonants is not phonetic in the default keyboard layout. We have an inherent sense to think of K as ક, G as ગ, P as પ, and so forth. Hence, it would make sense to remap the default layout.
- The numerals in the default layout are actually Hindu-Arabic numerals in English (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 0). One has to use Ctrl+Shift keys to access Gujarati numerals. This is awkward when one is typing Gujarati.