This article is about Thai keyboard layouts for desktop and laptop computers, which have a hardware and software component. This does not deal with virtual or soft keyboards or mobile device layouts.
Thai Keyboard Layouts are generally something Thai speakers and Thai language learners have little problem with because of a de facto standard, although there are three specific standards, in practice (along with ISO and ANSI layouts).
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There are both substantive and subtle changes to the Thai Alphabet Cards. For the Thai Consonants, we add the ten numbers (0-9) as ten additional cards, and then on the consonant cards themselves, the significant changes are:
One challenge for using Thai script on a computer is that Thai characters are more vertical than roman alphabet characters. If one is mixing roman and Thai characters in a document, the Thai characters tend to be much smaller (and therefore illegible if the roman characters are optimized for space and legibility). The reason for this is that Thai characters, along with vowel markers, tone marks, and the silent marker can stack above and below a character, which means they are generally much taller than Roman (Latin) and other alphabet systems.
INCOMPLETE - WORK IN PROGRESS
It is common for those learning Thai to run across transcription of spoken Thai into systems other than the Thai script. At first, one would think that there would be a single correct transcription, for example based on the International Phonetical Association (IPA) that would accurately capture all the sounds in Thai. One would be wrong. There are a large number of transcription/transliteration systems, each with their own history and rationale. Understanding more about them is useful to Intermediate Thai language learners. Normally a beginning learner is simply at the mercy of whatever Thai language books/material and/or Thai teacher/tutor is most convenient or chosen for the learner. As for the author of this essay, I held a bias against the IPA system as I wondered why I had to learn a third system in order to learn the second system (Thai). It turns out I was incorrect and it would have been better to learn not only the phonemes and phonology of Thai, but also that of English. A better understanding of both is the key to cutting through the confusion of Thai transcription systems that proliferate.
Topics to follow:
- Transcription system goals
- ASCII/En keyboard transcription
- Transcription systems
- True (full) IPA
- Hybrid systems
Thai languages, or languages in Thailand, are many and diverse. Scholars generally use the term Tai to refer to a larger language family which ranges across much of Mainland Southeast Asia and what is now Southern China. The main point is that there is ongoing research, different ideas, and not full agreement, on how to distinguish which languages are related to each other and which are siblings and which are parent languages.
Please see the Thai Font Poster which makes use of the Free Thai Font Collection
108 Free and Open Source Thai Fonts
The main goal of this repository is to provide -- in one place a set of freely (and legally) available Thai computer fonts. The collection of fonts show the diversity of Thai typefaces. While there are many different websites with fonts for download, some fonts are difficult to find, and many sites also have proprietary fonts which are not free, and their use violates intellectual property laws.
In addition, information about additional free-to-use fonts not hosted here is included, as well as information about standard proprietary Thai fonts, specifically those Thai fonts that come with Apple OSX and Microsoft Windows.
Note: we will be adding Arundina and Waree which are both TLWG Fonts (SIPA and NECTEC, respectively) but were not included. They have been a part of Linux distribution support for Thai fonts for many years.
Contents of the Thai Font Collection
The Lanna Innovation Thai Font Collection currently includes over 300 font files in 108 font families. Not all font families include multiple variants, but many do. Font files are in TTF or OTF file format. We intend to update all open source and pubic domain font files to OTF which has greater compatibility with modern applications. 14 of the font families (46 individual font styles) are Webfonts available on Google Fonts, which makes using them on websites quite easy.
- More about the Free and Open Source Thai fonts with download links. The licenses on these fonts allow us to distribute them.
Additional, Free-to-use Thai fonts
Information about 30 Additional, Free-to-use Thai fonts that can be downloaded from other websites. This is a curated collection of interesting and diverse fonts from a number of font creators and foundries.
Display Samples of Selected Characters in the Thai Font Collection
Additional, Free-to-use Thai fonts
Information about Additional, Free-to-use Thai fonts that can be downloaded from other websites. This is a curated collection of interesting and diverse fonts from a number of font creators and foundries.
Intellectual property protections for typefaces and fonts are questionable at best, though there are a few areas in which protections do hold, including Copyright, Design Rights (and Patents), and Trademark.1
Originally in the US and other jurisdictions, the idea of a typefaces is one which is pure utility (that is, smacking ink on paper, and conveying a glyph), and therefore there apparently was no art to it, no creation, and therefore no rights for copy protection.
This still holds today in terms of bitmapped fonts, which do not have anything unique about them. However, modern fonts are not bitmapped, but rather vectors (think svg rather than jpg/png/gif). And it turns out that there is some art to selecting vectors for a given typeface.
In a practical sense, however, making a new font out of an old one (that is, creating new vectors over a bitmap (not merely reverse engineering and copying the vectors in a given font), is not in violation of intellectual property law. Therefore look-alike fonts (done properly) are not illegal, and themselves are afforded the same protection (against copying the vectors or the fonts wholesale).
Design Patents and Design Rights
Some other kinds of intellectual property protections are awarded for design, in certain jurisdictions. In the US a Design Patent can be filed for fonts, and provides protection for 15 years (after 13 May 2015, previously it was 14 years). Microsoft generally files these, along with other larger companies, as patents are expensive to file and maintain.
In the UK there is a Design Right which provides 5 years of protection, and the ability to renew for 5 years, a total of 5 times, for up to 25 years of protection. This seems a stronger protection.
In the EU, there is a similar 5 year x 5 times design registration scheme. If designs are not registered, then they have an automatic 3 years of protection, which is non-renewable.
In Canada, fonts can be registered as a Design Patent with 5 years of protection, plus an additional 5 years extension possible.
In China, the law is quite muddled and cases are settled with conflicting interpretations, typefaces can be protected as computer programs, and as works of art.
Besides copyright and patent or design rights, there is also trademark, which is the name of the font or typeface. This protection means that look-alike fonts, while legal, must not infringe trademark rights (have the same or a derrived name). URW++ fonts got into trouble by simply prepending URW↩
There are a variety of Thai language touch typing programs, as well as virtual keyboards to support Thai. Discussed below are programs in learning to touch type the Thai keyboard. This will always be different than typing or swiping letters/words on a mobile device, as the latter requires eyesight.
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