Mac OS X Sinhala language support

OSX has no default Sinhala language support. Installing the Akshar Open Type font from Kamban makes it possible to get barely legible Sinhala character display. The specifics of OSX Sinhala display issues have already been covered in this March 2007 post by Sanjana. Nothing much has changed a year and a month later. If you want to have EASILY readable Sinhala on a Mac, it means getting a 50 US Dollar Sinhala language kit from Xenotypetech. Which is no small amount in Sri Lankan rupees – specially for a “non professional” use.

I thought I had got used to painfully reading SInhala like a pre-schooler due to the mangled way it displays on my mac. Yet the Sinhala blog marathon of this weekend made me realise my makeshift method is no good. These screen shots of Achcharu, Kottu (below), and webalochana shows why..

Here is how a post on appears. Compare this with the screen shot.
Example of Sinhala character display on OS X

So its either pay up for Xenotypetech or get a PC. For me Windows means work. OS X means fun. Mainly because I have over the years converted it into a command line driven UNIX box 🙂 Most likely I’ll have to set up a Linux machine or get some sort of virtual machine running Linux. The problem with Linux is that I end up endlessly tinkering with it and never get anything else done. OSX is locked down enough to limit these distractions. I suppose I’ll find some open-source/ legally free software that can do that. Windows remains the last gasp option.

OSX/Apple hardware is such a tiny niche market that its a miracle a company like Xenotypetech has got involved. The price though is steep. Specially with other free options with Linux.

I did spot this hopeful post on Mac Rumors of developing a shaper and Keyboard driver for Sinhala in OSX 10.5. That was in December 2007. That’s about all I’ve heard. Perhaps there are others in the know who can elaborate. Till then I just have to squint on and stop whining…


The SinhalaPage Resources Directory is less well known but has well described Software & Fonts section.

For anyone contemplating running a Sinhala GNU Linux distribution disk image on an open source virtual machine on you mac there are a few options. I haven’t tried any of these. The chances of me finding the time to poke around is slim.


51 thoughts on “Mac OS X Sinhala language support

  1. Thanks CERNO for taking this subject

    I hope every one would see the jpg image of Sinhala.
    This is what we have in UNICODE CONSORTIUM or in SLSI 1134.

    SInhala that ICTA and the guys at the UNI know only above.
    Only the type writer concept.

    Only I have objected to the SLSI 1134 and given a solution to the problem. No one listens.

    There is nothing called “SINHALA UNICODE”. Unicode is a standard in the unicode consortium in USA and it is equal to the ISO and this what has been registered at the Sri Lanka Standard Institute as SLSI 1134.(donald objected and it has been a recorded document)

    The Sinhala Unicode standard was not developed in Sri Lanka. It was designed by an American called Daniels and then picked up by a font maker called Everson. The proposal of the Unicode standard for Sri Lanka was proposed by Everson and endorsed by Camillus Jayewardena Ven. Mettavihari who is a Dane

    (Camillus Jayewardena (University of Ruhuna, Matara, Sri Lanka), Mettavihari (IBRIC – International Buddhist Research & Information Centre, Sri Lanka).

    Unicode standard for Sinhala was made in America and will be extended in America. The frogs in the well croak and croak.

    This is the truth Sir


  2. In Tamil also we had lot of problems, especially the bad implementation. Though Tamil had enough space, they messed up and came up with a inefficient way!

    Now Tamil nadu gov and Indian gov working on it and trying to get a new format named as TUNE!, but it seems UNICODE consortium is not goin to approve the new adoptation! 😦


  3. Sanjana: 😳 Should have known that 🙂 Though your mac has better rendering than mine. Got anything specific installed? I’m running an Intel mac mini single core OS X 10.4.11. My main browser is Firefox

    Donald: Thank you for your input and the link to the screen shot. Will update the post. Though you lost me there on the details 🙂

    Mayooresan: Thank you for that perspective 🙂 Do you think this will cause a split with UNICODE consortium/standard?


  4. Tamil too have the same problem like sinhala only registering typewriter text in unicode.

    Do not worry sir. you create a national standard in Tamil Nadu. With your 247 characters and need more on grantha to represent the old tamil text. Need “ba” and “Fa” sound characters to write foreign words in Tamil. You put all these and make a new standard IME in Tamil Nadu or I can do it in Lanka after Sinhala. We can ask unicode consortium to fly a kite as our Indic characters can stand alone in internet as an Indic Standard.



  5. Dear Cerno

    Re Andy Daniels see

    Do you know that Everson is proposing new numbers for Sinhala? Whose language is Sinhala, Cerno?

    I write the truth. That is why others are angry and censor my comments. All these have to be exposed without and fear. We got to protect our National Language Sinhala.
    We got to work in all three languages in Sri Lanka (Sinhala, Tamil and English) across all platforms.

    Only I have the solution Sir



  6. Sanjana: Many thanks. I will do that. Are those fonts available online? A link would be a handy resource for other Mac users.

    Donald: Thank you for you input and the info 🙂


  7. Honestly, I don’t know. These are fonts (UNICODE + non-UNICODE) that I’ve collected over the years and installed on my Mac. Some of them worked, some did not. Together, something seems to be going right since my legibility of Sinhala UNICODE is far better than the hieroglyphs you get on your Mac!

    I would have put the fonts up as a link, but may run into copyright issues and what not.

    Frankly though, I wish the Colombo Uni’s LTRL or ICTA could do something about them fonts on a Mac.



  8. A Font is not required. The ICTA or the UNI will have to publish the character allocation table for sinhala and Tamil.
    This will be the standard for all IT development.

    Only I have done and published. Either they have to accept my one or publish a new one better than me.

    Once this is published all new software developers will do the needful.

    If ICTA and UNI accept my solution there will be over 100,000 new jobs within 6 months.



  9. Sanjana Just sent the email 🙂 Personally, I doubt if there’s an interest in Sinhala language support for the mac 😐 I wonder what the Mac count in the country is like.

    donald: From the looks of things, till the powers that be see the light, we’ll have to make do with make shift methods. 🙂


  10. I thank Cerno for permitting me to post my comments.
    Most of the sites delete my comments.

    The repercussions are on the way. I have no sympathy towards the people who are intentionally destroying Sinhala.



  11. Hi Cerno,

    Bumped into your post… I am the one who requested for some Apple.Developer forum for help.. yep around 4 months ago.. that was after I had read so many apple developer manuals, but needed that first push.. so had to request for some help, but sadly nobody replied.. and then my postgrad caught up with me.. and now I have less time to breath let alone dev a shaper…. but I will be back in SL for a short time in the middle of the year when I will meet the ppl at LTRL… and promise you I will look into it.

    PS: Donald.. stop grumbling, Unicode works… but some minor glitches to be ironed out… it seems you are more worried about you patent than the development to Sinhala (Don’t be a typical Sri Lankan selling the “good for all” for your personal gains), it’s pointless trying to make you understand Unicode because as the saying goes “You can take the horse to the water, but you can’t make the it drink (if it does not want to)” … if you can’t work with your Mac throw it into the garbage.. and buy a PC and install Linux or Windows… Period!


  12. Dear Hakim

    Come on a public platform I will prove that Sinhala language is not working. The Sinhala SLSI 1134 or what has been registered in unicode is incomplete. Why dont you come forward and take my challenge.
    I can organize the auditorium of Ingrin Institute. Give me a date and time. invite the media.

    Else you fix it at the Colombo University auditorium I will come over and do my presentation.



  13. Hakim: Oh come on 🙂 I’m certainly not going to chuck my precious fruit in the can 😉 All the best with your efforts. Keep me posted on how it turns out

    Anuradha: Thank you for the links. They will definitely make the discussion more informative 🙂

    Donald: I hope you find some resolution 🙂

    Sanjana: Will do 🙂 and let you know by email.


  14. I always challenge ICTA & University to come to a public platform also Dr Harsha do have an open invitation for a debate on his topic on Biz TV.

    None come forward. If they have a solution why cant they face my challenge.


  15. Hey Cerno

    Nop not your Mac Bro… we will solve it for you soon… Inshallah(God willing) :-). It was Donald’s Mac I suggested to be thrown in the garbage! LOL!


  16. Donald: Hope you find out sooner than later 🙂

    Hakim: 🙂 Iknow i know – just kidding. Though most mac users are hardly ever likely to do that. I’m still holding on to the carcass of the a dead 8year old powerbook – with a broken hard drive connection to the main boards and half the keys dead.


  17. Hakim why dont you talk of some technical stuff.
    Macs will never get end up in a garbage box but the computers using microsoft operating system will soon end in garbage bins. Microsoft will have to rewrite the whole computer OS to be in par or close to apple. With this change the older computers what you are using (assembled ones ) will have to put into bins. Sri Lanka should ban of importing used computers. People around the world is packing these old computers and send them to sri lanka as aid. We got to stop this garbage dumping.



  18. Cerno: Yep, I know what you mean! No way chucking an Apple!

    Donald: I don’t waste my time on people like you… and for your off the topic comment… I use a Mac too… with OS X n Linux 🙂


  19. Hakim: Are you using Boot camp or some other emulator? Or are you running Linux as the host OS with mac-on-linux (meaning you got a PowerPC mac)

    Donald: You have a point there. I don’t think outright bans work as they tend to create black markets and rarely stamps out the need driving the whole process. Perhaps what might work better is a healthier form of demand for donated computers. Rejecting toxic junk though is critical. Another thing is get better used machines with a decent life cycle plan for the hardware. Recycling local used computers should be a priority over blindly accepting other people’s toxic wastes. And there defiantly should be a disposal method for hardware components (tricky and expensive though it is)- no matter how old the machine is. Old machines work quite well for basic stuff and they cut costs – up-to a point though. The disposal process should always be part of the life cycle.

    Its all in the details – that complex dance between needs, costs and other considerations. At the basic level that involves planning. A very difficult business to pull off in a third world country at war.


  20. Some countries do have a very high rate for recycle – so it is cheaper to ship to a country like sri lanka. then gets credit. Yes I agree with you even a p2 or p3 is enough to send an email ,browse a text based web site, write a letter and keep some excel accounts. Also to learn typing skills.

    What these people are sending is junk. may run for 2 or 3 months and end. NO drivers, No spare parts, no one knows what is the hardware etc etc.

    Ban the imports or create a system to retrieve the gold or silver that is in the computer and discard the rest in envoirnment friendly method. This will also open new job opportunities in Sri Lanka. (in mumbai they discard used ships)


  21. Donald: Totally agree with you on the need to have a proper policy for making sure only usable stuff gets here. Your mention of the Indian ship breaking industry is scary. I hope that used computers don’t turn Sri Lanka into the computer equivalent of those toxic ship breaking yards. Heard its happening in China and Africa.


  22. Donald: 🙂 IT policy isn’t exactly my area but I hope more knowledgeable people that I might suggest something workable. Perhaps a more public IT forum might get the desired audience 🙂 (as much as I would like the the jump in traffic)


  23. I can do Sinhala if someone can help with the language. I have already ported OpenType fonts for Kannada and Telugu to the Mac & AAT.

    I need a font that is released under a license that allows modification and redistribution. It should also look nice under Mac OS X’s font rendering system. I also will need web pages with Unicode Sinhala text, and screenshots of that text rendered correctly (using either Xenotype or Windows/Linux). Wikipedia is good.


  24. Nicholas: Wish I could help but I think some of the sites of the people who have comment on this post might be more helpful to you. As with most things dealing with language in Sri Lanka, this issue is quite convoluted and political. Makes the technical issues seem trivial. All the best 🙂


  25. Well I found a free front (GNU-licensed) but it doesn’t look very nice to my non-native-speaker eyes. Could you let me know which of the nine fonts here you like the best in terms of appearance, how badly not whether it’s broken:

    I think Malithi Web works the best on a computer screen. (Not for print though).

    The free one is LK LUG, which is rather thin and whispy at sizes < 18pt.

    Ashkar is clearly the worst, with very large leading and blurred details even at a large size such as 18pt, as well as it being ‘more broken’ 🙂


  26. Okay, so I posted a version of Malithi Web at
    I do some shaping and ligature substitution but not everything works right now. Specifically text with U+200D Zero Width Joiner is broken, and the ‘e’ vowel doesn’t get rearranged if it was typed as a compound vowel character (i.e. the sequence U+D9A U+DD9 U+DCA කේ works, but U+D9A U+DDA කේ does not).


  27. Vista has Sinhala and Ubuntu can run OS with sinhala, but I use mac os x 10.5.2 still don’t have unicodes either.
    so i hope they will include it very soon.


  28. As the only company providing a solution for Sinhala Mac users, I’d like to say that the problems with rendering have to do with a misunderstanding of the rendering available in OS X. Nick Shanks is on the right track and I support his work. Unfortunately, designing a complete font and working out the correct sequence for shaping on OS X is no trivial task. Our price reflects the small niche market that exists.

    We do understand that the price is unrealistic in Sri Lanka and would love to offer a discounted price for Sri Lankans but there is no reliable way to verify location. In reality, we’d be happy to work with a Sri Lankan distributor who could handle in-country sales.

    And if there’s an organization out there that would fund the release of our fonts into the public domain for Sinhala, we’re happy to discuss that too.

    Please feel free to contact us if you have any information that might help.


  29. Kaonohi Kai: Thank you for commenting from the side of the story. I don’t think anyone would think of ill of xenotypetech for having to work in the market that they have. I think it is great that there’s at least one company on the planet creating a product like this for the mac. 🙂


  30. You can type Sinhala quite accurately using LaTeX now. See my output at (Sorry for the re-direction. The copied output below is not as nice as the actual output.)

    සිංහල අකුරැ
    සැෙලන මනස විසිනි

    ෙම් වාර්තාව පිලිෙයල කෙල් XeLaTeX භාවිතා කරමිනි. ෙමහි අකුරැ පැබැඳුම සඳහා TeXShop භාවිතා කල අතර, අකුරැ ලබා ගත්ෙත් Mac OS X 10.6 හී Character Viever මගිනි. ෙම් සිංහල Unicode අකුරැ LKLUG මිනිස් සමූහය විසින් නිර්මානය කරන ලද්දකි.

    ෙමවැනි වාර්තාවක් පිලිෙයල කිරීම සඳහා XeLaTeX භාවිතා කිරීෙම්දී අනුරැද්ධ රත්නවීර විසින් රචිත “සිංහල මල්ල” (sinhala package) ෙයාදා ගත යුතුය.

    අවාසනාවකට ෙමන් ෙම් සඳහා Keyboard එක භාවිතා කල හැකි දැයි මා තවම දන්ෙන් නැත. එම නිසා ෙමවැනි වැඩක් සඳහා සෑෙහන ෙව්ලාවක් ගත විය හැක. මම ෙමය ලියන්ෙන් පාකිස්තාන් – නව සීලන්ත තරඟය නරඹමිනි. ඒ නිසා කාලය කා දැමීමක් ගැන මට කතා කල හැකි දැයි යන ප්රශ්නය මතුෙව්. (ඔෙහා්,“ප්ර” ලිවිය ෙනාහැක.)

    පාකිස්තානය 233 යි ඕවර 50 අවසානෙය්. ෙම් ඇති අදට.


      1. You can use “Singlish” transliteration scheme at University of Colombo to use the keyboard. The following is an example. The LaTeX output is “perfect” compare to what you see below. I will post an image of it on the W.Mind site.

        සිංහල අකුරු
        සැෙලන මනස විසිනි

        ෙම් වාර්තාව පිලිෙයල කෙල් XeLaTeX භාවිතා කරමිනි. ෙමහි අකුරු පැබැඳුම සඳහා TeXShop භාවිතා කල අතර, අකුරු ලබා ගත්ෙත් Mac OS X 10.6 හී Character Viewer මගිනි. ෙම් සිංහල Unicode අකුරු LKLUG මිනිස් සමූහය විසින් නිර්මානය කරන ලද්දකි.

        ෙමවැනි වාර්තාවක් පිලිෙයල කිරීම සඳහා XeLaTeX භාවිතා කිරීෙම්දී අනුරැද්ධ රත්නවීර විසින් රචිත “සිංහල මල්ල” (sinhala package) ෙයාදා ගත යුතුය.

        වාසනාවකට ෙමන් ෙම් සඳහා Keyboard එකද භාවිතා කල හැකිය. ඒ සඳහා ෙකාලඹ විශ්ව විදයාලෙය් සිංග්ලිශ් භවිතා කර ඔෙබ් වාර්තාෙව් අලවන්න. (


  31. Ayubowan!

    Did an upgrade a couple of weeks ago to Mac OS 10.7 aka Lion and noticed that now Apple has incorporated Sinhala Input and rendering and works smoothly. It has both the Sinhala Phonetic and the Wijesekara keyboards. Also Safari, Chrome render Sinhala pretty well (Firefox always managed quite well).

    Still some small improvement possible like වෛද්‍යවරු is still rendered as වෛ — ද්‍ — ය — වරු (Does not render the yansaya yet). Nor does it render the rakaranshaya. But it renders උද්‍යෝග and සෞඛය better than Firefox 🙂

    So finally Apple has done it. But we need some nice fonts 😀


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