Since i’m often travelling to West Africa to teach Scribus and other graphic software to local editors (Scribus, GImp, Inkscape, fontforge mainly), i get immediately involved in questions i was not usually used to. Among interesting things those professionnals showed me is to loose my technical dependency (what to do when you even have any electricity during some hours ?) and learn to use new languages.
For the first, i can hardly change the world. But for the second point it sometimes seems easier. It appeared to me that no DTP software is actually really supporting complex language and a recent workshop in Tunis showed that local graphic designer where even not happy with there ID Middle-east sold with the argument it should solve the problem.
What made me react, is that a publisher showed me a book she has done in Tifinagh. What surprised me is the weeks it took her to make it where it should take few hours. Not happy with those situation, i decided to make investigations. Happily, Scribus and others do it quite right for such languages (not as complex as arabic which only LibreOffice or Inkscape seem to deal with). What is the problem might occur to her. How could I help her not loose her time in just writing the text ?
The first thing i did is to download fonts that were told by this publisher to be right for tifinagh writings, then verify there was a unicode block for it and finally add keyboard map to my laptop.
Well, I can say i’m happy and proud to use free software that seem to be more respectable to local languages than any commercial or cultural institution that ignore them or implement them bad. Well profit is not a source of innovation on that subject. Looking for Tifinagh map on a mac (the publisher had mac) i found none. Ouf course i don’t know mac, but there are told to be simple. On my linux machine i found it in 2 clicks (under Maroc tifinagh) without extra search (i would say at the same level as english or arabic) and the list of available maps is about the third on macs (it’s a chance mac users mainly live in america and europe).
Then i installed the fonts the publisher told me about. They were available on IRCAM website, which seem to be a respectable institution (apart the site contains lots of flash ). It appeared immediately that when writing with the tifinagh map, the text did not appear. I opened quickly the font in fontforge to check if tifinagh block was used, and it appeared it was not. They had put their glyph in the standard block, grrr. I really don’t understand how it can happen that an institution battle for a unicode block, waste time on it, and don’t even use it later, which would be the best and easiest for everyone ? Well it’s not new, i’ve already seen that for other languages before, but anyway, good practice must become the rule.
So i left those bad fonts, and did a quick search in my font directories to see how many was tifinagh compliant. Praise free software. Among the tons i had, including proprietary from Adobe and Linotype, DejaVu was nearly the only one and the best covering. the average globally is about 0,3% of the glyphs certainly much more that the pourcentage of people talking tifinagh around the world as someone said as an excuse but not enough for graphic design, and please there is not one font per human being.
So i would just the good practice to happen, and make people involve do the “job” until the end. I would say ti Tifinagh that they should do an effort on this as soon as possible (free software is “do it yourself”, which can happen to be better in some cases) or the fund some typo designer that could in few days increase the number of available and do it properly.