Google Noto is an open source font family for more than 800 languages

Monotype and Google have developed a font family called Noto, which is a universal method for digital communications for people living all around the world.

Monotype and Google have developed and released a font family called Noto, which is a universal method for digital communications for people living all around the world. Monotype is the same typeface company that developed Times New Roman and Arial. The fonts are available publicly here, and are released under the SIL Open Font License, which is an open source license specifically for type faces.

Google Noto is an open source font family for more than 800 languages

Smartphones using Devnagari and Malayalam fonts

The fonts family has a character set for each of the 800 languages in the Unicode standard. They can be freely used in hardware, applications or web pages. The effort took over five year. Some, but not all, of the fonts are available on Google Fonts, an open source directory of fonts designed specifically for web use. The Google side of the collaboration was lead by Bob Jung, an internationalisation expert at Google. Some of the languages and scripts available in the font family have never been digitised before.

noto-samds-denagiri

Image: Monotype

Boosting the accessibility of information and services to people using local languages in remote regions of the world is one goal for Noto. Another is to preserve dead and extinct languages, and make them available for digital consumption. This will allow these dead and extinct languages to continue in their cultural evolution, as well as allow students and researchers better digital options to study dead, extinct and obscure languages.

A Wikipedia page in Malayalam.

A Wikipedia page in Tamil.

Noto is available in Indian scripts as well, including Urdu, Bengali, Brahmi, Gujarati, Gurmukhim Kannada, Oriya, Saurashtra, Malayalam, Tamil and Telegu. There are no languages that Noto supports that is not there in the Unicode standard. The Noto font family is expected to grow along with Unicode support fonts in scripts from more languages.

Monotype engineers spoke to locals speaking obscure languages, took feedback from monks, compiled volumes of data from manuscripts, and even studied inscriptions on stones. The fonts are available in multiple weights and sizes where required. For example, some scripts have both sans serif and serif versions of fonts. There are thin, light, demi light, medium, regular, black and bold styles for CJK, a font for Chinese, Japanese, and Korean characters.

A notebook page from a Monotype designer. Tibetan monks gave feedback on the Tibetan script. Image: Monotype.

A notebook page from a Monotype designer. Tibetan monks gave feedback on the Tibetan script. Image: Monotype.

When characters from a language are missing from a computer or a smartphone, then the letters are rendered as square boxes. These square boxes are called Tofu in Asia, where the problem is particularly common. Tofu is soy milk curd cut into cubes, similar to chunks of paneer.

Noto comes from the basic brief for the family of fonts, which is "no more tofu." Google has made available a font family for public use, that gives a standardised look and feel to glyphs for over 100 writing systems in 800 languages.

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