Setting Up FC2 to Speak Your Language


Have you ever wondered what the Language tab on the graphical login screen on your Red Hat-based distribution (Red Hat 8/9, Fedora Core 1/2) means? Have you even tried changing it to your own language and got nothing but boxes, missing text or unrecognizable characters? If so, you probably banged the keyboard, screamed or cursed and logged out.

Welcome, newbie. Now try this.

Understand the Environment

I am experimenting on a Fedora Core 2 installation under GNOME. Why GNOME? Because my native language, Hindi, like many others, has better support under GNOME. Because our motive here is to make our lives easier, it is better to scout the Internet for some applications that make the task easier.

Also, make sure the language you want the environment to be in is listed under the Language tab on the graphical login menu. Chances are it is. If not, tough luck. Send an e-mail to the Fedora Core Localization mailing list and help the process.

Using KKBSwitch

KKBSwitch (K KeyBoard Switch) is a program that sits in the system tray and indicates the current keyboard layout. It also can be used to switch between keyboard layouts.

Although KKBswitch is supposed to be a KDE application, it runs perfectly fine under GNOME. Moreover, the file I downloaded is for Fedora Core 1, but it also works for Fedora Core 2.

Grab a copy from the KKBSwitch SourceForge page. It's a small application, so I suggest you act lazy and download the RPM. I downloaded the latest RPM available for Fedora, kkbswitch-1.4.1-1fc1.i386.rpm.

Presuming you download into your home directory, enter the following.

$ cd /home/$whoami
$ rpm -ivh kkbswitch-1.4.1-1fc1.i386.rpm

This installs the program, and you can run it either from the console by typing kkbswitch or by selecting it from the Accessories menu, where the program is added. When you run the program, its icon appears on the system tray. Right-click on it and you can see the default language at the top.

To configure, click on Configure Keyboard Switch. In the General tab, you should see the default language. Chances are you see only the English US/ASCII layout. Don't panic; you still need to add the keyboard layout of your regional language before you can switch to it. For now, simply spend some time playing around with this nice utility.

Installing the Fonts

Although the graphical menu lists many languages, not all of them are supported out-of-the-box. For example, Hindi was listed but there were no fonts to render the text. If this is the case with your language, you need to install some fonts.

With the recent interest in localization, you definitely have a number of fonts from which to choose. Even if you can't find OpenType fonts (OTF), you definitely can find TrueType fonts (TTF). I found a beautiful Hindi font at Gargi is a TTF that also can be used in proprietary applications under proprietary platforms.

Before proceeding further, make yourself root.

$ su -

Set up the installation directory for the font under /usr/share/fonts

# cd /usr/share/fonts
# mkdir hindi

Now, copy the TTF file to this directory

# cp gargi-1.3.ttf /usr/share/fonts/hindi

# cd /usr/share/fonts/hindi/

Next, create the index of fonts in the directory with mkfontdir. Then, make the system automatically look for the font with fc-cache. Congratulations! The font has been installed.

Adding Keyboard Layouts

We almost are finished. All we need to do is make arrangements for KKBSwitch to see our layout. In the menu, select Preferences -> Keyboard. In the window that opens, locate the third tab from left, Layouts. On the left-hand side, you should see a list of selected layouts and on the right a list of available layouts. You can add up to a maximum of four layouts. When you have added the necessary layouts, in my case Hindi, close the window.

Upon restarting X, select your language from the login screen, and make sure your desktop is GNOME. Voila! Depending upon the translation work that has been done on your language, you should find that most of the components are localized.

Time to put the icing on the cake. Start up KKBSwitch. Depending on whether you followed my advice to experiment earlier, you now can select the new layout you just added. For those who were too eager to get to the end of the article, right-click on the icon in the status bar and select your layout. Simple.

Working with

Now, wouldn't it be cool if you also could use to create documents in your own language? You can. Fire up your OO.o Writer application. Before you can type in your language, though, you need to tell OO.o Writer what that language is. Go to Tools -> Options, and expand the Language Settings option. Under it, you should see five sub-menus. Select Languages. On the right-hand panel select your local setting from the drop-down menu. Optionally, you can select the local currency as well. You also can set the default language for documents. Depending on your language, you may be able to set some more options for the layout. Click on OK and exit the menu.

Hang on--don't start typing just yet! In the font drop-down list, look for the font you just installed and select it. Now, you're all set. Start jabbing at the keyboard. It might take some time before you get the hang of it, but the results are well worth the effort.

Shashank Sharma is an engineering student and an active participant in the community. He wants to see more of FLOSS in the Indian education system.

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