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VOLT, enabling Nastaleeq

Karachi, Pakistan - 8 May 2000
Although still in beta, Microsoft's Visual OpenType Layout Table tool VOLT is allowing type designers to create fonts that support complex scripts.

Nastaleeq (also known as Nastaliq) is one of the most complex of complex scripts. The script was originally created by the calligrapher Mir Ali Tabrezi, and has been refined by master calligraphers over the past 600 years. When Monotype produced a photocomp Nastaleeq in the late 1970's they found that 20,000 different characters were needed to adequately represent the script.

Pakistan Data Management Services have produced a beautiful Nastaleeq font using VOLT and have provided the following explanation and screen capture.

Pakistan Data Management Services are the developers of Nastaleeq software products since 1989. Their products Urdu 98, Nastaleeq Nizami, Urdu Computer Nizami are available with 8 different Nastaleeq fonts. Currently they are working on OpenType Nastaleeq font using Microsoft VOLT.

Nastaleeq sample A screen capture from Microsoft Word showing text rendered using a PDMS Nastaleeq font

The powerful capabilities of the Windows operating system have made it possible to computerize an extremely difficult and problematic script. All attempts made during the past hundred years to mechanize this script were unsuccessful, and as a result a typewriter which could type in the Nastaleeq style, is not available even today. In early 90s, specialized desktop publishing software was developed for publishing and typesetting purpose by PDMS. The script in question is a special form of the Arabic script and is known as the Nastaleeq script.

The Arabic scripts have evolved from the dictates of handwriting using pen and ink. The results are an exquisite collection of graphical shapes with fascinating free flowing and fluid quality, which look beautiful, but are immensely difficult to adapt to the technology of movable type or matrix based character design. The Arabic alphabet used by the Arabic language is written in the Naskh style script, which is used all over the Arab world. The Microsoft Arabic Windows can handle the Arabic language using the Naskh style effortlessly. It is the Nastaleeq style of the Urdu alphabet, which poses a tremendous problem.

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article posted 8 May 2000 and last updated 11 May 2000.

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