Malayalam on Ubuntu Feisty Fawn 7.04

April 20, 2007 - 10:30

Linux has been growing in leaps and bounds in terms of internationalization. Setting up a Linux box for Reading and Writing in Malayalam has become pretty straightforward, thanks to passionate promoters like Peringodan Cibu and Suresh and the countless others who have contributed through their efforts.
The idea of webpages in Malayalam is rather common place to most online Keralites as a lot of them would have at some point of time been to any of the popular Malayalam newspaper sites. However the idea of keying in Malayalam would be unfamiliar territory to most of them as they are yet to try anything other than English keyboards. So can you write Malayalam using an English keyboard? One obvious solution is pretty straightforward - assign Malayalam characters to different keys and key-combinations. Though this sounds simple, think of the hassles of learning by-heart all the keys and their combinations and their corresponding Malayalam characters. There is however a more elegant solution for this, what if we could type Manglish (typing malayalam using english characters; eg - namaskaram) and see the corresponding malayalam characters. This is exactly what is achieved using the Mozhi Keyman transliteration application. It is however a pity that the site does not have instructions on how to use the application in Linux.

Peringodan has however a detailed explanation on how to do this in Linux on his blog at If you follow his instructions you should be able to set up Malayalam reading and writing on a Ubuntu box. However there are two small points that needs to be kept in mind. One is the shebang issue. Ubuntu 6.10 onwards follows a strict adherance to the POSIX shell interpreter specification and uses dash as the default for #! /bin/sh. So make sure that you change /bin/sh to /bin/bash in the scripts that are run as part of the installation [for that matter - keep this in mind when you see your old scripts failing left and right :)]. In this case the for the KMFL runtime installation. Another thing is regarding pango. Firefox by default disables pango and you have to disable this disabling by setting disable = false in the firefoxrc file inside /etc/firefox folder. More specifically you have to add a line


to the firefoxrc file.

During the KMFL installation if you use Distro="Ubuntu 7.04" instead of the Distro="Ubuntu 6.10" then you are all set to install the application on Ubuntu Feisty Fawn. However there seems to be some problem in typing text. Viewing Malayalam seems to be working fine but not writing in Malayalam. We are still trying to figure out how to get it to work on Feisty Fawn. We will be posting an update as soon as we figure out a way to do it. In the meanwhile you can use Ilamozhi to write in Malayalam.

Post your comments / questions

Everything is fine an dandy. However, to read those websites which doesn't support unicode fonts you have to install padma firefox extension . Those websites include all malayalam newspaper websites including, deepika, manorama, keralakaumudi etc. These websites only support truetype fonts. TrueTypes are glyphs matching a malayalam character but doesn't have a hex code assigned to it. They use ASCII character set but with a different glyph.

Just to read malayalam, you only need to perform the first 3 steps in Peringodan's blog, in addition to the hacks thats been explained in this blog post.

PS: Its so funny; a tutorial to explain how to install malayalam read and write support is written in malayalam. Thats what called a chicken and egg problem.

I’d like to point out a couple of things:

a) Malayalam support is not an Ubuntu thing or a Linux thing… I am running NetBSD -current on my laptop with and I can type malayalam.
Learning the key combinations is very easy and intuitive… it just requires attention and commitment. I learnt it in about a week and something.

b) Mangleesh support for TeX has been around for a while. The TuX group in Trivandrum and specifically A.J.Alex have worked on very good quality latex support for malayalam.


Just to set the record.



Ready to use packages to support malayalam in Ubuntu 7.10 and Debian GNU/Linux Etch is available at

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