Padma Karpo Translation Committee
Tibetan Word-processing Software Overview

We have a suite of Tibetan software: TibetDoc standalone word-processor for Windows, TibetD database program, and TibetD Reader, a universal reader for all files created in the TibetDoc and TibetD programs.

The western Lama, Tony Duff, made the first Tibetan word-processor for personal computers in 1984.  Called “Tibetan!”, it worked in WordPerfect for DOS.  We also made a set of fonts to go with it that were by far the best available at the time and which became the basis for the several Tibetan fonts available on this web-site which are universally regarded by Tibetans as the best available.  The word­processor and fonts together became the mainstay of Tibetan wordprocessing around the world and stayed that way until the mid-1990’s when DOS died and Windows took over.

The Drukpa Kagyu Heritage Project, funded and directed by Tony Duff, published 108 volumes of texts using this software and these fonts.  The volumes contain the most important titles of the Drukpa Kagyu tradition.  The chairman of the project, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, has pointed out several times that, without the fonts and software that Tony made and without his efforts on behalf of Tibetan Buddhism during his long stay in Asia, these texts and the many others preserved using his software and fonts would have been lost irretrievably.  This is not exaggeration or badge-polishing; it is a fact well-known to refugee Tibetans, though not so well known in the Western world, that the Tibetan textual tradition was in dire straights after the communist Chinese invasion.  It was the singular efforts of a handful of people such as Gene Smith and later on Tony himself, that provided the means for refugee Tibetans to preserve and re-publish the Tibetan buddhist heritage before it was too late and lost for good.

It is hard to say how important this program was for Tibetans in general and for Tibetan Buddhism in particular.  The refugee Tibetans relied on it for all of their publishing and it became an important factor in their being able to re-create their culture out of Tibet.  Especially though, it became the standard used by all Tibetan monasteries for their publishing, including the preservation of Tibetan texts.  Virtually every major text preservation program used this product and it is still being used in some places in Kathmandu because the fonts that came with it are simply the best available.  Tibetans themselves have referred to the maker of the software and fonts, Lama Tony, rather affectionately and with great appreciation as "the father of modern Tibetan publishing".

The Windows-based TibetDoc was created during the 1990’s as a replacement for the original “Tibetan!” program.  The new program has all the tools needed for typing Tibetan text, correcting it, and turning it into Tibetan-style pecha or sending it out to a page layout program for publishing.  TibetDoc was further developed and by 2000 it had turned into a suite of three programs for working with Tibetan language: TibetDoc itself, TibetD software for making dictionaries and databases, and TibetD Reader software, similar to Adobe Acrobat, for reading Tibetan texts.

Our software suite was not produced for commercial reasons.  Rather, it was produced so that there would be a tool for re-producing Tibetan texts and using them digitally.  We do charge a small fee for TibetDoc, though this could never cover the high costs of professional programming that went into it, and the TibetD Reader software is provided for free.  Overall, our software gives Tibetans a tool to publish anything in their own language, including Tibetan Buddhist texts, and those texts then become a basis for Westerners wanting to study and translate the texts of the tradition.  One of the features of the software is that a user can click on a Tibetan word and immediately look it up in any of several dictionaries prepared using by Lama Tony’s translation committee, Padma Karpo Translation Committee, using the TibetD software.

TibetDoc works well for anyone involved in Tibetan language studies, from Western students needing to type a little Tibetan for their study purposes, for scholars and translators, and for Tibetan monasteries who need to reproduce and make the highest-quality publications of Tibetan buddhist texts in authentic Tibetan format.  It is a vehicle for publishing texts electronically, too, in a format that makes them safe from corruption but that can make them immediately accessible to everyone; like a Tibetan version of Adobe Acrobat.  Padma Karpo Translation Committee, has published many of Tibetan Buddhist texts in this format and makes them available with a free copy of TibetD Reader so that anyone can build a digital library.

In this screen capture, TibetDoc is being used to make a Tibetan text.  The text is one of the thousands that have been input and corrected by Tibetans in India and Nepal using the software.  A spelling check is in progress; the spelling checker has stopped on a word that needs attention. TibetDoc making pecha and spell-checking

TibetD is the database component of the suite.  It is especially useful for producing dictionaries and catalogues of Tibetan texts.  Padma Karpo Translation Committee uses

TibetD Reader used for dictionary lookups
this software to publish its high quality Tibetan-English and Tibetan-Tibetan dictionaries.  The dictionaries are read by end-users using the reader component of the suite TibetD Reader.  This is TibetD Reader, being used to view the most important of the dictionaries made by Padma Karpo Translation Committee, the Illuminator Tibetan-English Dictionary.  Here the headword in The Illuminator has been looked up in Sarat Chandra Das’s Dictionary, the result coming up in the window seen at the bottom.

Altogether, we have made a complete software system for working with the Tibetan language.  The software gives translators, scholars, and students of the language a really useful system for doing their work.  In particular, we hope that the software will help translators to do their work more easily and effectively, and equally that the Tibetans will have the means to preserve their literature in a way that not only aids them, but makes a body of electronic Buddhist literature available for the use of non-Tibetans altogether.

How do you obtain the software?  Any of these software programs can be purchased from our electronic shop and by immediate download or through a distributor.

Which fonts do you need?  All of our software programs come with the standard Tibetan typeface called TibetanMachine.  This is a good, basic typeface and suffices for the needs of many Westerners.  However, if you are publishing and want the highest quality typefaces, or if you are Tibetan and want the most authentic typefaces, you will want to purchase one of our better quality typefaces.  The TibetanMachine typeface is also available for free download.