History of Urdu Softwares
Found in Translation
Urdu on the Web has developed a presence of its own at long last.
By Kashif Hoda and Zainab Lakhani
SPIDER [www.spider.tm] June 2004
It is hard to imagine that the history of Urdu on the Internet is now
a decade old.
The first step in introducing the Internet as a new medium for Urdu,
was made on May 10 1994, by Syed Zafar Kazmi when he started a
newsgroup for Urdu poetry. The newsgroup was called
alt.language.urdu.poetry (ALUP). For some years this was the only
place where Urdu lovers had a platform to discuss Urdu literature.
Urdu sites were to come later.
In the beginning Urdu sites were nothing more than personal webpages
with some pages dedicated to Urdu poetry; almost all of them presented
Urdu in Roman text. In June 1997, Shahbaz Chaudhry suggested using a
True Type Urdu font to make Urdu webpages. In October that year, Umair
Khan started his website, Urduweb.com; he not only used an Urdu font
to create webpages but provided people with the software to write Urdu
in e-mail. Soon there was a long list of Urdu sites using UrduWeb
Soon after, Naseem Amjad of Lahore released Urdu Nigaar. This software
was designed especially for creating Urdu webpages. The font used was
AlKatib1, and was modified from an Arabic font. While there were many
downloads for Urdu Nigaar, this did not result in many people creating
webpages with it, since viewing Urdu webpages required a download and
installation of the Urdu font; in the days when a large number of
users accessed the Net from public terminals, it was not possible to
download and install software on the computers they were using. In
early 1998, Ali Hasnain Shah of Germany experimented with Dyanamic
Font Technology (Microsoft called it OpenType) to create Urdu webpages
for which users were not required to install Urdu fonts in their
system. He used the font Urdu khat-e-naqsh.
All these methods of creating Urdu webpages used modified Arabic Naksh
fonts as replacements for actualy Urdu fonts. Pakistan Data Management
Services (PDMS) was the first to create a font that was very close to
Urdu Nastaleeq. Known as Urdu98, this font worked on any Windows
operating system, and was a plug-in which was installed the first time
you visited any website that used Urdu98. The installation process
required minimum interaction from the user and the result was
satisfactory. Content rich websites, such as the Daily Jang (an Urdu
newspaper), started using it, but the price of US$250 kept it out of
reach for most users.
The most popular method for making Urdu websites continues to be by
using Urdu .GIF files created by InPage. InPage, developed by Concept
Software, an India-based company, displays the true Nastaleeq font. It
uses a ligature-based system developed by Mirza Ahmed Jamil, a
Pakistani artist. In this system, all possible Urdu words are stored
in different font files. When users type in text, it is matched to the
existing files, and a true nastaleeq rendition is performed on the
screen. Additionally, the ligature system stops users from just
copying and pasting text into any other application. The only way to
export Urdu text created by the earlier versions of InPage is to make
an image file (which is generally a .GIF).
The honor of being the oldest Urdu website around goes to Urdustan.com
(the writer of this article is the founder of urdustan.com) which was
launched in August 1998. However, UrduPoint.com is the most popular
website in terms of traffic. While some news sites such as the Jang
and Nawa-i-Waqt may get more traffic than UrduPoint.com, UrduPoint is
a 'live' website while Urdu newspapers are merely publishing replicas
of their paper editions.
Urdu is known for its quality literary magazines. New magazines
dedicated to the promotion of Urdu will be appearing online shortly.
Urdu magazines, such as Urdustudies.com, published in English by Prof.
Muhammad Umar Memon of the University of Wisconsin are available in
their entirety online for anyone to download and read. Jadeed Adab,
edited by Haider Qureshi of Germany, is the first Urdu magazine to
publish online and paper editions simultaneously. While literary
magazines were slow to join the Internet party they are catching up
fast, with many planning to launch their websites in a few months
Many Urdu writers have their own websites, they communicate with each
other using e-mail and have set up a mailing list called urdu_writers
to discuss ideas and propagation of news related to Urdu. E-mails are
also used by many literary journals to get content for their
magazines. Haider Qureshi, while living in Germany, has been able to
publish his magazine Jadeed Adab by simply using e-mail to communicate
with different contributors. Ahmed Hamesh, the editor of Tashkeel,
which is published from Karachi, also uses e-mail on a daily basis.
ApniUrdu.com, UrduWord.com, and UrduSeek.com makes clever use of
technology for the benefit of Urdu users. All of these sites apply
different ways to provide online translation services. ApniUrdu.com is
really remarkable in that it translates English sentences into Urdu.
Faisal Naseem, the young programmer of ApniUrdu.com, has made his
technology open so that others can benefit from it. This attitude will
help Urdu not only survive but progress, a notion that was unthinkable
just a few years ago.
Considering what Urdu has managed to achieve so far in the last 10
years, it may be safe to expect an even brighter decade for Urdu on
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