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Rupee symbol on your keyboards soon

Last updated on: July 15, 2010 09:09 IST

Rupee symbol on your keyboards soon

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Manu A B in Mumbai

For people used to seeing just one currency symbol (the dollar, $) on the keyboard, this will be a welcome change. It will be just a matter of a few months for India's new rupee symbol to be a part of the software code to be easily accessible to users across the world.

With the government set to announce a new symbol for the rupee soon, software vendors will be bound to make the relevant changes to incorporate the symbol on keyboards and mobile handsets.

"It is very important for India to have a symbol for the rupee. In terms of other currencies, like the dollar or the Euro, there is no ambiguity on how the currency is represented. It will also make calculation easier, especially when you have data on an excel sheet," says Pradeep Parappil, lead product manager, (Windows/Windows Live), Microsoft India.

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Image: Keyboards to incorporate the Re symbol.

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The finalised rupee symbol has to be a part of the software language to be easily accessible to all users. For the rupee symbol to be encoded on any personal computer or computing device, it has to be first encoded in the Unicode standard.

Since computer software recognises numbers, any symbol is represented by a unique number which is provided by the Unicode Consortium.

"The government of India is a member of the Unicode Consortium. The government after it releases the symbol will send a request to the Unicode consortium to incorporate the symbol. The consortium will then seek a public review, to find out if there are any objections. In the case of the rupee symbol, there will not be any objections. Once the code is approved, the operating software vendors will include it in their next release. The number of strokes in the new design does not matter as the code is a composite unit," Parappil explains.


Image: Rupee to get a symbol soon.

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Rupee symbol on your keyboards soon

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It is just a simple change that will have a great impact, say software developers. "The rupee on the keyboard will be an important change. The business opportunity will limited with vendors waiting to make changes at their normal refresh cycles," says Ravishankar Kuppuswamy, design manager, Intel.

India follows the INSCRIPT standard. The Indian Standard Code for Information Interchange (ISCII) is the character code for Indian languages that originate from Brahmi script. ISCII was evolved by a standardization committee under the Department of Electronics during 1986-88, and adopted by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) in 1991.

Unlike Unicode, ISCII is an 8-bit encoding that uses escape sequences to announce the particular Indic script represented by a following coded character sequence.


Image: Rupee symbol to be part of the software code.
Photographs: Reuters.
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Rupee symbol on your keyboards soon

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The common INSCRIPT keyboard overlay allows typing of all the ten Indian scripts. In India, we mostly get the US keyboard layout with the dollar symbol. The new change can accommodate both the rupee and the dollar symbol.

The position of the keys can also be changed as per the government's diktat. "Essentially, a new keymap (keyboard to letter mapping) will have to be defined and used. That such a keymap becomes standard for all keyboards sold in India would probably require government regulation," says Bishal Lachhiramaka, founder & CEO, Drishti Software Solutions.


Image: Keyboard with Hindi letters.

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"For new keyboards to incorporate the symbol, the government will have to issue a notification to vendors. Then the vendors can opt to change the layout of the keyboard. We also have an onscreen keyboard for different languages. Once the Unicode is released, onscreen or soft keyboards can incorporate this change. The current software is capable of incorporating any change so this is not any issue," explains Parappil.

"However, this is not a big business opportunity, it's more of a change that will appeal to all users," he says.

However, Bishal says; "It is definitely a market for Indian keyboard manufacturers as vendors would soon import keyboards on public acceptability and demand of India-centric keyboard layout."

During the presentation on the rupee symbol, the shortlisted designers -- one of whom will be the lucky one to have his/her design used as the symbol for a rupee -- had explained to the finance ministry how the rupee symbol would be compatible with various fonts.

The finalised designs are simple, easy to write and based on the Devanagari script.


Image: A character map.

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