Vol. 5 Num 620 Sat. February 25, 2006  

Updated Avro Keyboard, Bangaliana Dictionary

ICT turns more Bangla savvy

Patrotism is certainly on the rise among Bangladeshis. So emanate some recent products bearing the hallmarks of the nation -- its traditions, heritage, culture and language.

The trend is seen in the ICT sector, too, with software firms and information and communication technologists dedicated to developing user-friendly Bangla software and applications.

The latest Bangla interface to join the Bangla ICT revolution is Avro Keyboard 3.0.0. Designed for the Windows operating system, it is the first of its kind to follow the Unicode standard entirely.

"Our key objective through this software is to generate awareness about Unicode," said Mehdi Hasan, author of the keyboard.

The first version of Avro Keyboard was released on March 26, 2003, followed by nine updated editions until February 9 last, Hasan told the Star Tech.

"The latest version supports all popular methods of Bangla typing, including English to Bangla phonetic typing, Uni Bijoy for Bijoy lovers, Bornona, Jatiyo [designed by Bangladesh Computer Council] and Avro Easy. Each of the methods strictly follow the Unicode 4.1 standard for Bangla typing," he explained.

Hasan said Avro Keyboard 3.0.0 supports the Bangla language styles of both Bangladesh and India along with Assamese as the 'Input Language' or 'Input Locale'. "Besides, the first-time users will also benefit from a virtual keyboard and a global one provided with the software."

But, the software has its limitations too.

"It's compatible with any system that supports Unicode. As such, the software may not work in Windows 95, 98 and Me," he said.

However, he said it would work smoothly in latter versions of the Windows like XP, 2003, Vista etc.

Despite this restriction, Avro has been downloaded for 50,000 times since its first release. "The latest version, like its predecessors, is still free. Whoever is interested can download it free from," Hasan informed.

Microsoft has added the software to their online solution directory for Indic language input. It has also been verified and added to the 'Useful Resources' list of the Unicode Consortium.

The software also boasts of an online forum with a fast increasing membership.

Besides Avro, the Bangaliana Interactive Dictionary has also created quite a stir in the last few years through their Bangla to English dictionary.

The latest update in their IT product includes a Bangla to Bangla and an English to Bangla dictionary.

The original version, Bangaliana Interactive Dictionary BE 1.50, was released on August 14, 2003. It had over 30,000 words in its database and an efficient search engine for the alphabetical list.

The dictionary also had a built-in interface where users could add Bangla words. Writing tools like a virtual Bangla keyboard and an explained Bangla conjunct menu were also available.

"We have improved some of these features and excluded others in our latest update of the dictionary," said Bangaliana Managing Director Omar Osman.

Besides a virtual keyboard, the latest version includes a list of 200 conjunct words. According to him, "The search engine will help type conjunct words properly and efficiently."

The words in the three dictionaries are sorted in ascending order. "We have excluded the notepad feature, which was provided with our previous dictionary. We hope to add the feature again in our later updates," said Osman.

The dictionary has the facility to print or save the words in pdf format. Users can also hear the pronunciation of the English words, in UK or USA accent. They can easily access any word chosen earlier using the 'Favorite' option.

Osman said this latest version will be available online from February 24. "Interested people abroad can purchase this update from at a discount price of $15, which may soon rise to $20."

For local buyers, the price is only Tk 500.

"The prices are different, because we need to generate funds for future updates. But our users abroad are not really losers in this case. They will be provided with free upgrades or updates for two years from the purchase," Osman argued.

It is apparent from such efforts of these young developers and entrepreneurs that by using the Bangla in software and applications properly, the ICT sector can achieve a success it has always sought.

Hopefully, they will get the funds, market access and exposure, and encouragement necessary to ensure the development of this field.

A screen-shot of the Bangla-to-English interface of Bangaliana Interactive dictionary XP 2005, which also has two other interfaces, Bangla-to-Bangla and English-to-Bangla