The Urdu Project


A cross-disciplinary attempt to better represent Urdu in software


An Urdu keyboard that makes sense


Keyboards for Urdu conventionally have the same number of keys as a normal QWERTY keyboard. This is non-sensical because Urdu has more letters than English. Further, the standardized layout promulgated by the Pakistani government maps the Urdu alphabet onto QWERTY phonetically.

This builds into the technology the assumption that Urdu computing requires a familiarity with English computing. This is only one in a series of compromises made in the history of computing, typewriting, and printing in Urdu, other languages in the Arabic script, and non-Latin languages broadly.

The result is an inescapable belief in Pakistan today that English is the language of computing, implying that Urdu will never be sufficient for computing. Of course the reality is that computing is not sufficient for Urdu. And this project attempts to challenge not just technological designs, but social conceptions of localized technology with an outreach initiative to test and provide language models for the keyboard. Promoting not just better language technology but rethought ownership of technology that reflects and promotes a renewed cultural, social and historical awareness in our practice.

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Developer Resources


These first projects have been chosen because the work required to realize them produces intermediate outputs that can be open-sourced for customers and software developers to put to creative uses.

These include libraries to manipulate the Arabic script, interface guidelines, resources to use Urdu and other languages on your computer, and language models that will be in the public domain.