Tibetan Machine Uni

THL Toolbox > Tibetan Scripts, Fonts & Related Issues > Tibetan Fonts > Tibetan Machine Uni

Tibetan Machine Uni: An OpenType, Unicode Tibetan Font

Contributor(s): THL Staff.

Special note

It has come to our attention that Tony Duff has made a number of erroneous and misleading criticisms of the work THL has done on the Tibet Machine Uni font to a mailing list that he runs. We will be posting a systematic reply to the comments that recipients have kindly forwarded to us; we have no way of course of responding to comments that we have not seen. We have no interest in engaging in a conflict with Mr. Duff, but we also feel it is important to respond when erroneous and misleading comments are made about our work.


external link: Download Latest Version, extract and copy the font file to your system fonts folder (e.g. c::windows:fonts:). If you have installed a previous version of Tibetan Machine Uni, delete that version from your fonts folder before copying the new version of Tibetan Machine Uni. The font can co-exist with the non-Unicode Tibetan Machine and / or Tibetan Machine Web fonts.

You can also external link: Download a version of the TMU font for viewing OpenType tables in VOLT.

Both fonts are governed by the General Public License (GPL) included with each download.




The Tibetan & Himalayan Library is pleased to make available the alpha release of the Unicode character based Tibetan Machine Uni OpenType font for writing Tibetan, Dzongkha and Ladakhi in dbu can script with full support for the Sanskrit combinations found in chos skad texts.

This font is based on the Tibetan Machine font originally designed and developed by Tony Duff of the external link: Tibetan Computer Company over many years, the rights of which were purchased from him by the external link: Trace Foundation in order to make it freely available under the terms of the external link: Gnu General Public License.

OpenType tables and more than 2,000 additional glyphs were added to the original font by external link: Nathaniel Garson and external link: Christopher Fynn under the auspices of THL. This new OpenType version of the font contains almost 4,000 glyphs and can generate over 20,000 different combinations.

The Tibetan Machine Uni font was developed to enable external link: Unicode based Tibetan script computing on Microsoft Windows, Java, Unix and Linux platforms - or any platform with an OpenType shaping engine supporting Tibetan script.

On Windows XP & 2000 the font currently works with Office 2003 sp1 - though you will also need to install the THL EWTS Unicode keyboard or a another method of entering Tibetan characters. For information on using the font with other applications please see: Instructions for using Tibetan Unicode in Windows.

The latest version of Tibetan Machine Uni (version 1.901) is freely downloadable from external link: THL or external link: SourceForge. Source files are also available external link: here. To send comments, report bugs, or request feature enhancements, please go external link: here.

The rough, unedited version of notes about the creation of TMU may be found external link: here and a list of the python macros used for creating the font in Fontlab can be found external link: here.

License & Copyright

The Tibetan Machine Uni font is licensed under the terms of the external link: GNU General Public License. Please read that license carefully before downloading the font software.

The Tibetan Machine Uni font is Copyright © 2000, by Tony Duff; portions Copyright © 2004 by the Tibetan and Himalayan Library. This font is free software; you can redistribute it and/or modify it under the terms of the external link: GNU General Public License as published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later version.

This font software is distributed in the hope that it will be useful, but WITHOUT ANY WARRANTY; without even the implied warranty of MERCHANTABILITY or FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE. See the external link: GNU General Public License for more details.

You should find a copy of the GNU General Public License along with the font software on external link: GNU's website. If not, write to the Free Software Foundation, Inc., 59 Temple Place - Suite 330, Boston, MA 02111-1307, USA.


  • Platform: Windows
  • Number of Files: 1
  • Number of Glyphs: 3540 (alpha version), 5109 (version 1)
  • Format: Open Type
  • Encoding: Unicode
  • Styles: Normal
  • Font Editor: FontLab
  • Copyright: Portions Copyright 2007 Tibetan and Himalayan Library (THL).
  • License: external link: http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/gpl.html
  • Availability: Public Domain
  • Designer (Tibetan Glyphs): external link: Tony Duff
  • Designer (Latin Glyphs): (URW)++ Design & Development.
  • Creator: external link: Chris Fynn
  • Creator: external link: Than Garson
  • Year Created: 2004 (alpha), 2007 (version 1)


Tibet Machine Uni began by taking the Tibet Machine typeface originally created by Tony Duff over the course of many years, and then was significantly transformed from 2004-2007 with many hours of work by Chris Fynn and Nathaniel Grove to become the font it now is. In this process, many glphys have been added, and many changes made to the original Tibet Machine font that affect its look. While THL has tried to remain true to the original design, the changes have been extensive. One rationale driving these changes is that Tibetan fonts are now increasingly used for Web pages, which is not a factor previous developers had to worry about overly much. A few changes have been noted below.

Baseline in Tibetan Machine

We moved the baseline up in Tibetan Machine Uni to match the height of the Latin glyphs. There is indeed a hanging baseline tag in the OpenType spec for scripts like Tibetan so that if you reduce the font size of some of the Tibetan text the glyphs should move up to match the (top) baseline of the surrounding larger Tibetan glyphs. Unfortunately this aspect of OpenType is not yet supported anywhere (unless it is in Vista) and there are not yet any are practical tools to implement this feature in a font. Of course this is something which should be fixed as soon as practical and the results tested to see if it works -we have always been aware of it.

Previously Tibet Machine had the baseline set so that the top of Tibetan characters at the position of the bottom of Latin Glyphs (which is also incorrect). Though this makes it easier to format Tibetan texts (pecha) it is impractical in a font which also contains Latin glyphs, and impractical to use in web pages where Latin and Tibetan script text is mixed. The previous design appears to have focused on serving the formatting of pecha, whereas with TMU we are trying to address web pages as well.


Space was reduced for similar reasons - so that it would work with the Latin glyphs as well. You can always insert two spaces to get larger spacing for Tibetan and there are now also a number of space characters of different sizes included in the font which may be used. It may be possible to automatically have a larger space with Tibetan than with Latin by including a contextual substitution for space based on the surrounding glyphs.


The size of the glyphs was initially about the same as the original Tibet Machine font. We ultimately changed it so that "12pt" Tibetan more or less visually matched 12pt Latin type in a typical Latin font like Times New Roman after consistent feedback that the glyphs were too small. This is intended to help with Web pages where it is sometimes difficult to control the size of a font and Tibetan would have displayed much too small.

Non-Standard Tibetan Stacks

The Tibetan Machine Uni font was developed to display a finite number of pre-composed stacks. This is a large number, approximately 3000-4000. These stacks cover the vast majority of cases except for the most obscure combinations found in places such as the very long Sanskrit mantra stacks, such as is found in the Kalachakra tantra system. All the stacks in TMU are pre-made and so if a combination is not already created in the font, it cannot render it. We chose this approach rather than building each stack on the fly because it provides quicker rendering and was more feasible given our limited resources. This is the approach that most Tibetan unicode fonts take.

The other more comprehensive approach is to build each stack on the fly or to add that capability to TMU for glyphs that are not precomposed. The difficulty with this approach is that each letter in the stack needs to be resized and repositioned as the stack grows. Finally there is the issue of line height. The constraint of line height only allows a certain number of characters to be displayed legibly. Some of the very long stacks transliteration Sanskrit mantras from the Kalachakra Tantra system, for example, are probably beyond this limit.

Provided for unrestricted use by the external link: Tibetan and Himalayan Library