The need for a simple encoding scheme that used only keys available on an ordinary keyboard was felt in the early days of the RMIM newsgroup where lyrics and trivia about Indian popular movie songs was being discussed. In parallel was a Sanskrit Mailing list that quickly felt the need of an exact and unambiguous encoding. ITRANS emerged on the RMIM newsgroup as early as 1994. This was spearheaded by Avinash Chopde,who developed a transliteration package. Its latest version is v5.34. The package also enables automatic conversion of the Roman script to the Indic version.
ITRANS was in use for the encoding of Indian etexts - it is wider in scope than the Harvard-Kyoto scheme for Devanagari transliteration, with which it coincides largely, but not entirely. The early Sanskrit mailing list of the early 1990s, almost same time as RMIM, developed into the full blown Sanskrit Documents project and now uses ITRANS extensively, with thousands of encoded texts. With the wider implementation of Unicode, the traditional IAST is used increasingly also for electronic texts.
Like the Harvard-Kyoto scheme, the ITRANS romanization does not use any diacritical sign not found on the common English-language computer keyboard, and it is quite easy to read and pick up.