Zawgyi font

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FoundryArthouse (Mandalay)
Date released4 December 2007

Zawgyi font is a predominant typeface used for Burmese language text on websites. It is also known as Zawgyi-One or zawgyi1 font although updated versions of this font were not named Zawgyi-two. Prior to 2019, it was the most popular font on Burmese websites.

It is a font with Burmese characters implemented in the Burmese block of Unicode but in a non-compliant way.

Unicode incompatibility (ad hoc font encodings)[edit]

Burmese script is a complex text layout script, whereby the positions and shapes of its graphemes vary based on context. The support for complex text rendering for personal computers did not arrive until Windows XP Service Pack 2 in 2004, and a Burmese font utilizing this technology did not exist until 2005.[1][2] Furthermore, there were significant revisions in Unicode's implementation of Burmese script up until Unicode 5.1 in 2008.[3] Compounding the fact that Myanmar experienced sanctions from the West,[4] this had resulted in much of the Burmese localization technology being developed locally without external cooperation.

Numerous attempts at creating fonts with Burmese support were made in the 2000s, but they were developed as Unicode fonts that were only partially Unicode compliant.[2] Some of the codepoints for Burmese script were implemented as specified in Unicode, but others were not. Therefore, these fonts became incompatible with Unicode.[5] This is referred to as ad hoc font encodings by the Unicode Consortium.[6] With the advent of mobile phones, manufacturers such as Samsung and Huawei simply replaced the Unicode compliant Burmese system fonts with their Zawgyi equivalents.[1]

There is significant shortcomings in using ad hoc font encodings. As a separate encoding, the situation leads to garbled text being shown between users of Zawgyi and Unicode.[7] Because the Zawgyi font encoding was not implemented as efficiently as specified in Unicode,[6] it had to occupy more codepoints than what is allocated for Burmese. As such, Zawgyi encoding took over the Unicode block reserved for the languages of Myanmar.[1][2] In Zawgyi, the same word can be encoded in multiple different ways, making Zawgyi text corpus difficult to search and analyze.[8] It is also difficult to sort Zawgyi text.[8] In addition, using Unicode would ease the implementation of natural language processing technologies.[2]

The Myanmar government designated October 1, 2019 as "U-Day" to officially switch to Unicode.[4] The full transition was expected by some to take two years.[9]


International Components for Unicode supports conversion of Zawgyi-encoded data to conformant Unicode by means of the Zawgyi-my transliterator.[10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Hotchkiss, Griffin (March 23, 2016). "Battle of the fonts". Frontier Myanmar. Retrieved 24 December 2019. With the release of Windows XP service pack 2, complex scripts were supported, which made it possible for Windows to render a Unicode-compliant Burmese font such as Myanmar1 (released in 2005). ... Myazedi, BIT, and later Zawgyi, circumscribed the rendering problem by adding extra code points that were reserved for Myanmar's ethnic languages. Not only does the re-mapping prevent future ethnic language support, it also results in a typing system that can be confusing and inefficient, even for experienced users. ... Huawei and Samsung, the two most popular smartphone brands in Myanmar, are motivated only by capturing the largest market share, which means they support Zawgyi out of the box.
  2. ^ a b c d Sin, Thant (7 September 2019). "Unified under one font system as Myanmar prepares to migrate from Zawgyi to Unicode". Rising Voices. Retrieved 24 December 2019. Standard Myanmar Unicode fonts were never mainstreamed unlike the private and partially Unicode compliant Zawgyi font. ... Unicode will improve natural language processing
  3. ^ Hosken, Martin (January 25, 2007). "Representing Myanmar in Unicode" (PDF). Unicode Consortium. Retrieved 24 December 2019.
  4. ^ a b "Unicode in, Zawgyi out: Modernity finally catches up in Myanmar's digital world | The Japan Times". The Japan Times. Sep 27, 2019. Archived from the original on 22 August 2020. Retrieved 24 December 2019. Oct. 1 is "U-Day," when Myanmar officially will adopt the new system. ... Microsoft and Apple helped other countries standardize years ago, but Western sanctions meant Myanmar lost out.
  5. ^ "Why Unicode is Needed". Google Code: Zawgyi Project. Retrieved 31 October 2013.
  6. ^ a b "Myanmar Scripts and Languages". Frequently Asked Questions. Unicode Consortium. Retrieved 24 December 2019. "UTF-8" technically does not apply to ad hoc font encodings such as Zawgyi.
  7. ^ LaGrow, Nick; Pruzan, Miri (Sep 26, 2019). "Integrating autoconversion: Facebook's path from Zawgyi to Unicode - Facebook Engineering". Facebook Engineering. Facebook. Retrieved 25 December 2019. It makes communication on digital platforms difficult, as content written in Unicode appears garbled to Zawgyi users and vice versa. ... In order to better reach their audiences, content producers in Myanmar often post in both Zawgyi and Unicode in a single post, not to mention English or other languages.
  8. ^ a b Watkins, Justin (Nov 2, 2016). "Why we should stop Zawgyi in its tracks. It harms others and ourselves. Use Unicode!" (PDF). SOAS, University of London. Retrieved 24 December 2019. (1) Use of Zawgyi encroaches on the opportunities for other languages of Myanmar to develop in electronic form - Unicode does not! (2) Zawgyi does not conform to international computing standards - Unicode does! (3) Zawgyi cannot sort correctly: useless for storing data - Unicode can be used for anything! (4) Can store the same word in several different ways: useless for searching, processing, analysing text - Unicode can be used for anything
  9. ^ Saw Yi Nanda (21 Nov 2019). "Myanmar switch to Unicode to take two years: app developer". The Myanmar Times. Retrieved 24 December 2019.
  10. ^ "Myanmar Tools Python Documentation". Google, LLC.

External links[edit]