A couple of posts ago I mentioned that I had updated the Thai picker to version 16. I have now updated a few more. For ease of reference, I will list here the main changes between version 16 pickers and previous versions back to version 12.

  • Fonts rather than graphics. The main selection table in version 12 used images to represent characters. These have now gone, in favour of fonts. Most pickers include a web font download to ensure that you will see the characters. This reduces the size and download time significantly when you open a picker. Other source code changes have reduced the size of the files even further, so that the main file is typically only a small fraction of the size it was in version 14.

    It is also now possible, in version 16, to change the font of the main selection table and the font size.

  • UI. The whole look and feel of the user interface has changed from version 14 onwards, and includes useful links and explanations off the top of the normal work space.

    In particular, the vertical menu, introduced in version 14, has been adjusted so that input features can be turned on and off independently, and new panels appear alongside the others, rather than toggling the view from one mode to another. So, for example, you can have hints and shape-based selectors turned on at the same time. When something is switched on, its label in the menu turns orange, and the full text of the option is followed by a check mark.

  • Transcription panels. Some pickers had one or more transcription views in versions below 16. These enable you to construct some non-Latin text when working from a Latin transcription. In version 16 these alternate views are converted to panels that can be displayed at the same time as other information. They can be shown or hidden from the vertical menu. When there is ambiguity as to which characters to use, a pop up displays alternatives. Click on one to insert it into the output. There is also a panel containing non-ASCII Latin characters, which can be used when typing Latin transcriptions directly into the main output area. This panel is now hidden by default, but can be easily shown from the vertical menu.

  • Automated transcription. Version 16 pickers carry forward, and in some cases add, automated transcription converters. In some cases these are intended to generate only an approximation to the needed transcription, in order to speed up the transcription process. In other cases, they are complete. (See the notes for the picker to tell which is which.) Where there is ambiguity about how to transcribe a sequence of characters, the interface offers you a choice from alternatives. Just click on the character you want and it will replace all the options proposed. In some cases, particularly South-East Asian scripts, the text you want to transcribe has to be split into syllables first, using spaces and or hyphens. Where this is necessary, a condense button it provided, to quickly strip out the separators after the transcription is done.

  • Layout The default layout of the main selection table has usually been improved, to make it easier to locate characters. Rarely used, deprecated, etc, characters appear below the main table, rather than to the right.

  • Hints Very early versions of the pickers used to automatically highlight similar and easily confusable characters when you hovered over a character in the main selection table. This feature is being reintroduced as standard for version 16 pickers. It can be turned on or off from the vertical menu. This is very helpful for people who don’t know the script well.

  • Shape-based selection. In previous versions the shape-based view replaced the default view. In version 16 the shape selectors appear below the main selection table and highlight the characters in that table. This arrangement has several advantages.

  • Applying actions to ranges of text. When clicking on the Codepoints and Escapes buttons, it is possible to apply the action to a highighted range of characters, rather than all the characters in the output area. It is also possible to transcribe only highlighted text, when using one of the automated transcription features.

  • Phoneme bank. When composing text from a Latin transcription in previous versions you had to make choices about phonetics. Those choices were stored on the UI to speed up generation of phonetic transcriptions in addition to the native text, but this feature somewhat complicated the development and use of the transcription feature. It has been dropped in version 16. Hopefully, the transcription panels and automated transcription features will be useful enough in future.

  • Font grid. The font grid view was removed in version 16. It is of little value when the characters are already displayed using fonts.

About pickers: Pickers allow you to quickly create phrases in a script by clicking on Unicode characters arranged in a way that aids their identification. Pickers are likely to be most useful if you don’t know a script well enough to use the native keyboard. The arrangement of characters also makes it much more usable than a regular character map utility. See the list of available pickers.