Unicode provides a universal character encoding so that scripts, even complex ones, can be viewed across all modern computers, platforms, programs, and languages.
Enabling Nepali Input
In macOS (or Mac OS X) There is a built-in keyboard for Nepali Devanagari input. See below for a “romanized” layout that is more natural for Westerners.
To enable Nepali input in macOS, go to “System Preferences,” then the preference pane for “Keyboard” (in older versions, “Language & Text” or “International”), then the “Input Sources” tab. Add (“+”) an input source, “Nepali.” You should select the optional checkbox “Show input menu in menu bar” to be able to change the language easily from the menu bar. When you turn on this menu, you can also enable the helpful “Keyboard Viewer” by going to “Keyboard” tab (in the “Keyboard” preference pane). Select the “Show viewers for keyboard, emoji, and symbols in menu bar” (in older versions, “Show Keyboard & Character Viewers in menu bar”). Now you can select Nepali from the menu bar icon. You can also select “Show keyboard viewer” from the same menu bar icon to see how Nepali Devanagari is mapped to your keyboard. You can click and insert Nepali characters from the viewer if necessary.
Adding a Nepali Phonetic Keyboard
A phonetic (“romanized”) layout is available to help Westerners (the ‘क’ is mapped to ‘k’, ‘ख’ to ‘shift + k’, etc.). Using the phonetic layout is a much more natural way to learn to type Nepali. To use the phonetic layout, download the zip file attached to this post. The phonetic keyboard layout is taken from http://suvash.github.io/nepali-romanized-pro/ but with the macOS default icon for Nepali and a small correction. This keyboard in turn is based on the standard set by the Kathmandu library, Madan Puraskar Pustakalaya.
Install the custom “Nepali – Phonetic” keyboard layout for macOS:
- Download and unzip the attachment. In it are two files: the layout and the icon for the menu bar.
- Move the two files into the “Keyboard Layouts” folder in the “Library” folder.
- To make the layout accessible to all users on the computer, go to the root “Library” folder at /Library, or,
- To make the new layout accessible only to the current user, move the files into the hidden “Library” folder of your home directory.
- Find the hidden “Library” folder by opening Finder, holding the option key and clicking the “Go” menu; “Library” is listed there.
- A dialogue box may appear to authenticate the move; enter username and password of an administrator.
- You may need to log out and back in (or restart the computer) for changes to take effect.
- Now follow the directions above in “Enabling Nepali Input” and enable “Nepali – Phonetic” instead of “Nepali” as an input source in “System Preferences.” In newer systems, custom keyboards like this appear under “Other” in Input Sources.
Using the Nepali Keyboard
Change the input keyboard by selecting “Nepali” (or “Nepali – Phonetic”) from the menu bar icon. The keyboard shortcut is control + space. Select “Show keyboard viewer” in the menu bar icon to familiarize yourself with the layout (see directions above to enable it). You can see how pressing “shift” and “caps lock” affect the input. The Keyboard Viewer will float above other applications while it is open. If you have not enabled the menu bar option, you will have to change the keyboard layout to “Nepali – Phonetic” within System Preferences.
Devanagari and Nepali-Specific Fonts
Devanagari Unicode fonts are available on Mac systems. OS X 10.10 (Yosemite) and up uses “Kohinoor Devanagari” as its Devanagari default, and there is also “ITF Devanagari” and “Shree Devanagari 714.” Previous versions (10.2 and up), used “Devanagari MT” as the default and also had “Arial Unicode MS” as a fallback. The computer will use the default Devanagari font automatically when you select Nepali input and begin to type (if another Devanagari Unicode font is not already selected).
In older versions, the Asian language kit may need to be installed from installation disks. You will know that your computer needs this step if in place of Unicode text such as ‘नेपाली,’ there are only empty squares. The default browser, Safari, needs no special adjustment to view Unicode pages. Not every word processing application can handle complex Unicode scripts, like Devanagari conjuncts, or half-letters. Applications that are ready for complex Unicode scripts include TextEdit, Pages, Word (2016), OpenOffice and LibreOffice.
Devanagari is used for many South Asian languages. The Unicode fonts are not specific to Nepali, but are still acceptable for writing Nepali. Some differences between generic Devanagari and Nepali include the “झ” character and some numbers. Darjeeling-area Nepali uses the generic Devanagari characters, like Hindi. Devanagari Unicode fonts also include Sanskrit characters which are not used in Nepali writing. If you are looking for a Unicode font that has all the Devanagari variants specific to Nepali, see the Annapurna SIL Nepal font. There are also Nepali-specific Devanagari Unicode fonts at South Asia Language Resource Center.
- 6/10/19: Corrected shortcut to change the input keyboard from ‘command + space’ to ‘control + space.’
- 3/22/18: Updated link to original keyboard layout.
- 11/13/17: Updated links to external sources and clarified the steps to install the phonetic keyboard.
- 10/2/16: Updated directions for macOS Sierra and external links to source files and SIL Annapurna font page.
- 8/17/15: Corrected keyboard layout (removed unnecessary space before ृ) and changed name from “Nepali Romanized” to “Nepali – Phonetic” to match system.
- 12/11/14: Attached archive file of keyboard layout (from http://suvash.github.io/nepali-romanized-pro/) with default OS X menu icon for Nepali.
- 12/3/14: Apple updated the default Devanagari fonts which work well for Nepali (see http://m10lmac.blogspot.com/2014/12/os-x–1010-yosemite-new-devanagari-fonts.html).