How to Type Pāḷi and Sanskrit

Here are two methods for inputting romanised Pāḷi and Sanskrit. There are undoubtedly other excellent ones out there, but these are the two with which I am familiar. For fonts, as not all font sets have all the letters, you can find some to install here (auto-download) and here (Bhikkhu Pesala’s fonts; in fact, this blog’s preferred font is Verajja Serif). Search engines will serve up hosts of others.

WINDOWS: This input method comes courtesy of Anandajoti Bhikkhu and can be used across applications. Download this file and unzip the Unicode-Input.exe file to the desktop. It can either be launched on an as-needed basis, or added to the Startup Programs list, meaning it launches automatically when the computer is booted, to be available as and when. Included is a text file listing the various key combinations to input the characters, copied here for convenience:

alt + a, i, u gives macron over a, i, u (ā, ī, ū)
alt + t, d, n, l, s, h gives dot under t, d, n, l, s, h (ṭ, ḍ, ṇ, ḷ, ṣ, ḥ)
alt + m gives dot over m (ṁ)
ctrl + alt + m gives dot under m (ṃ)

alt + j (jay) gives tilde over n (ñ)
ctrl + alt + n gives dot over n (ṅ)

win + s gives acute over s (ś)
alt + r gives ring under r (r̥)
win + r gives dot under r (ṛ)

For CAPITALS use shift, i.e.
alt + shift + a, i, & u gives macron over A, I & U, etc. (Ā, Ī, Ū)


LINUX: This method takes a few more steps to set up, but it also allows for input of other languages. It should work across all Linux distributions, but for sure it works on Ubuntu, Linux Mint, and Bodhi Linux (all Ubuntu derivatives anyway).

  1. Install IBus, IBus-m17n, IBus-table. If you want other language input methods, you may need to install the respective IBus tables here as well.
  2. Copy and paste everything between the lines into a text editor then save the file as pa-translit.mim

    ;;; <li> pa-translit.mim
    ;;; Input method for Pali transliteration using the ITRANS scheme.(input-method t pa-translit)(title “pa-translit”)


    (“aa” “ā”)
    (“AA” “Ā”)
    (“ii” “ī”)
    (“II” “Ī”)
    (“oo” “ō”)
    (“OO” “Ō”)
    (“uu” “ū”)
    (“UU” “Ū”)
    (“.r” “ṛ”)
    (“.R” “Ṛ”)
    (“.rr” “ṝ”)
    (“.RR” “Ṝ”)
    (“.l” “ḷ”)
    (“.L” “Ḷ”)
    (“.ll” “ḹ”)
    (“.LL” “Ḹ”)
    (“.M” “ṁ”)
    (“.m” “ṃ”)
    (“.h” “ḥ”)
    (“.H” “Ḥ”)
    (“;n” “ṅ”)
    (“;N” “Ṅ”)
    (“~n” “ñ”)
    (“~N” “Ñ”)
    (“.t” “ṭ”)
    (“.T” “Ṭ”)
    (“.d” “ḍ”)
    (“.D” “Ḍ”)
    (“.n” “ṇ”)
    (“.N” “Ṇ”)
    (“;s” “ś”)
    (“;S” “Ś”)
    (“.s” “ṣ”)
    (“.S” “Ṣ”)


  3. Copy that file to /usr/share/m17n
  4. Go to Application > Preferences > Keyboard Input Methods. This will launch the daemon. (You might want to add “Ibus” to start-up applications via the settings panel)
  5. Click on the keyboard icon in the taskbar
  6. Choose Preferences.
  7. In the field “Enable or disable”, you should already see the option “Control+space”, plus a couple of others. If not, click the box next to this field and choose that option. This is how the keyboard is launched
  8. Under Fonts and Style, I prefer “Horizontal” and “When Active”, which may be the defaults, but you can change them later to suit your preferences.
  9. Click the “Input Method” tab
  10. Check the “Customize Active Input Methods” box
  11. From the dropdown menu, select “Other – pa-translit (m17n)”, Other languages can also be chosen, Thai, Chinese (pinyin, chewing, etc). The first language in the list is the default language.
  12. Open an application, hit CTRL+Space Bar at the same time, and you should see a little pop up tool on the lower right side of the monitor. Clicking on the cog icon will give you the input options. Select and type away!

Please note, a few years ago, I had problems using this in OpenOffice and LibreOffice, so I switched to AbiWord. The issue could have been solved by now, but I don’t know, so please, please, do not ask for assistance to get it working. I cannot help and would only do what you would end up doing – Google-ing for a solution. If, on the other hand, you know how to fix the issue, please include it in the comments!

Do you already have a favourite method? Please tell us in the comments below.