Several resources for electronic reporoduction of Sanskrit writing are included below. The first step is to find a good Sanskrit font that you you would like to use in your compositions.
These fonts fall into two categories: devanagari (Sanskrit symbols) and Transliteration (The Roman alphabet with diacritical marks to indicate sanskrit sounds.)
Purists definitely use devanagari far more than Transliteration. Transliteration does contain all the components to perfectly reproduce Sanskrit speech. Since it uses the Roman alphabet it does help to make Sanskrit more accessable to beginners. The problem with Transliteration is that we already have existing impressions of the sounds associated with our native alphabet. Because of this, Sanskrit written in transliteration inevitably leads to incorrect pronunciation.
Learning devanagari symbols is far superior for Sanskrit studies because we have no existing impressions of the sounds that the letters represent.
The most simple and easy-to-use method of Sanskrit typography is the Itranslator program offered by the Omkarananda Ashram. It is a free program and can be found here.
There are some limitations with the Itranslator program. The Sanskrit text is a little quirky when copying/pasting into MS Word documents. Some of the punctuation marks like visarga and anusvara don’t show up correctly when transferred. The devanagari font also isn’t the most pleasant looking font, another point to consider. There is also a factor of speed. When typing a long document it can be much faster to type the Sanskrit characters in MS Word using a keyboard reconfiguration utility. (More on this below.)
For the beginner, Itranslator is fun and easy to use. At some point, the needs of the student will probably outgrow the program.
Reconfiguring the keyboard to type a devanagari font provides much greater speed and fewer errors than using Itranslator. When typing large documents this method is especially effective. Most fonts will be mapped to use the keys on your keyboard by default, but this presents a number of challanges, mainly due to the fact that the Sanskrit alphabet has 56 characters and a much larger number of characters that are combinations of these 56. In addition, the key combinations using the shift and ctrl keys are often difficult to remember since they were determinted by the author of the font and for their use of the font. The solution to this problem is reconfiguring your keyboard layout to specifically fit your own needs and preferences. This can be done using free software programs and using the directions below.
Custom Keyboard Information: Instructions on how to create custom keyboard layouts (pdf download 1.2MB)
In order to use the process outlined in the PDF file, two software programs are needed:
You will also need to have at least one Sanskrit font installed on your computer. You can start by using the “Sanskrit 2003” font that comes with the Itranslator program. You will probably also want to experiment with different fonts when you are comfortable with this one.
Here are a couple of places to find Sanskrit fonts online: