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What is Pango?

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  • Written By: Ken Black
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2016
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Pango is open source software that seeks to create a software framework so that international text characters can be electronically rendered. Though most of those who speak English may not realize it, many languages are not represented or are underrepresented on the Internet and in other software applications. Mostly, that is due to software applications not supporting characters in those languages.

Pango is a combination of two different words which naturally, given the mission of the software, come from two different languages. Pan is a Greek word meaning "all" and go is a Japanese word meaning "languages." Indeed, that is what Pango hopes to support -- all languages.

Pango hopes to aid those who speak underrepresented languages by creating software that can render nearly every language in the world electronically. The job is not easy. Many languages have their own set of peculiarities that must be taken into account. The code must be written in such a way that it does not exclude any languages, or at least excludes as few as possible.

It should be noted that Pango does not translate text from one language to another. It simply provides a foundation for which text can be displayed in an electronic format. In some ways, Pango can be compared to a billboard. It serves as the medium by which text and graphics can be seen. However, someone still must come along and apply the text and graphics to the billboard in order to convey a message.

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As open source software, Pango does not depend on a profit to continue its mission. If it did, it may have never been created. This is because there may not ever be enough of a demand for the software to render a profit.

For example, if a software program is created for an English-speaking audience, it has the potential to be bought and used by hundreds of millions of people. In fact, the number of English speakers, either native or non-native, is estimated at 500 million to more than 1 billion, depending on a number of different factors, such how literacy is measured. That represents a significant potential market for software applications. The larger the market, the better chance of getting a good return on an investment.

However, a language that may only be spoken by 10,000 to 20,000 people represents a very small market from which software companies will likely never see a profit. Therefore, these languages are ignored. Pango seeks to change that by making all sorts of applications available in those languages.

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