FreeBSD is a great platform for many multilingual tasks. What can be done to make it even better?
Having enough fonts in ports to display any wikipedia article may be considered the first milestone. As a test case, rendering http://meta.wikimedia.org/wiki/List_of_Wikipedias in Firefox should be enough. As of 20 May 2008 there is enough fonts in ports to render the page completely (correctness was not verified, though).
Ideally, fonts in ports should provide as much Unicode coverage as currently possible. Maximum-coverage meta-ports may then be created (possibly divided per Unicode planes) for users to get comprehensive Unicode environment quickly and easily.
Another option to pursue is free fonts. For example, much of Unicode coverage is currently exclusively provided by x11-fonts/code2000, which is shareware. Likewise, x11-fonts/webfonts license is quite restrictive. The situation where considerable coverage is only available under non-free license conditions is undesirable for many users. a deskutils/gucharmap is a good tool to check what scripts are supported by the fonts installed on your machine. x11-fonts/fntsample can produce PDF documents showing coverage of any TTF font. It can also compare coverages of two different fonts.
It appears that some TTF fonts contain non-unicode names, which causes problems in different programs. Further investigation pending.
Quite a number of popular tools still lack support for Unicode, or have only partial support. For example, screen(1) only supports 16-bit codepoints.
As with fonts, rendering wikipedia languages correctly may be considered the first goal. Unlike fonts, rendering depends more on particular applications. Popular web browsers are a good choice for testing, but other programs are equally important. An X11 terminal with full support of Unicode rendering is an important milestone.
- xterm - largely incomplete Unicode support, but sufficient for most purposes
- rxvt-unicode - 16+ bit codepoints supported, some combining supported (Hindi does not work for me, though)
- mlterm - ...
- syscons - no unicode support, relevance questionable
- x11 terminals
- urxvt-unicode - Ctrl+Shift invokes ISO 14755 input mode by codepoint
It has long been pointed out that FreeBSD has problems with low-level (libc?) support for Unicode. It would be great if a person knowledgeable in the area could rehash the issues here.