AVIM for Firefox
Vietnamese computing is a very fragmented experience. Not only are there several character encodings for Vietnamese, but Vietnamese computer users must also choose between several popular input methods. As you’ll recall from November, an input method is a procedure for typing in a complex, often non-alphabetic writing system. An input method editor (IME) is software that intercepts your keystrokes and translates them into more complex characters, such as Chinese characters, on the fly. Today’s major operating systems provide IME for most complex writing systems, notably Chinese and Japanese.
It’s a situation no one likes, but it’s not easy to convince operating system vendors to ship good support for Vietnamese, since the market for it is still relatively small. As a stop-gap solution, three of these IME’s authors have released Firefox extensions that provide Vietnamese typing support on any webpage within the browser. Since the Web browser is pretty much the application that users keep open all day, it’s not an entirely bad solution.
Back in November, I released a keyboard layout for Vietnamese, to improve the Vietnamese typing situation on the Mac. Although the keyboard layout provided support for every application on the system, it was far from ideal, because very few Vietnamese speakers use Mac OS X. Now I finally have a way to show non-Mac users some input method love too.
In 2006, I made a number of modifications to one of the IME extensions, Hiếu Đặng’s AVIM extension. However, because the original extension was a kludge and I didn’t yet consider my version to be of release quality, I hung onto the modifications for nearly two years. Recently, I briefly encountered a curious phenomenon known as free time and began shaping AVIM into a much more presentable extension.
Since it was introduced to the Vietnamese Wikipedia in 2005, AVIM has turned a very poor editing experience into a pleasant one. My productivity at the site increased dramatically, as I could begin to write and edit articles from directly within the site, rather than copy-pasting my composed text from another program. I hope that this extension will give you the same dramatic increase in productivity, no matter what site you frequent.