Akatab Font Review

The Akatab font is a TrueType font with Graphite and OpenType features (SmartFont) to generate the glyphs that either supplement or differ from the characters in the Tifinagh Unicode block. This font appears to have been created primarily for typing in the Shifinagh of the Tamahaq (thv) language, though its description says it is also usable for other Tamashek (thh) languages. However, as explained below it has limited usefulness when typing Shifinagh for the Tawallammat (ttq) language.


Best Features of the Akatab Font:

  • The best thing about the font is that its style resembles the handwritten style of writing in the sand.
  • It handles the consecutive similar consonants beautifully. The double n, double l, nl and ln are rendered by raising the second character rather than tilting it.
  • It handles the dots (tatabukat) of Shifinagh correctly as true dots rather than with the tiny circles found in the Tifinagh Unicode.
  • There is also a Keyman keyboard specifically designed for the Akatab font.


Limited usefulness for typing in Tawallammat Shifinagh:

The main Shifinagh characters in this font can indeed be used to type in the Shifinagh of the Tawallammat language. And some biconsonants such as enga are rendered correctly for Tawallammat Shifinagh. However, as it stands now (7/8/20) the Akatab font does not have the capability to render correctly several biconsonant ligature glyphs needed for the Shifinagh used by Tawallammat speakers.

Some specific problems using the Akatab font for Tawallammat Shifinagh are as follows:

  • Many of the biconsonant glyphs don’t correspond to the traditional biconsonants of Tawallammat.
  • Most importantly, some of consonant combination rules and corresponding glyphs needed for Tawallammat Shifinagh are missing, including (but not limited to) the rules for: enza, enda, enja, engha
  • A minor problem involves the final “a” (single dot) after a “w” (double dot). In Shifinagh “wa” can look very much like “k”, because both involve three dots similarly arranged. In traditional Tawallammat Shifinagh confusion is avoided by separating out the final “a” dot futher to the right than the third dot in the “k”, and/or by elongating the “a” dot horizontally, so that it becomes more like a short dash.

So in conclusion, unless some changes can be made to the font to accomodate the biconsonant glyphs of Tawallammat Shifinagh, it it is best for Tawallammat Shifinagh writers to continue using the Tagmukay font, which includes all the necessary glyphs.


Akatab font resources and links: