Since Microsoft have not yet released a version of Microsoft Windows that supports Lao language, a number of other partial solutions have been created to allow the use of Lao with Windows applications. This can be very confusing, since these solutions use different coding systems, and some use a keyboard manager to allow the use of the standard Lao typewriter layout (or other layouts) with variously-coded Lao fonts, while others simply replace Enlgish letters on the keyboard by Lao letters.
When considering which fonts to use, apart from appearance, there are four main factors to consider:
- Is word-wrapping important? For large amounts of text, it is much more convenient if the text can be entered without having to think about breaking each line by hand. This becomes important whenever text must be edited or revised, to prevent minor changes resulting in every subsequent line needing adjusting.
- Do you need both Lao and latin (i.e. English) characters in a single font? While in word-processing this usually does not matter, in many other applications (such as spreadsheets and database applications) it is often important to be able to mix languages in a single entry, for which a common font must be used.
- Are numeric characters and symbols interpreted by the application program correctly? Many Lao fonts use the standard codes for numbers and arithmetic symbols for other characters, which leads to program errors, especially in spreadsheet and database applications. The hyphen code, in particular, is often recognised as a minus sign, and must be used with care.
- Do you need a wide range of styles? For headings, or for brochures, the above factors are usually less important than being able to choose from a wide range of font styles.
No single system is currently able to meet all of these needs. Where word-wrapping is important, or where both Lao and latin characters are required in a single font, the fonts supplied with Lao Script for Windows (such as Saysettha Lao, Alice5 Lao, Bubble Lao, etc.) probably provide the only satisfactory solution.
For numeric characters and symbols to be interpreted correctly, the fonts provided with newer versions of Lao Script for Windows (e.g. Saysettha 2000, or Saysettha 95) may be more suitable, since the code for the hyphen (minus) character in those fonts is not used for the invisible break character.
Where a wide range of styles are needed, and where word-wrap is unimportant, there are many Lao fonts available, such as the HongKad series of fonts, Alice_0, Sengchanh, etc., that can be used without requiring a keyboard manager program. This will typically be applicable for advertising materials, brochures, etc.
Any fonts that conform to the Unicode standard, such as Saysettha Unicode, will not conflict with other coding conventions, and can be used safely in all applications that support Unicode. Lao Script for Windows 6.0 provides support for Unicode Lao fonts and includes a set of Lao Unicode fonts. Use of Lao Unicode fonts on Windows NT4/2000/XP is possible with many applications, but use is more restricted with Windows 95/98/Me.