A system for online recognition of handwritten Tamil characters is presented. A handwritten character is constructed by executing a sequence of strokes. A structure- or shape-based representation of a stroke is used in which a stroke is represented as a string of shape features. Using this string representation, an unknown stroke is identified by comparing it with a database of strokes using a flexible string matching procedure. A full character is recognized by identifying all the component strokes. Character termination, is determined using a finite state automaton. Development of similar systems for other Indian scripts is outlined. © 2004 IEEE.