1 April 2007

Biblical fonts and Mac woes - a solution.

The good news for everyone is that Unicode has solved all our font problems.
The bad news for Mac users is that Hebrew doesn't work properly in Word.
The really good news is that NeoOffice now works as well as Word, with Hebrew, for free!

Macintosh or PC for Biblical Studies?
Macs had a head start in Biblical Studies, because they could display Greek & Hebrew.
Actually, right-to-left Hebrew was already on the humble PCW thanks to a program I wrote.
But that's history, because the Mac and even the PC caught up.
The one thing which still makes the Mac stand out for Biblical Studies is Accordance.
Despite this, for several years I have been unable to recommend a Mac
for Biblical scholars because of the problems with Hebrew.
This is just about to get worse, though a solution is available (see below).

Update for PC users
By now most PC users have discovered how easy Hebrew & Greek has become.
Anyone with Windows XP and Word 2003 or better can use Unicode fonts, which
solve all the problems of compatibility, correct placement of pointing, and right-to-left.
If you haven't yet discovered all this, download the free Tyndale Unicode Kit
To insert Bible texts in Unicode, I recommend the free InsertBible tool
or download the free Unicode Greek & Hebrew Bibles as Word documents
from Tyndale House. Or export as Unicode from the latest BibleWorks. or Logos
It is easy to convert old fonts to Unicode a word or phrase at a time, free on the web, though
if you have a lot to convert, the Word-based conversion tool with Galaxie fonts works well.

Update to Unicode for Macs
Fonts on the Mac get better and better - here's the nerdy details. Except Unicode Hebrew.
When the whole world goes Unicode, any non-Unicode Greek & Hebrew will be unreadable.
Unicode fonts are wonderful - they all share the same coding, and they are intelligent.
Each Unicode font can have multiple languages - English, Greek, Hebrew etc.
So if you change to a different font, you don't mess up your Hebrew and Greek
(assuming you use an academic font with pointed Hebrew and accented Greek).
Mac OS X is fully Unicode compliant, so a lot of software uses Unicode already.
Browsers can read Unicode web sites, and Accordance exports Unicode perfectly.
Or you can copy & paste Unicode Bible texts from sites like CrossWire

The Mac version of the Tyndale Unicode Kit comes with Cardo Greek & Hebrew font
and the Mac now has the best keyboard editor (free from SIL).

Converting from old fonts to Unicode is free on the web though not perfect.
Linguist sells converters for their non-Unicode fonts, including Hebrew and Greek.
(for a 20% reduction, type "TyndaleTech referral" in the special instructions of their Order Form)

So what's the problem? Mac Word 2004 does not support Hebrew Unicode properly.
In Word 2004 Greek Unicode works fine, but Hebrew pointing and right-to-left gets messed up.
Things are worse with the new Intel Mac, on which Hebrew keyboards don't work in Word 2004
(though hopefully this will get fixed in OS updates). Will the next Word upgrade fix the mess?

Update to Office 2008 (but look before you leap)
Microsoft have made a whole new suite for OS X, See the official announcement at Microsoft
The new Word has a new format - OpenXML format. Eventually I think this will become
the standard format for all documents, like the DOC format has almost become.
BUT I haven't heard anything about whether it works properly with Hebrew.
I advise you do not upgrade to Word 2008, till you hear that right-to-left pointed Hebrew works.

Or, use free NeoOffice instead
NeoOffice is a Mac version of Open Office, which does everything MS Office does,
and more - because it can write pointed right-to-left Unicode Hebrew.
It costs nothing, so there is nothing to stop you trying it. Yes, it is FREE!
Or, use LaTeX - see help here.

PCs and other computers can use Open Office, which is virtually the same, and free.
You can open and save in many formats, including the native Word DOC format.
You can write or paste beautiful Hebrew, which you can then open in Word 2004
(but don't try editing the Hebrew in Mac Word 2004 - this has unpredictable results).
And NeoOffice even reads and writes in the new OpenXML format of Word X,
so you can pretend your document was written in Word X, if you wish.
One downside: Endnote doesn't work with NeoOffice or OpenOffice (yet).
I have recently found a few problems with pointed Hebrew, so if you are serious
about Hebrew, you might want to investigate Mellel which is capable of perfection.
Even if you continue with Word, I recommend you install NeoOffice or Mellel
to produce your Hebrew, then paste it into your Word document.
(Note: use "Copy without formatting" in Mellel).

Recommended step-by-step for Mac users
1) Download and install the Tyndale Unicode Kit and NeoOffice. Total cost: zero.
2) In Accordance: Set your Preferences for export of Greek & Hebrew
- put a check in the Unicode export box. Then select the text you want and Copy it.
Or, at Crosswire, highlight and copy the text in Unicode Greek or Hebrew
3) Paste the text into NeoOffice. Then select it and change the font to Cardo.
(This was installed with the Tyndale kit. Or use another academic Unicode font)
If you miss out this step, you sometimes get backwards Hebrew when the file is saved.
4) Save as a .doc file. You can now open it in Word. Or copy and paste into a Word document.
5) Don't try to edit it within Word - it is liable to mess up. Sometimes pointing doesn't look
quite right on the screen, but it should print OK in Word. Try printing something to make sure.
Have a go at writing in NeoOffice. You'll probably get used to it and might even prefer it to Word.

Finally, if you are a Mac fan and you want to feel good, see this review which says that
Mac OS X is much better than the new Windows Vista. But you already knew that :) .

3 comments:

Ken Penner said...

The new link for the line
"Converting from old fonts to Unicode is free on the web though not perfect" is http://ocp.acadiau.ca/kpenner/convert.htm

Colby said...

Some of the links do not work.... Specifically the non-unicode to unicode converter (the one in the body and your correction both do not work) and the Tyndale font kit.

Ken Penner said...

I just tried http://ocp.acadiau.ca/kpenner/convert.htm and it worked for me.