11 January 2008

Unicode Fonts Unite Biblical Studies

In the bad old days you had to worry about Greek and Hebrew fonts.
Now everyone is using Unicode. Well... everyone who wants to communicate.
Unicode means everyone can read what you write, on a PC, Mac or web browser,
in Greek, Hebrew, Syriac, complext transliteration, or even English,
Hebrew is formatted right-to-left, and wraps at the end of lines properly.
And things continue to get easier.

1) Unicode Installation Easier
2) Unicode Bibles and Unicode on your Bible Software
3) Converting old fonts to Unicode
4) Unicode TLG, with INSTANT lexicon lookup
5) Unicode Bible on Palms and other PDAs
6) Help, I've got an old computer!

1) Unicode Installation Easier

The Tyndale Unicode kit is a free and easy way to install Greek & Hebrew Unicode
for PC and Mac. Documents you write can be swapped between any computers.
It includes keyboards for Greek, Hebrew and transliterration, and the Cardo font.

If you prefer another font (eg SBL or SIL fonts) you can simply substitute them,
because Unicode fonts are interchangeable (so long as they contain the language!).

I've created new full instructions for WinXP & Vista but you don't really need them. It's easy.
The Mac installation always always was easy, and the PC installation is now easier than that.

The keyboards work intuitively, though read the help for adding accents and pointing.
When you've tried it once, you'll remember it easily, but there is a summary chart anyway.
You should soon be touch-typing Hebrew and Greek. If you are already used to another layout,
I've included instructions for changing the keyboard layout so that you can make it as you want.

Unicode knows where it is going. Greek goes left to right and Hebrew goes right to left.
And when Hebrew flows over a line, it wraps properly, putting the later words on the next line.
Word on the Mac can't do proper right-to-left, but there are solutions.

Another wonderful thing about a good Unicode font is that it knows where to put things.
So a shewa centers itself under narrow and wide characters, and raises itself in a final Kaph.
Though that only works for proper academic fonts like Cardo, SBL, SIL, TITUS and Code2000.
(the Hebrew and Greek in Times New Roman and Arial doesn't do pointing properly).

So remember to change the font to Cardo when you start writing Hebrew or Greek.
You could simply use Cardo for everything. It has Greek, Hebrew, English
and all the symbols you need for transliteration, as well as rare Latin numbers etc.

All the normal Masoratic pointing and punctuation is included in the Tyndale kit,
though some of the very rare markings are missing. If you really want them
(perhaps you want to typeset the Leningrad Codex?) then you need Linguist Fonts.

For other languages (Coptic, Ethiopic, Ugaritic, Syriac) use the Logos program Shibboleth
which comes with embedded fonts and is free! (thanks Mark).


2) Unicode Bibles and Unicode on your Bible software

No-one wants to type lots of Hebrew and Greek if it is just a quote from the Bible.

All the major Bible software now exports Greek & Hebrew in Unicode.
Accordance, BibleWorks and Libronix all have settings to copy and paste Unicode.

Tyndale House provides Word documents of the Bible in Unicode.
Copy them onto your computer and then copy and paste whatever you need.

There are also some online Bibles from which you can copy and paste Unicode text,
the best of which is probably The Sword with parallel Greek, Hebrew & English.

Even easier is Michael Stead's InsertBible tool for Word on a PC. Just type the reference
and it writes the text in Greek, Hebrew plus English, in columns or paragraphs.
It works in Word 2003 & 2007 on a PC, and it is free.


3) Converting old fonts to Unicode

Converting a few quotes from the Bible is easy - see the previous section.
And if you have a few extra bits, just type them. It won't take long.

If you have lots to convert, use a font converter.
For Word on PCs, the converter from Galaxie works very well and is now free.
(you should also install the fonts which it uses during conversion. They are also useful for viewing the NExT Bible).
It converts a whole document at once, and works with most fonts
(Bwgkl, Bwhebb, SPIonic, SPTiberian, Graeca/II, Hebraica/II, SuperGreek, SuperHebrew, Alexandria, Koine, Gideon, Mounce, SymbolGreekP, WinGreek, SGreek, SHebrew, Tecknia).
It converts them first to Galaxie Greek or Hebrew, and then to Galaxie Unicode .
You then do a Find+Replace for "Galaxie Unicode Greek" and replace with "Cardo"

For Macs, you can use the converters from Linguist which works with their fonts.
The free Greek Transcoder (instructions here) works with Word 2004 for many Greek fonts (thanks Danny)
Or you can load your Word documents into a PC and use the free Galaxie converter.

If your documents aren't in Word format, save them as Word format, convert them in Word, and save them in your favourite format again. But if you are using WordPerfect, I doubt this will ever be upgraded to read proper Unicode - sorry!.


4) Unicode TLG, with INSTANT lexicon lookup

Diogenes is the free software which makes TLG & PHI useable on your computer. If you think these are just irrelevant TLAs (three-letter-acronymns), read on.
The TLG is the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae: a dataset of virtually all ancient Greek texts.
The PHI collection includes the Duke databank of papyri - virtually everything published up to the 90's, plus many inscriptions. Together they make a NT scholars dreams come true.

Diogenes is wonderful software for searching these texts on PC or Mac.
It isn't fantastically fast at searching, but it has INSTANT lexical help for every word.
When you install this, you also install a full Liddel-Scott-Jones 9th ed lexicon.
It is worth downloading just for the lexicon.

When typing a word into Diogenes, you need Unicode, so install the Tyndale kit first.


5) Unicode Bible on Palms and other PDAs

The clever guys at Olive Tree Bible Software have upgraded PDAs to Unicode.
I didn't believe it till I saw it - a humble Palm with Unicode Hebrew!
Their Bible software was already superior by having so much gramatical tagging.
Unicode is a free upgrade for existing customers.
And now they have searchable Qumran texts in Unicode Hebrew.

For speed I still prefer the free BiblePlus on the Palm, but for style and details,
Olive Tree takes some beating.


6) Help, I've I've got an old computer!

Unicode really only works properly if you have Windows XP and up, or Mac OS X.
Use the Tyndale Font Kit for legacy computers. It is almost as easy as Unicode,
but it isn't future-proof.

You also need Word 2000 or higher on a PC, though on a Mac Hebrew has some problems.
If you can't afford Word (or if you have a Mac) use OpenOffice (NeoOffice on a Mac).
This is free, and arguably just as good as Microsoft Office, but it doesn't have the advertising budget.

File this information away, because soon you will need Unicode.


Danny Zacharias said...

you neglected to mention Greek Transcoder, a macro for converting Greek to unicode on both Mac and PC. http://www.greektranscoder.org/

I've also written a unicode tutorial for Mac, available here: http://www.deinde.org/unicode-for-mac/

Mark Goodacre said...

Great advice, David, as always. I'll grab a couple of those links later for my pages. For some additional useful links on this topic, see http://ntgateway.com/greektest/labels/fonts.html. Cheers, Mark

Mark Barnes said...

You also forgot to mention Logos' new tool for this sort of thing, Shibboleth. It's PC only, and requires .NET 3, but it can do any language you can imagine: Coptic, Ethiopic, Ugaritic, Syriac - as well of course as Greek and Hebrew.

Their page also has a list of Unicode fonts. Which is well worth a look. Gentium is wonderful (for Greek and Latin characters at least).

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the helpful info. For those wanting to see a list of Polytonic Greek Unicode fonts (most of which are free), I've compiled one, which is available here.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure you're completely right about Unicode Greek on Palm BIbleReader. There is certainly Hebrew, but I could not find Greek on their web site; only their older SpGreek font, which is not Unicode (and is, frankly, ugly, particularly when compared to the Greek font in Bible+) - perhaps I was looking in the wrong place.

Steve Walton

Anonymous said...

This is a very helpful page--thank you very much! I look forward to using it with my students next year.

Gabriel Bodard said...

Useful summary, thanks. Point 6 is maybe a little more off-putting than it needs to be: I was using Unicode quite happily in Windows 2000 and before that in NT. There are also native keyboard drivers in the latest OSs, and lots of other free ones available: my favourite of which (for pure ease of use) is Greek Classical.

Please feel free to sign up and add any of this information to the Digital Classicist wiki at Unicode Fonts or Unicode Keyboards).


Ken Penner said...

A slight correction to the note that proper mark positioning and cantillation requires an academic font: the versions of Times New Roman and Arial included with Vista include cantillation and proper positioning of Holem and final Qamats and Sheva.

Ed Gallagher said...

I appreciate this very helpful post, but I have been unable to install successfully the Hebrew font, despite the program's assurance that "Hebrew font has been successfully installed". After going through the installation of the kit several times, the Greek shows up on the language bar each time, but the Hebrew never has. Any suggestions?

Anonymous said...

Does the misplacement of the tsere beneath the resh in the Genesis quote reflect a problem that many users are likely to encounter with Unicode Hebrew?

David IB said...

Reply to Anonymous on the tsere beneath the resh:

Different printing styles place the pointing slightly differently. The tsere placement follows the style set by the BHS published by Deutsche Bibelgesellschaft.

David IB said...

Reply to Ed Gallagher re Hebrew installation

I can't replicate your problem. Possibly you restarted the computer after installing the Greek without waiting for Hebrew to install.

Re-installing causes no problems, so just try again. And wait for confirmation that Heberw is installed (it can take a couple of minutes - there's sometimes lots to do).

Stephen and Rebecca said...

I love Michael Stead's InsertBible tool, and it works on Word 2007 as well. But Michael might like his surname spelled correctly :)