Monday, April 28, 2008

More on Unicode Greek/Hebrew and Keyman

In the previous post, I listed some frustrations with Unicode Greek/Hebrew entry in Word2007.

In the responses, Rick Brannan provided a link to his own web page to convert Greek beta code to normalized Unicode. It works similarly to the Unicode Inputter I recommended.

Rod Decker, whose resources on Unicode I have used before, suggested using the old, free version of Tavultesoft Keyman 6.2. I checked with Tavultesoft, and they "no longer support or recommend Keyman 6.2." (You can follow the links on Rod's page to acquire it.) I have now downloaded the 30 day trial of Keyman 7.0 and can report that it works well, but here are a few other items to note:

  • Keyman 6.2 was only free for personal, home use. All other uses require a license to be purchased.
  • I can confirm that I tried out my old Keyman 6.2, and it works just fine in Word2007, but note that I am using WinXP. If you have Vista, you will need to use/buy 7.0.
  • If you get the Keyman Lite package, you only get 2 keyboards. If you want Greek, Hebrew, and (Syriac/Coptic...), you will have to bump up to the $59 Pro version.
  • It's a bit tricky setting up Hebrew as compared to Greek in Keyman 7.0.243 in order to get right-to-left working properly. This is supposed to be fixed in 7.0.245.
  • A nice thing about Keyman is the ability to have onscreen keyboard display. This is really handy to help find all those vowel points and such, ... but it only works if the keyboard installed provides the onscreen display.
  • Rod recommended Manuel Lopez' keyboard layout based on beta code which is the one I used to use and really like, but it does not have the onscreen display.
  • Another keyboard option for Greek and Hebrew is the one provided by Galaxie Software. (Look on this page.) Galaxie now provides this for free, and they do include onscreen displays for both Greek and Hebrew.
  • I can't find it on their website, but Tavultesoft's email response to me said that they offer a discounted price of $15 to students.
Bottom line:
  • To type quickly in Greek or Hebrew in Word2003, I would stick with the Logos keyboards that can be integrated within Windows.
  • If you are using Word2007, then Keyman 7.0 with the Galaxie keyboards looks like the best option.
  • If you want something easy to install and is free but has somewhat awkward Greek entry, you can use the Tyndale setup/keyboards.
(If you have experience with Greek/Hebrew Unicode entry in OpenOffice or on a Mac, please share your recommendations!)


  1. A few additional comments. First, the online keyboard isn't overly helpful; a card hanging on the edge of the monitor with the key combinations that are harder to remember is (IMHO!) quicker, easier to read, and faster. (I know, purists don't like anything that isn't digital--so make your card into a pdf and leave it open in the corner of your screen! :)

    Second, on a Mac, I'm working on this now, having just upgraded to a new MacBook Pro. There are useable keyboards built into OS X, but they aren't intuitive for English users (again, IMHO!). I wrote my own keyboard layout for polytonic Greek (it's on my Unicode page referenced above) and use SIL's for Hebrew (SILHebrew). The more complicated factor is that the default/standard Mac way to change keyboards easily is the Command-Spacebar shortcut; this toggles between the two most recent keyboards. Problem is if you're using more than two languages (e.g., English, Greek, and Hebrew). Then you have to grab the mouse and manually select the language from the Input menu in the menu bar (assuming that you've turned on "Show Input Menu" in menu bar in the Input tab of the International Preference pane). That works well, it's just slow.

    Best I've found for a workaround in Word (only) at this point is to attach multiple Apple Scripts to the Script menu in Word: one each to shift to each of the languages. (I'll try to post the scripts on my Unicode page in due time.) This isn't perfect, at least my implementation isn't perfect yet. (Joe Kissell of Tidbits helped me sort out the basic script which I then tweaked.) I haven't messed with AppleSript in many years, so I have some things to learn. (If you're an Apple Script expert and are interested in helping solve this issue and fine-tuning the scripts, let me know.) Once I get it working in Word, then the next step will be figuring out how to make this work system-wide.

  2. Your simplest solution for unicode problems is switch to a mac :-)

    More seriously though, unicode is quite easy on the Mac, you just need to use the right tools. I find the built in keyboards just fine (it just takes a little practice), but to be honest I very rarely actually type in greek or Hebrew - I just paste unicode from Accordance.

    One correction to Rodney above — Mac allows you to quickly scroll through as many keyboards as you would like. Command>space goes between your main keyboard and the next one. If you want to scroll between more, it is command>alt>space. No need to use the mouse.

    One other nifty feature is the built in keyboard layout in Mac, called the Keyboard viewer. This is available right from the languages menu bar. Just choose your keyboard, like Greek or Hebrew, then choose the keyboard viewer. A little keyboard will show as a floating window, and will highlight whatever you press. This can help you quickly find the keystroke you are looking for - no need to look at a keyboard layout PDF. I am not sure if this works with the SILHebrew layout, as the keyboard viewer needs to be properly made with the keyboard layout. But the greek and hebrew unicode keyboards that ship with Mac show the keyboard viewer just fine.

    Mac Word is atrocious for Hebrew and other word processors are just okay at it. There is built-in unicode support right into the OS, so most programs that rely on the operating system or TextEdit can handle unicode, even right to left, decently. Mellel is the processor of choice if you are using a lot of right to left - it is probably the best word processor for right to left of any operating system (which is what you would expect from developers who are Hebrew speakers).

    One thing I noticed when writing my wired scholar article for the SBL forum is that Google Docs word processor does right to left, and it is free and used through your web browser.

  3. Only a partial correction :) First, it's Cmd-*Option*-Spacbar on a Mac. And though that works, you have no way to know what keyboard is selected unless the keylayout has a distinctive icon. The generic icon is just a keyboard, so if you have more than one generic one, you can't tell which is which. That's not Apple's fault, of course, but the keylayout designer. In my case that's me (in part) since my "Greek Koine RD" keyboard doesn't have a distinctive icon (mostly because I have taken time to figure out how to create one), and partly SIL since their Hebrew keylayout doesn't have it's own icon either. So if I get time (or someone can enlighten me!), I can resolve this problem.

    As to Word, I *think* it will accept pasted Unicode text and display it OK so long as you don't try to edit it. You can easily type consonantal text R-to-L, I think it the pointing that causes trouble--but I've only just gotten this newest version of Word last week and havn't had time to figure everything out yet.

  4. Whoops! Make that:

    "...mostly because I *haven't* taken time to figure out..."

  5. My keyboard says "alt", but my laptops keyboard says both "alt" and "option". So I'd have to say you're wrong :-)

    Did you use SIL's Ukulele to create your keyboard? If so, the manual (section 5.8.2) talks about creating an icon for a keyboard layout.

    Yes Word will accept pasted Unicode, but you can do nothing to it. This goes beyond just the words. If you change the paragraph layout or page layout you are liable to upset the Hebrew. This is no different in the latest version of Word. Heavy Hebrew = use Mellel.

  6. Thanks for the Ukulele note. I;ll check it out.

    And "Alt" is only on Mac keyboards to accommodate Windows users. The formal Mac designation has always been "Option"--probably just to be different in the earliest days of Mac (It was that way when I bought my first one in 1984).

  7. Thanks for the recommendation. I used to have Keyman 6.2, but my computer was sent to the lab and came back without it. Now I see Keyman no longer has a freeware version. Logos is good enough for my purposes, if not better.