Saturday, July 17, 2010

Greek and Hebrew in Google Docs and Windows Live SkyDrive

I've used Google Docs for some time and recently Microsoft placed a version of its Office suite online under the Windows Live SkyDrive banner. One of the important considerations for me is how well they handle Greek and Hebrew. I ran through a number of configurations, and if you want to see how they look, you can check them out HERE along with additional comments. For a simple summary of what works or not, here's what I've been able to determine.
  • It makes a difference whether you use Firefox or Internet Explorer. There are some differences in line spacing, but more important differences are based on how you have your font settings. For my test, I had switched my default Greek font in Firefox to Cardo but had left IE8's Greek default to TimesNewRoman.
    In FF, use Tools - Options - Content tab - Fonts and Colors - Advanced. Choose Greek from the dropdown and choose your desired font.
    In IE8, use Tools - Options - General tab - Fonts - Choose Hebrew or Greek Language script and choose your desired font.
    I still recommend the free Cardo font.
  • Google has acquired rights to Cardo, but it is not yet implemented with a full set of characters to do Greek/English editing.
  • SkyDrive likes to use Microsoft's Calibri font as an English default for composing or editing. Calibri is not available in GDocs, and it uses Arial instead.
  • If you have Greek or Hebrew Unicode keyboards installed, you can type directly in Greek/Hebrew in either SkyDrive or GDocs. It is also possible to copy/paste.
  • Saving my mixed English/Hebrew/Greek file in SkyDrive regularly crashed it (i.e., the SkyDrive tab, not the browser.) It was an easy and quick matter to restart but a bit of a pain nonetheless.
  • Note that the option to open and edit an online document in SkyDrive in MSWord on your computer requires that you be running it in IE8.
  • If you have a Unicode Syriac font installed and a Syriac keyboard, you can compose in Syriac as well. 
  • The only font you can count on for a consistent display of Greek (i.e., all the characters are in that font) is Tahoma.
  • Other fonts may look a bit strange with the font substitutions for accented characters, but the Unicode is accurately preserved. So, when you apply an appropriate Greek Unicode font offline in your local word processor, everything will look fine.
  • Note that some of the Hebrew does not display correctly (e.g.  אֱלֹהִים - the holem takes up its own space), but when used offline and a font like Cardo is applied, it will appear accurately.
  • In GDocs, you can right align text, but it does not allow for right to left orientation. In SkyDrive, you can apply right to left orientation, so, if you are doing a lot of typing in Hebrew, SkyDrive is more helpful.
BOTTOM LINE: You can work in Greek or Hebrew (or Syriac) in either GoogleDocs or Windows Live SkyDrive. I don't see a huge advantage of one over the other. If you want to have multiple persons working on a document at the same time, however, use GDocs. If you are familiar with MSOffice and its editing ribbon, SkyDrive will be very familiar. If you are mainly working in Hebrew, SkyDrive is better.

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