Unicode and Fonts
Logos Bible Software was designed from the very beginning to support Greek, Hebrew, and most other non-latin languages and scripts.
Since 1995 Logos has supported non-latin scripts by using the Unicode character encoding standard. Unicode is designed to support all the languages and scripts of the world and is a widely supported standard that is now used in all modern operating systems and word processors.
Older operating systems and word processors didn't support Unicode, and as a result needed to use specialized "hacks" to support non-latin scripts like Greek and Hebrew.
This article explains the way Greek and Hebrew were encoded "then and now" and discusses issues like converting between encoding systems and how to get the latest keyboard utilities and fonts for working in Unicode.
ASCII vs. Unicode
At a fundamental level computers deal with two things: "on" and "off". There is electricity present or there isn't. The bit is set on (1) or set off (0).
When a computer stores a number it stores it as a sequence of on-and-off bits. As a consequence computers like to deal with (and store) numbers that are powers of two. 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, 64, 128, 256 is a magic sequence for a computer. You'll find numbers in this sequence everywhere you look around computers -- in disk drive sizes, memory chip descriptions, etc.
2 to the 8th power (256) is a really special number -- it's the size of a "byte", or an "8-bit number". This means that a single byte of computer memory can store up to 256 numbers (0-255).
Computers work only with numbers internally. To represent text a system was developed that assigned letters of the alphabet (and numbers, punctuation, etc.) to numbers between 0 and 256. 65 = 'A', 66 = 'B', 67 = 'C', etc. This system was known as ASCII.
256 numbers were enough to store all the letters of the English alphabet and most of the punctuation, numbers, symbols, and extra marks required for western European languages.
When it was necessary to store text in another language the existing 256 numbers were re-used and re-assigned. Often (but not always) this assignment followed a mapping of the new language to English. So the Greek 'alpha' was stored at 65, as was the Hebrew 'aleph', and 'beta' and 'bet' at 66, etc.
To display Greek or Hebrew text it was necessary to switch fonts. To the computer a character might be just 65; the distinction between 'a', 'alpha', and 'aleph' was purely a visual one that came from switching fonts.
The Unicode character standard was created to make room for every character of every alphabet, script, and writing system to have its own unique number. By utilizing 16-bits of information (2 to the 16th power) the new encoding could represent 65,536 different characters. As it turned out, even 65,536 characters weren't enough, so Unicode was extended (in version 2.0) to potentially support over one million different characters. 'a', 'alpha', and 'aleph' could all have their own number and the computer could at last distinguish between them without regard to the font being used for display.
Unicode has been around since the early 1990's, but its integration into Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Word, and other popular software packages has been a gradual process. Only with the combination of Microsoft Windows XP and Microsoft Word XP has Unicode support come to maturity and begun to deliver on its promised increases in productivity.
The transition between ASCII and Unicode encoding can be a difficult one, particularly if you have a large number of documents with Greek and Hebrew encoded in ASCII and wish to continue to work with them with Unicode-enabled fonts or tools.
Transition strategies include:
- Leave it alone.
Don't change things that are working unless you need to. Find a Unicode version of the same type style you used with the ASCII text and use that for new text, but only change text encoding when necessary. This solution is safest when you won't need to be exchanging the electronic documents with others.
- Replace the text.
If you have a small amount of Greek or Hebrew in an ASCII encoding in your document you may find it easiest to just re-type the text. If you have a large amount of content you may wish to re-copy and paste it from Logos Bible Software, which exports in Unicode.
There are some tools available on the web for converting text from an ASCII encoding to a Unicode encoding. You'll want to make sure before using a conversion tool that it is designed to work with the font you're converting from -- while Unicode always uses the same number for an 'aleph' not all ASCII encodings for Hebrew do. Different fonts use different ASCII encodings for non-latin letters.
The number of Unicode-compatible fonts is increasing every day, and many popular "8-bit" fonts are being re-released to work with Unicode.
Logos Bible Software ships with several Unicode fonts:
- SBL Hebrew (Hebrew)
- Ezra SIL (Hebrew)
- Ezra SIL SR (Hebrew)
- Galatia SIL (Greek)
- BibliaLS (Hebrew, Greek, and transliteration)
There are many other sources for Unicode fonts for Biblical languages as well.
- Cardo (Greek and Hebrew)
- TITUS Cyberbit Basic (Greek, Hebrew, and many others)
- Code2000 (nearly complete Unicode coverage)
- Gentium (Greek and transliteration)
- Palatino Linotype (Greek)
Ships with Windows 2000 and XP and has very nice support for polytonic Greek.
- Lucida Sans Unicode (nearly complete Unicode coverage)
Ships with many versions of Windows and has broad Unicode coverage.
- Arial Unicode MS (nearly complete Unicode coverage)
This font comes with a number of Microsoft products, including Microsoft Office. You can install it from the Office setup program by choosing the "International Font" option. It is not installed by default.
- Adobe Type
Adobe has released dozens of high-quality Unicode fonts. Many support Greek, including Minion Pro and Lithos Pro.
- Linguist's Software
The BibliaLS fonts (for Greek, Hebrew, and transliteration) included in many Logos Bible Software packages are licensed from Linguist's Software. Logos software owners are eligible for a 20% discount off the complete current versions of these fonts and keyboard software for typing them conveniently.
- Charis SIL
Unicode fonts with support for a wide variety of scripts and complex transliteration systems.
More information on Unicode and Greek can be found at http://www.stoa.org/unicode/.
Logos Bible Software has developed keyboard layouts for Unicode biblical Hebrew, Greek, Syriac, and Coptic on Windows XP and 2000 systems. See http://www.logos.com/support/downloads/keyboards for information on the Logos keyboards. These keyboards can be used with Libronix DLS or with any Unicode application, such as Microsoft Word.
- Microsoft released the Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator in June, 2003, which allows you to build your own custom "system-level" keyboards for Windows 2000 and Windows XP.
- Tavultesoft's Keyman is a useful alternative for Windows 98 and ME users, as its third party keyboard manager can work on older operating systems.
The advantage of installing a system-wide solution, from Logos, Microsoft or another provider, is that you can switch to the alternate keyboard in any application, including your word processor. The disadvantage is that you may need to use your Windows installation discs or download and install software from the Internet just to type a few letters of Greek or Hebrew.
Logos Bible Software comes with a simple solution for typing Greek and Hebrew within Logos Bible Software. Pressing the F2 button while in any edit box within Logos toggles the keyboard mapping through three modes: Default, Hebrew, and Greek. A green icon on your system tray (usually in the bottom-right of your screen) shows an 'a', an 'aleph', and an 'alpha' to indicate the current mode. Right-clicking on this icon presents a small popup menu which includes the option of showing a visual map of the current keyboard mode. Logos supports three sets of keyboard layouts in this mode, the new Logos layouts, the older Logos/LLS layouts used before version 3, and Microsoft Windows' layouts. [You can also download and print the following PDF files which contain standard Windows layout keyboard maps: Greek Polytonic (266KB) Hebrew (158KB).] To choose which keyboard layouts to use, go to Tools | Options | General | Interface. Unless you've already mastered one of the other input methods, it is recommended that you try the Logos layouts. They were custom designed for ease of entry on an English/Roman keyboard.
If you just need to type an occasional Greek or Hebrew word you'll probably find the Logos keyboard helper to be enough. If you plan to type extensively in Greek or Hebrew, or need support in your email or word processing program, you'll want to install the Windows versions of these keyboards.
Information on Logos Keyboard Layouts:
Information on Microsoft Keyboard Layouts:
- Windows layout keyboard maps
- How to Use the Greek Polytonic System in Windows XP