Return to Random Access Archives List

CO 69.3 [Spring 1992], pp. 102-104: Fonts and wordprocessors for Greek and Latin; GreekKeys, SuperGreek et al. (Linguist's Software), Lettrix, TurboFonts, FancyFont et al. (Softcraft), MultiLingual Scholar, Nota Bene, SuperFonts, Font Factory GS, MultiScribe, BeagleWrite; APA booklet, Wordprocessing for the Classicist


I hope I've been able to keep everything in my column within the grasp of the beginner. If anything I write is unclear to you, please do not hesitate to write--by either Email or USmail. (No extra points for Email; I'm barely comfortable with it myself!) If one person doesn't understand it and says so, there are bound to be many more who could use further explanation. At least that's my experience with workshops, where it's much easier to raise your hand and ask questions.

One question that does come up periodically, though it is not directly connected to instructional software, is how to print Greek and other special characters, like Latin macrons, with a computer. This can be useful, of course, for writing manuscripts (or "compuscripts"?) on textual criticism, as well as creating handouts or worksheets for students.

Unfortunately, the answer to this question is not a simple one. The hardware compatibility issue that we run into with instructional software gets even more complicated when we bring in the extra variable of printer types and graphics adapters.

Let's take care of the easiest part of the answer first. As I wrote in my first column, the Macintosh has won the hearts of many a classicist purely because of its "facile handling of alternate character sets, such as Greek." The Macintosh loads a character set, or font, just like a separate program and keeps it available to whatever word processor you are using.

Two Macintosh software fonts for Greek have been popular among classicists. GreekKeys was designed by George Walsh at the University of Chicago and is now published by the APA's software affiliate, Classical Micropublishing, Inc. Individual copies are $50 each, and there is a sliding scale for departmental site licenses. Contact: Scholars Press Software, P.O. Box 15288, Atlanta, GA 30333; tel. 404-636-4757.

The other popular Greek font for Macintosh is called SuperGreek ($79.95). A separate font from the same publisher, SuperFrench/German/Spanish ($99.95), includes Latin macrons among its features. There are special versions of both fonts for laserprinting, appropriately dubbed Laser Greek, etc. ($99.95 each). Contact: Linguist's Software, P.O. Box 580, Edmonds, WA 98020; tel. 206-775-1130.


When we talk about alternate character sets on IBM-compatible computers, we first have to discuss ASCII codes and graphics adapters. (That's what the "-GA" stands for in the subheading list above.)

Our computers' built-in bias for the English language becomes evident when you examine the set of characters included in the list of the American Standard Code for Information Interchange (ASCII). This is the most significant common denominator between computers of all makes and models, and it is what makes electronic mail possible. Computers only understand numbers, so this list of codes designates the official number equivalent of the 26 characters in the Anglo-Roman alphabet. The list assigns separate numbers for capitalized letters and includes all the other characters on a standard typewriter. Even the single-digit numerals are assigned their own ASCII code, but don't ask me how that was determined. The ASCII code for the numeral "9" is 57. There are 128 character-codes in the basic ASCII list. A second set of 128 codes is often used for scientific symbols (several of them Greek, of course) and most of the Western European accented vowels (not macrons), but it has not been accepted as an official ASCII standard between different computer types.

I apologize for the digression, but I do think it is important for everyone to understand the significance and usefulness of ASCII codes. If you are ever trying to exchange computerized data (draft articles or school reports) with colleagues who will also need to edit them on a computer--and they are not using the same wordprocessor and computer that you are--you can always transfer it as an ASCII file. Most wordprocessors allow you to save or load a document as an ASCII file (also known as a DOS or text file) instead of using its usual formatting procedure. Once the text itself is in its final form, you can add any necessary formatting (italics, margins, etc.) before printing. (NOTE: If you are using different computer types, you will need to use a null modem or a special file transfer procedure. It can be tricky, but it's not that difficult. Ask your school's computer specialist or contact me for details.)


Now it's back to those graphics adapters! In the IBM world, there is a big difference between a computer with a graphics adapter (a specialized circuit board that attaches inside the computer) and one without. Without a graphics adapter the computer is limited to printing on its screen only the 128 characters in the ASCII list and another 128 in the IBM alternate character set. With a graphics adapter (and the proper monitor) it is possible to put virtually anything on the screen with the appropriate software. Graphics adapters are also required for the use of most multicolor monitors.
The complexity of graphics adapters has developed over the years; but, unless you are trying to use a very specialized type of software, they are generally intercompatible, as long as they follow one of the official IBM standards (CGA, EGA, VGA) or an independent equivalent, like Hercules (A brand name--students, take note!).

Mind you, it is also possible to print alternate characters like Greek without using a graphics adapter to see them on your screen. Some programs allow you to insert into your text special codes which can instruct the printer to use an alternate character set provided by the program itself. This procedure requires you to type a transliterated form of the Greek, along with special symbols to indicate accents and breathing marks.

It should be noted that any type of font software will depend on the use of special symbols or key combinations to create the alternate characters and accents. This always takes a while to get used to; fortunately, there is a fairly standard and easily comprehensible correlation of Greek characters to Anglo-Roman equivalents.

One piece of such software which has been used by many classicists to print Greek on an IBM-compatible without a graphics adapter is called Lettrix. Although it does include a number of other language fonts, there is no macron among them; however, the font design program which is also included provides the means to easily adapt one of the several Anglo-Roman fonts to include macrons. I have also used this program to produce near letter-quality copy with an old Epson MX-80 printer. (It takes a little longer, but it can extend the use and life of many old dot-matrix printers, until you get spoiled by a laser printer.) Contact: Hammerlab Corp., 938 Chapel St., New Haven, CT 06510; tel. 203-624-0000; price: $98.50.

If you do have a graphics adapter on your IBM-compatible, there are a number of font software options to choose from. Note that there are always separate versions for dot-matix and laser printing.

TurboFonts has several versions to coordinate with most major word processors; contact: Image Processing Software, P.O. Box 5016, Madison, WI 53705; tel. 608-233-5033; price: $199 (dot-matrix), $229 (laser), 20% discount for prepayment, $6 shipping.

Softcraft publishes two separate programs which both work with three wordprocessors: Word Perfect, Microsoft Word, and OfficeWriter. The first program, FancyFont ($180), is for dot-matix printing; and the second, Font Special Effects Pack ($295) works with HP Laserjet printers only. Each specific font, like Greek, costs an additional $15. Their Proto-IndoEuropean font includes macrons. Contact: Softcraft, 16 N. Carroll St. #500, Madison, WI 53703; tel. 800-351-0500.
Linguist's Software makes an IBM version of SuperGreek, called IBMGreek ($79.95), as well as a European font pack, called Transliterator, which includes macrons. Both of these programs will require extra "printer driver" software, which varies according to printer and costs an additional $79.95. See contact information above.


In case you haven't already made the crucial decision concerning which all-purpose wordprocessor to bank your career on--trying to learn more than one is a feat that few have lived to tell about--I should point out that there are full-feature wordprocessors available which have been specially designed for academic and foreign language applications.

MultiLingual Scholar (MLS) is one such program, which has five built-in alphabets to choose from: Roman, Greek, Hebrew, Cyrillic, and Arabic/Persian. The F9 function key provides macrons at any time. A powerful new version with editing windows and pull-down menus was recently released ($595; students $357 with valid ID), but they are still distributing the previous version at a reduced price ($195; students $99). Contact: Gamma Productions, 710 Wilshire Blvd. #609, Santa Monica, CA 90401.

Another such program, Nota Bene ($495, students $199 with valid ID), has been said to be well suited to book writing because of its built-in indexing and multilevel footnoting capabilities. A separate add-on "Language Supplement" ($199) is needed to produce Greek characters and Latin macrons. Contact: Dragonfly Software, 285 W. Broadway #500, New York, NY 10013; tel. 212-334-0445.


In my attempts to verify some old information I had about foreign language wordprocessors and font software for Apple II computers, I discovered all too well that software publishing for the Apple II has moved into a new phase since the introduction of the Macintosh LC (CO 68 (Spring 1991): 101-102). Even though this new machine can run Apple IIe programs when a special circuit board is installed, teachers and students are getting exposed to--and hooked on--the superior graphics and software on the "Mac." Many old Apple standbys have been converted for the "Mac." Thus, the wholesale conversion of the educational software industry for primary and secondary schools is underway. Don't get me wrong! I'm sure schools are not going to be getting rid of all those fully functional Apple II machines any too quickly, but the software offerings are going to become more and more limited for them.

A case in point here is the demise of the Gutenberg wordprocessor, which I know was commonly used by all kinds of foreign language teachers because of its built-in multiple fonts, including Greek, and its capacity to redesign fonts (with macrons, for example). I was just informed that this program is no longer being published.
Beagle Brothers has been a major developer in the Apple II field over the years. Their SuperFonts ($69.95) program will provide a variety of editable fonts to be used with AppleWorks, which is far and away the most popular Apple II wordprocessor. For more info, contact: Beagle Bros., 6215 Ferris Sq. #100, San Diego, CA 92121; tel. 619-452-5502. For a cheaper, mail-order price, contact: Quality Computers, tel. 800-443-6679.

Font Factory GS was designed to work specifically with the Apple IIGS, the last--and most powerful--in the Apple II lineage. Contact: Seven Hills Software, 2310 Oxford Rd., Tallahassee, FL 32304; tel. 904-576-9415.

Anyone who is using the MultiScribe wordprocessor or its current incarnation, called BeagleWrite, should be aware that a colleague of ours has created Greek and Latin fonts for it which he is willing to share. To receive your own copy, send your request with a 5 1/4" blank disk to Leo Curran, Dept. of Classics, State Univ. of NY, Buffalo, NY 14260.

Well, that's just about everything I know at this point, but it's certainly not the last word on foreign-language wordprocessing. I understand that there is a new, updated revision of the APA's Educational Paper #2, Word Processing for the Classicist, on the way, and this will no doubt answer even more questions than I have here. But I do hope that I have at least helped you get your bearings within this all-too-complex state of affairs.

For more info on the APA booklet, contact: APA Office, Dept. of Classics, Holy Cross College, Worcester, MA 01610; tel. 508-793-2203. If you have any further questions or contributions in this general area, feel free to contact me at the addresses above.

Return to Random Access Archives List