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Unicode for Greek

This web page contains instructions for reading and writing classical, polytonic Greek on the web with the use of the Unicode standard.

Reading Greek

The first thing to do is to install a Unicode font that allows polytonic Greek, that is, Greek with accents and breathing marks. If you do not have such a font installed, I suggest the use of Titus Cyberbit Basic or Code 2000 for fonts that are either free or inexpensive. Once you download the TTF file, go to Control Panel, then Fonts, then File, then Install New Font. Select the TTF file that you downloaded, and your font will be installed.

The next step is to instruct your browser to use the font you have installed. In Internet Explorer, go to Tools, Internet Options, and click on Fonts. For Language Script, change the drop-down box to "Greek." Now you should choose which font to use for Greek web pages. You may have a font already included by Microsoft such as Arial Unicode MS or Palatino Linotype, which you can select. If not, then install Titus Cyberbit Basic or Code 2000 and then select one of those. Now, change the drop-down box back to "Latin based." Many web pages are mixed Greek and English, and the Greek is rendered with the "Latin based" font, which usually means that the characters with diacritical marks don't show up. The solution is to use a font that handles both Latin characters and Greek characters well, such as Arial Unicode MS or Palatino Linotype. If you have only a font that does Greek well but not Latin, you may find yourself switching between this font and a more readable Latin font.

The last step for reading a web page with polytonic Greek in Unicode is to make sure that the browser is decoding Unicode. In order to do this, select "View," then "Encoding," and then select "Unicode (UTF-8)." You may have to do this from time to time when you come across a web site where the Greek is not rendered properly.

Look at this Unicode Sample Page Greek Script to make sure that everthing installed correctly.

Writing Greek: Method Alpha

First, download the Greek Unicode keyboard for 32-bit Windows. You can download here.

Follow the instructions for installing the software. If you are using Windows 98 or ME, you have to download the file in addition, which works only under MS Word 97 (not 2000). Note that you will only be able to write Unicode Greek in Microsoft Word and that you will have to activate the program by selecting "Templates and Add-ins" under "Tools" in Microsoft Word.

See the instructions in order to find out how to add accents and other marks. You will need to make sure that you are typing in Word with a Greek font in order to see all the characters with the diacritics.

When you put Unicode Greek on a web page, direct the reader here or provide instructions so that your visitor will be able to read the Greek.

Put your Greek Unicode text within font tags, like this: <font face="Arial Unicode MS,Palatino Linotype,Code2000,TITUS Cyberbit Basic,Athena">GREEK TEXT HERE</font>. This will allow people to see the Greek text without changing their Latin-based font.

Writing Greek: Method Beta

Although I still use Method Alpha sometimes, I now prefer to use Method Beta. This method consists of two steps: writing the text in Beta Code format and then converting the Beta Code into Unicode.

Take a look at this Beta Code chart for the tranlsiteration scheme.

The real advantage to using this method comes from the ability to have diacritic marks automatically added with the use of a macro file that I created for a text editing program called NoteTab Pro. But note that this is not necessary—you could create the Beta Code in Windows Notepad, MS Word, or any other program. The "AutoBeta" script just speeds up things.

Download NoteTab Pro to get started with this. Then download and place the BetaCode.clb file in your "Libraries" folder of the NoteTab Pro program. Then start up NoteTab Pro and select the "BetaCode" macro file (clipbar) from the list near the bottom of the screen. Type Beta Code without accents or marks and the AutoBeta script will automatically replace the words entered with the fully accented versions. Note that the dictionary is not complete, with only about 32,000 entries, made by taking all words that occur more than once in a corpus of the Greek New Testament, the Septuagint, the Antiquities of Josephus, and the Lexicon of Photius. If more than one accented word corresponds to the word entered, the most frequently occuring replacement will be made. It is best to do a rough draft by entering the letters without worrying about the diacritical marks and than to go through the file, checking for spelling errors and adding or changing marks as necessary.

When you have a text in Beta Code format, you can convert it to Unicode. For this task, Sean Redmond's Greek Font to Unicode Converter is very handy. Once you get the Unicode on your screen, you can do a simple copy and paste from the web page in order to get the Unicode (UTF-8) text, or you can choose to View the Source and thus get the HTML 4.x "&XXX;" escape sequences. The former can be difficult to read on some machines, while the latter makes for larger files.

As with Method Alpha, put your Greek Unicode text within font tags, like this: <font face="Arial Unicode MS,Palatino Linotype,Code2000,TITUS Cyberbit Basic,Athena">GREEK TEXT HERE</font>. This will allow people to see the Greek text without changing their Latin-based font. Also provide instructions for reading Unicode.

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Kirby, Peter. "Unicode for Greek." Early Christian Writings. <>.