Typing Coptic on a PC


Having been somewhat preoccupied by my employment situation during the past year, I have only just caught up with the fact that the new SBL Unicode font was released in March (I don’t type much Greek, so it wasn’t a big deal). I was reading through the post and comments about it on Rod Decker’s New Testament Resources Blog and the discussion about people’s favourite Greek fonts re-awakened my interest in Coptic Unicode font.  I am now wondering what other people who have PCs use when they type Coptic.

I went through a phase when I did all my documents in New Athena Unicode because I could type English, Coptic and Greek without having to change fonts, but the Roman font is too ornate for my liking and my principal supervisor/advisor kept marking my manuscript to say that I’d omitted spaces when I hadn’t – the uppercase letters were just too big and the kerning wasn’t right.  I then found MPH 2B Damase, which has less ornate Roman characters and is somewhat more compact in general.  I used this for a while but discovered that the supralinear strokes only line up over the letters properly if you (or at least I) type them in New Athena first and then change them to Damase. If I type them directly into Damase, they don’t sit in the right places.  This is truly bizarre.

At the moment, the default font in most of my documents is Cambria – a serif font that installs with Office 2007 for Windows.  It has a Greek character set which, while not particularly pretty, is serviceable, so I am using it for the occasional Greek word that I type, although I will probably change it to something more attractive for final versions. I’m using New Athena as my Coptic font but it’s too rounded for my taste and if I don’t find something better, I may well do a global exchange to Damase for my final versions, although I don’t like either of these fonts as much as some of the non-Unicode fonts. Note that there was a new version of New Athena released in December 2009 in response to a request for glyph variants for some papyrological symbols.

Question: can anyone recommend a free or very inexpensive Coptic Unicode font that they have used on a PC and liked?

Non-Roman Keyboards in Windows 7

When I got my previous computer about two and a half years ago (courtesy of the church) it came with Windows Vista installed on it but I couldn’t get it to install the Logos Coptic keyboard, so I “downgraded” to Windows XP which I was happier using, anyway. Recently I bought my own laptop because I was going to have to return the church one and I figured that I probably didn’t really want to stay with XP which Microsoft will probably stop supporting soon. My son had a beta version of Windows 7 installed on his computer and was able to install the Logos Coptic keyboard quite happily, so I waited until Dell was offering laptops with 7 pre-installed and bought one with Windows 7 Ultimate which promises that you can install programs built for older versions of Windows, work in the language of your choice and switch between any of 35 languages (includes Greek and Hebrew but not Coptic). The language option is not offered with Business or any lower versions and Ultimate also comes with BitLocker which is what sold it to my programmer son.

Imagine my joy when I discovered that I couldn’t install the Logos keyboard on my new computer!!! Not sure whether it is because I ordered the 64 bit option (poor reading of specs rather than intention) or because of some change made between the beta and the final release, but not happy. It appears that at least this version of 7 doesn’t like installing any software that isn’t in a .exe format and the Logos Coptic keyboard install file is a .msi and there are definitely issues when transferring from 32 bit to 64 bit software.  However, my son downloaded a copy of Microsoft Keyboard Layout Creator, installed it on a computer that had the keyboard already installed, loaded the keyboard into Creator and save it as a  64 bit .exe file which installed quite happily on the new computer. If you are currently using the Logos Coptic keyboard on your XP machine and want to upgrade to Win 7, you can install Creator on your XP machine, make yourself a .exe file of the keyboard and save it to install under the Win7 operating system.

Not happy about the Win7 on-screen keyboard, though.  In XP, I used to use the on-screen keyboard to remind me of the character mapping when I hadn’t typed in Coptic or Greek for a while (I touch-type, so I usually don’t need the visual mapping for very long). All I had to do was change language on the language bar and change font in on the on-screen keyboard and away I went. I can’t get the new one to let me to change the font for the on-screen keyboard so I can’t actually see the Coptic characters because the default font has a Greek character set but not a Coptic one. 😦

I guess I could email Microsoft and ask them to fix this when they release SP1 as I am sure they will do in the not too distant future.  The new version is probably much simpler for those who use it because of accessibility problems because it seems to change font to line up with the keyboard mapping selected. For those of us who have tricked it into using a keyboard mapping for a language that isn’t supported, though, it’s a nuisance. When I wanted to downgrade to XP, I had to ring Microsoft for support and the person I spoke to asked why I wanted to downgrade.  I could hear him gearing up for his “Vista is waaaaaaay better” speech but as soon as I explained that I am doing a PhD for which I need to be able to type Coptic and couldn’t install a Coptic keyboard in Vista, he made no attempt at all to persuade me to keep Vista. With luck, this same approach might work to convince them to add a “change font” option to the on-screen keyboard.

17 thoughts on “Typing Coptic on a PC

  1. Dear Judy,
    I’ve emailed you with my requests. I’m submitting a paper on 1QSam for Dead Sea Discoveries (Brill journal), and I needed to enter some Coptic text from 2 Sam 20:8. I found that I couldn’t do it on my Vista machine. I went home and finally found how I did it on the XP machine, redownloaded the Logos Coptic keyboard and got it working again. Then I put the installer package on the Vista machine but had no success installing. I think the best thing is to downgrade to Vista. Please give me the phone number of Microsoft. Is this a free service?

  2. Andy,

    I’ve answered your questions privately, but the Microsoft number is the help line listed for each country so mine will be different to yours. If you have a valid copy of Microsoft software then you are usually eligible for free phone consultation if you are experiencing difficulties with installation issues.

  3. Am I to understand, Judy, that the Logos Coptic keyboard doesn’t work on Windows 7? At any rate not for those who don’t have Creator? Windows 7 Ultimate is for those who want to change their interface language – i.e. move to Israel and work in Windows and Word in Hebrew for example. And then move to Germany and work in Windows and Word in German. Etc. etc. The Windows 7 Professional package at Office Max promises that it runs XP applications in XP mode. Does that – the part about “XP mode” – have any adverse effect on the functionality of the keyboard?

  4. Andrew, my problem was that I bought the 64 bit version of Windows 7 (by mistake – I have absolutely no need for 64 bit functionality as I don’t plan to use high end graphics). The Logos keyboard installs quite happily on the 32 bit version.

  5. Judy,
    I just downloaded the Windows 7 update advisor, and it told me I have two options: 32-bit Home and 32-bit Ultimate. I assume there is no 32-bit Professional, which would have been $80 cheaper than Ultimate. (I assume the Logos keyboard doesn’t work with Home, just like it doesn’t work with Vista.) While waiting for the advisor to analyze my system I opened up some information links about Windows 7 and got the instructions for downloading the Logos Coptic keyboard. I must have the file available on the desktop, Then I have to install Windows Virtual PC and Windows XP compatability Mode. I then open up XP Mode and install the keyboard. Once that’s done, will the keyboard be available from Windows 7? Or do I have to reboot each time in the XP mode to ge the keyboard?

  6. Or – to put it another way – when you installed the Logos keyboard, did you install it in XP Compatability mode? Or did you install it directly to Wndows 7? If the second question gets the “yes” then I assume Windows 7 Home is the way to go, since I don’t need 35 different interface languages.

  7. Andy, no, you don’t have to reboot into XP every time you want to use the Logos keyboard. As far as I understand it (and I could be very wrong) XP compatability mode just does something so that XP programs can run in Windows 7 – it certainly doesn’t boot XP. We installed the Logos keyboard directly into Windows 7 32 bit on my son’s computer and it worked just fine. It wasn’t so fine on my 64 bit computer without fiddling, but that was about the 32 vs 64 bit issues.

    Before you decide to go with the cheaper Home version, though, do check that you don’t need the capabilities of a higher version to enable you to use the other languages that I know you use all the time. Unfortunately, the usual Windows customers don’t want to type Syriac or ancient Hebrew. 🙂 If you are not in a screaming hurry, it might be worth seeing if Microsoft will give you that information.

    I also think that there *is* a 32 bit version of Windows 7 Professional, so I am rather surprised that the advisor suggested either Home or Ultimate.

  8. Just got off the phone with Microsoft and Logos. The fellow at Logos has Windows 7 Professional on his computer and tried unsuccessfully to install the keyboard. Microsoft said that Home works with Arabic and that if I can’t get the keyboard to work call them back. The fellow at Logos said you must be a magician to get the keyboard, which is still the beta version from XP, to work.

  9. Andy, I don’t think I’m a magician at all. I did this six months ago, so I don’t totally remember what I did, but my memory is that when you try to install something that is made for XP, Windows 7 tries and says it has been unsuccessful, but also pops up a little notice that says something like “the program failed to install. Do you want to try again using the most common option?” If you say yes, it usually installs quite happily, as long as it is installing a .exe file rather than a .msi file.

    What my son did (the notes above aren’t clear and I will change them) is to install Keyboard Creator onto a computer running XP that already had the Coptic keyboard working and create a .exe file for a 64 bit version. My installation file will be of no use to you, because it is for a 64 bit version of Win7, but assuming you are currently using the Logos keyboard on your XP computer, you could simply create a .exe file of your keyboard which will then install happily on whichever 32 bit version of Win 7 you buy.

    I also understand from my previous conversations (about four or five years ago) that although the Logos keyboard is a beta version, it actually isn’t noticeably buggy. I would have liked a different keymapping that doesn’t require that I do finger contortions to type the Coptic H and F sounds, but I am now very used to it and just contort my fingers without even thinking about it.

  10. Thanks, Judy.
    Here’s the critical point:
    “What my son did (the notes above aren’t clear and I will change them) is to install Keyboard Creator onto a computer running XP that already had the Coptic keyboard working and create a .exe file for a 64 bit version.” I don’t know what Keyboard Creator is nor where to get nor how to use it. Neither do you apparently. I’m about to google the words in.

  11. I downloaded Microsoft Keyboard Creator and opened it. From the instruction window I opened the Logos Coptic Keyboard and hit “File” and “Save as”. I was given no option to create an .exe file. I created some file that resides in Documents with an error message when I try to open it.

  12. The Logos Coptic keyboard may not work in Vista, but the Keyboard Creator does. What you need is a printout of the Greek-Coptic page from the Unicode charts – that’s 0370-03ff and a printout of the Coptic – 2c80-2cff. You then open Keyboard Creator and select File and New. You select each key and enter the Unicode code in the format “u+03e3” for small shei and Enter. Then go to the next key. When you’re all done wit all the keys you select Project and Validate Layout. It will say, “You’re Ok but you’ve got some warnings. Do you want to see them?’ You say yes, read the warnings and close. Then you go to Project and Test Keyboard Layout. Type in all your keys to make sure the assignments are correct. Hit OK. Then go to Project and Build DLL and Setup Package. That it does, giving you 3 installer packages – two in 64 bit format, which don’t work on the 32-bit machine. Select the i386 format and run it (double click). When it’s done, go to Project and Properties. You’ll see the name of your keyboard and where it’s located. Mine piggybacks English-United States. I.e. to get the keyboar, from English select it via the small square in the language bar at the top of your screen “EN #” where # stands for the rectangular icon that selects subkeyboards. Don’t have to mess with Regional and Language. You, Judy, can create the Coptic keyboard of your dreams without curling the fingers. What Logos has at ALT-GR I put at Shift, since several keys acted oddly in ALT-GR, bringing up the Google keyboard and an email I had sent through Outlook Express. Since I don’t need capital Coptic, I’m happy to have the specifically Coptic letters at the Shift state.

  13. Hi Andy,

    Thanks for this. I knew that I could put each key location in individually but wasn’t keen on spending the time that this would take when there is also the option of importing a keyboard that is already installed on your computer and making an installation file that will work on another computer. This is what my son did for me. It is also possible to adjust an existing layout and you have motivated me to do this. 🙂


  14. Keyboard Creator works fine with Vista. The problem was that piggy backing on English prevents creation of a macro to access Coptic in New Athenian font with CTRL-D (that because CTRL-C is for Copy and pasting). To get around that – using keyboard creator – load Icelandic (or another of your choice) and install your Logos Coptic keys using the unicode charts and the key map that comes with the Logos keyboard. Don’t forget u+0305 at the equals key. That done, go through the steps outlined in the previous post, and you have the Logos Coptic keyboard – at least what I want of it – installed in Vista with the font sign IS. With that you can design a simple macro to access both keyboard and the font of your choice through clicking CTRL-D. CTRL-E gets you back into English and the font of your choice. CTRL-H into Hebrew and the font of your choice. Etc.

  15. And a new discovery – the Keyboard Creator also has the option of saving your keyboard layouts as images (you can change the font size before you do this), so you can have a chart beside you until you get used to it. You need to save a different image for each state (ie one for regular, one for shift etc).

    Like Andy, I have no need for uppercase Coptic characters, so I have just changed the Logos layout so that shift-T is the TI (dei) character, shift-F (fei) is the Coptic F, shift-H is the Coptic H (horeh) and shift-U is the Coptic CH (shima). The first three make sense and the last seemed easy, although I might change it so that it’s shift-J.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s