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.

German language tools on the web

I am currently reading Richard Nordsiek’s Das Thomas-Evangelim: Einleitung Zur Frage des historishen Jesus Kommentierung aller 114 Logien and am finding that my German is more than a little rusty. 😦 I am therefore engaging in a bit of translation practise so that I don’t have to look the vocab up every time I want to refer back to the bits about my particular text sections and also to force myself to think carefully about what is being said. Not to mention the fact that I actually enjoy the challenge of translating from one language to another.

I offer the following comments about German to English translation tools on the web:

  • LEO on-line dictionary is excellent! It offers a comprehensive list of ways of translating German words into English, including idiomatic uses. If it can’t find the word you’ve typed in its database, it also offers you a list of options that might be related to it on the basis of the word patterns in it. LEO’s base language is German and it only provides meanings of German words in English, Italian, Spanish, French and Chinese. You cannot look up, for example, a French word in LEO and find the English meaning, although it does do English to German as well as German to English.

None of the sites that offer translations of blocks of German are particularly good (no surprises here) so if you have never learned German at anything above a tourist level, don’t expect that you will be able to read theological German using only an on-line translation tool.  However, if you are just stuck on a particular sentence where you understand all the words individually but can’t make sense of how they’ve been put together in this particular context, there are three sites that I have found helpful, especially when used in combination.  They are:

  • Google translate: this is generally the best. It seems to be better able to tell from the context when Funk is an author’s name, rather than a radio, for example, and it also seems to have a wider vocabulary and to be better able to come up with sensible meanings for the compound words so beloved of Germans. It is by no means perfect, however.
  • Arthropolis transtlation: provides amusement from its translation of people’s names and is not so good with compound words, but sometimes selects a better option for translating particular idioms.
  • Freetranslation.com: Provides a third perspective which is also sometimes helpful.  Has the same drawbacks as Arthropolis and provides the most wooden English, but …

(All of these also provide translation between a range of other languages.)

And when you get desperate for a particular word that you can’t find in a dictionary, there’s always ordinary Google which will often identify the names of famous (but not to you) people and provide definitions of technical terms that haven’t been included in your education.

My two new terms for the week are Weckformel and corpus permixtum. If I understand it correctly, Weckformel means “alertness formula” and was coined by Dibelius to refer to the “let anyone who has ears, hear” formula that is found in Revelation 2:7 and its Synoptic parallels (or maybe only the Synoptic parallels).  Corpus permixtum means “mixed body” and refers to Augustine’s argument against the Donatist heresy – that  that the church could not be a pure body because was a mixed body of saints and sinners. I suspect that my lack of familiarity with the latter is due to my having discovered that early church history was not compulsory for ordination and that I therefore did not need to sit through two semesters of classes from arguably the worst lecturer in the theological faculty at the time.  I don’t see myself needing to use either term any time soon, but at least I will understand them if I find them again. 🙂

And even when translating for my own personal use, I find myself trying to decide where I should walk on the line between an absolutely literal translation and one that reads more smoothly in English.


I am informed by my German friend that the bits of Nordsiek’s writing that I am finding hard going are actually written in very difficult German. Perhaps my German is not as rusty as I had thought.  🙂

Tech tip – Zotero FREE referencing software

I use Endnote as my referencing software because UNE provides it free to postgrads and the wonderful library staff run an excellent training course on using it as well as providing very useful notes on their website and being willing to answer questions when you get stuck. I can even take my laptop up to the library and one of the librarians will show me what I am doing wrong.  🙂 I will therefore continue to use it – that and I have about 600 records in my Endnote library.

However, not everyone is in such a fortunate position and Tim Bulkeley over at Sansblogue has two posts on Zotero, a free bibliographic software program available on the web.  The first gives an overview of how it works on the web and the second has two animated film-thingies (aka instructional videos) that show you how to use it and how to integrate it into your word processor.  This sounds like an excellent resource for researchers on a tight budget and/or attached to an institution with different priorities for their spending.

Tech Tip – Megaupload toolbar

I just did something very stupid and not at all like me – I installed a piece of free software without checking it out, despite my reservations. I got an e-newsletter from Brian McLaren which said that someone had loaded one of his early records onto the net and I was fascinated, because I didn’t realise that he had made records, so I followed the link. It said I needed to install this software and I did.

It is spyware. It also highjacks your browser and tries to route it through their site, which means that you can no longer access any of the subscription journals through your library’s catalogue. And I couldn’t work out how to get the download to work.

I quickly decided to uninstall it. It seemed to uninstall quite well from Internet Explorer, but not from Firefox. Although I also needed to uninstall the Yahoo toolbar that it also installed, and the Yahoo installation software. I googled a solution and found a very complex techie one that involved installing Hijack This and looking at log files. I didn’t have any of the files, but I did have a directory called Megaupload Toolbar, which I deleted. I wasn’t able to do several of the other techie things because I couldn’t get Hijack this to work in Safe Mode.

I then found another site that told me that I needed to uninstall it from Firefox directly. This worked like a charm – I think. So, it seems that what you need to do is uninstall it and the two Yahoo files using the Control Panel, then uninstall the plugin directly from Firefox by clicking on tools Tools and then Addons, and then remove the folder in Program Files that is called Megaupload. You may or may not need to clear your cache in any browsers you have installed – I did this early on. You do need to run your anti-spyware software and remove anything that shouldn’t be on your computer, however.

It appears that contrary to techie advice, you do not need to turn off your system restore before you reboot after this.

Of course, a more sensible route is not to install the rotten software in the first place!!! 😦

Handy hint for Endnote (and RefWorks) users

Well, I think it’s handy, anyway. 🙂

If your favourite library catalogue doesn’t export references directly to Endnote and you find the whole “email to yourself as text and fiddle” technique tedious and painful, you can use WorldCat to import it into Endnote for you. Just find the book or article you want, click on the link that provides the details and then click on the “Export to Endnote” link and there you are. There is also an “Export to RefWorks” link, for those who use that.

Simple, as long as you’re familiar with WordCat.

For the benefit of anyone who’s asking “What is WorldCat?”, here are a few details. The WorldCat website informs me that it is “the world’s largest network of library content and services. WorldCat libraries are dedicated to providing access to their resources on the Web, where most people start their search for information.” You can enter a title, subject or person and WorldCat searches over 1 billion items in more than 10,000 libraries worldwide to find it for you. Once you’ve found the item you want, as well as being able to download the reference into your bibliography software, you can also find out whether it is in stock in a library near you, or one for which you have borrowing rights, or whether you’re going to get a bit more practice at filling in interlibrary loan forms. Or maybe giving up all hope of getting hold of a copy, since the only three copies in the world are in places where even interlibrary loan librarians will not venture without large amounts of money and it doesn’t look that good.

One way of getting to WorldCat is to click on the link above, which takes you direct to the search window. It is, however, highly likely that you can set your browser so that World Cat is one of the search engines you can choose to use whenever you do a search. You can certainly do it on Firefox and Internet Explorer. If you want to add it to Firefox or to your Google or Yahoo toolbar, go here and follow the prompts. [Please note that I am not recommending Google or Yahoo toolbars, just passing on the info.] To add it to Internet Explorer, click on the little arrow beside the magnifying glass icon in the top right-hand corner, click on “Find more providers” and the follow the instructions in “Create your own”. Note that I use IE 7 and these instructions may not work in earlier versions. WorldCat assures me that their instructions work on all versions of Firefox.