Typing Coptic on a PC

Fonts

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.

More on-line Coptic resources

In the last few days I have found two more useful on-line Coptic resources.

The first is courtesy of April DeConick who was told about it by one of her grad students, Mike Heyes. It is the text of Horner’s Sahidic New Testament – a “critical” edition, difficult to access except in a few libraries. Unfortunately, the first two volumes of the seven volume set are not available, so no synoptic gospels, which is disappointing for me. Also unfortunately, it was published in 1910, so does not take into consideration some more recently discovered manuscripts. If you go back to the host page, there are also a number of other Coptic resources, both for  Sahidic and Bohairic.

The second is Penn State University’s Coptic Computing page which contains links to Coptic Unicode fonts and keyboards as well as advice about how to code Coptic for the web, what browsers to use and information about using Unicode fonts.  Extremely useful if you want to type more than a few Coptic characters into your work.