In American Biblical studies, one often needs to switch between the basic three languages of Greek, Hebrew and English. What concerns me here is how to communicate electronically in those languages with Windows-based software, such as MS-Word, without resorting to Latin transliterations. I assure you, the task has been made routine by fonts and keyboard options that can be freely downloaded or configured.
Step 2: For Hebrew, download and install the additional keyboard driver.
Step 3a: For the Macintosh, read this
Step 3b: Configure MS-Windows to allow you to switch between Greek, English and Hebrew keyboard layouts. This is a default feature of MS-Windows (the Windows Language Bar). You don’t need to download anything to have this, you just need to configure your keyboard to allow you to switch between layouts. Please read these instructions on the SBL web site for your particular version of Windows. Or, google on “Language Bar” and read the relevant setup help. For the Greek keyboard, go into the Language Bar and enable the Greek Polytonic version.
Step 4: Learn the Keyboard layout structure of each font. In the case of Hebrew, download the SIL/SBL document and print out the keyboard sheets. The layout of the Greek keyboard is available here, though this detailed Greek Polytonic site may be better.
I printed the Hebrew keyboard layouts (reduced versions) and taped each one to my computer (see image to left). I also configured the Windows Langauge Bar so that when I press the grave/tilda key I switch between languages. This is configured in the MS-Windows Language Bar under Settings, Advanced Key Settings. One keystroke lets me switch keyboard setup. Likewise, in MS-Word I recorded macros and saved them so that I can change fonts quickly. The idea here is to change fonts and keyboard layouts with minimal effort.
Based on what I wrote so far, it takes two strokes (change font, change keyboard) to switch languages. If you know how to use MS-Word macros, or want to learn how, then you can do it in one keystroke. For example, I have the [F2] key set to switch me to the SBL Hebrew font and the Hebrew keyboard layout. If you use macros in MS-Word 2007, then incorporate the following three functions — one for each language, GREEK(), ENGLISH() and HEBREW():
Private Declare Function ActivateKeyboardLayout Lib _ "user32.dll" (ByVal HKL As Long, ByVal Flag As Long) As Long Sub GREEK() Selection.Font.Name = "SBL Greek" ActivateKeyboardLayout &H408, &H100 End Sub Sub ENGLISH() Selection.Style = ActiveDocument.Styles("Normal") ActivateKeyboardLayout &H409, &H100 End Sub Sub HEBREW() Selection.Font.Name = "SBL Hebrew" ActivateKeyboardLayout &H40D, &H100 End Sub
Add the above macros to MS-Word then customize your keyboard so that a different key-combination will launch each. For me, [F2] puts MS-Word into Hebrew mode, [F3] puts it into English and [F4] puts it into Greek.
MS-Word is not the only editor I use. I need the Language Bar capabilities so that I can type Greek and Hebrew into this blog (or on my Facebook or Twitter). While writing a blog entry, I simply press the tilda/grave key and type Greek, ἐν ἀρχῃ ἠν ὁ λογος…, then press it again to switch to this English, and again to Hebrew, יְהוָה רֹעִי לֹא אֶחְסָר. I just now typed those Greek and Hebrew phrases; they are text, not images. You can view them (if you can view them) because Greek and Hebrew are built into standard web fonts. The SBL Fonts were earlier mentioned only because of their usefulness for producing nicer looking reports or papers, not for the necessity of having them to read Hebrew and Greek on the Internet. One does not need the SBL Fonts to see Greek and Hebrew — both languages are embedded in most of the widely used fonts.
After looking over what I just wrote, I think it would take a timid person about an hour to go through and configure their computer. That hour, however, will be paid back with the joy of confidently using Greek and Hebrew in your own publications.