This email from Dr. Ernest summarized the results of a survey he conducted which he had titled "Typing Ancient Languages."

From: James Ernest
Subject: typing ancient languages
Date: Thu, 24 Mar 2005 16:55:35 -0500
To: 'James Ernest'

My thanks to the approximately two dozen of you (addresses in the BCC field) who responded to the query that Prof. Sasson kindly posted to his ANE list. I appreciate your help.

Some of you indicated an interest in knowing what responses I received. This was of course not any kind of scientific survey, just an effort to mine a few helpful nuggets of information, especially about fonts of which I may have been unaware; and I have not attempted to write a primer for those who are dissatisfied with their current tools and want to upgrade (for that you could search the Internet for "unicode biblical scholars" or the like and find some competent advice). But if you're interested in a crude tabulation of responses in a quasi-digested form, see below my sig lines.

James D. Ernest, Ph.D., Editor
Baker Academic
jernest -at-

Platform / OS

Seven respondents said they use Mac OS X, and one uses Mac OS 9.2. Seven respondents said they use Windows XP, and six said they use various older versions of Windows back to Win 95. A couple of respondents use Linux.

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Word Processor

Four Mac users use Mellel. Three respondents use Open Office. Five respondents use various versions of MS Word for Windows, and five use various versions of MS Word for Mac. Three respondents use WordPerfect (versions 8 through 10). One respondent uses Unitype GlobalWriter 2000. One uses Davka for Hebrew. Two Windows users say that the best word processor for their work is Nota Bene.

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Desktop Publishing

Respondents mentioned Adobe PageMaker, Adobe FrameMaker, and LaTeX.

Other software mentioned
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Fonts mentioned
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General observations

A couple of respondents comment that WordPerfect doesn't use Unicode. A couple of users avoid word-processing software, preferring to work with XML, HTML, and plain text.

One user finds Unicode more convenient under Win XP than under Linux.

One Mac user uses plain text codes (e.g., &a for a with macron, ā ) when sending files to publishers so that they can search/replace to put characters in their own fonts.

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My own comment

Although people are increasingly aware of Unicode, many are still unfamiliar with it or committed to hardware or software that supports it only partially or not at all. For some alphabets or Unicode ranges needed by scholars in biblical, classical, and ANE studies there is still a dearth of fonts that are both aesthetically acceptable and unencumbered with licensing restrictions, and it is difficult to predict how quickly that situation will be remedied. Some publishers may urge authors to turn in Unicode, and scholars who are computer-proficient are likely to do so; but there is no single comprehensive solution, and many scholars quite understandably remain unaware of, or unwilling to try, partial solutions that have already been available for several years; so presses will probably need to accept and translate multiple encoding systems for several years to come.

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