Danny Zacharias

First, MAKING THE SWITCH TO UNICODE IS WORTH IT!! If everyone in our academic circles finally switches to Unicode, there will no longer be any problems with reading each other’s documents, websites, etc. Imagine not having to worry about finding and downloading the proper fonts. Unicode takes a little bit of effort in the beginning, but pays off big in the end.

This tutorial is for the Mac platform, and I refer PC users to one of the following:
Biblical Greek site, or Rodney Decker's page. Chris Heard has also recently created video tutorials on setting up Hebrew unicode on a Mac,
pt1 and pt2.

We can all help make the gentle push in our academic circles to use Unicode. So once you are done this tutorial, send the link to your MAC colleagues who aren’t using Unicode yet, and the PC link to your PC colleagues.

Second, YOU CAN STRADDLE BOTH WORLDS! Some of you may be hesitant because you are required by a website or publishers especially to continue to use classical fonts and not Unicode. Setting up Unicode with this tutorial will not prevent you from continuing to use old fonts when necessary. I am aware that publishers require old style fonts, which is unfortunate, but they will come around to Unicode soon, especially if everyone in our academic circles pressure them to do so by showing that we are all using Unicode. While you still may be living in the world of classical fonts, prepare for the switch early with this tutorial and save yourself and your colleagues some grief!

Third, most people know that the crazy Windows people decided not to support Hebrew right-to-left, so the first thing you need to know is that YOU WILL NOT BE ABLE to type in Hebrew if you are using Microsoft Word. They will eventually get around to supporting right- to-left. But for now, FEAR NOT. There are alternatives out there, good ones as a matter of fact. Actually, pretty much every word processor in Mac supports right-to-left except Word. You can choose to use TextEdit, which comes with the operating system, or there is also the new Pages which is part of the iWork software bundle. To this list you can add NisusWriter and Mellel. Of these Mellel would be my preference, but to each his own. If you’re tight on cash there is also OpenOffice, which is a free word processor for Mac. (Type in any of these names in Google to find more information on them).

A Primer on Unicode
I will be as simple as I can because this tutorial is not just about information. Previous to Unicode, each letter/key on your keyboard was assigned a particular code number, 256 in total. This of course is not enough to even cover one language. The old style fonts (classical fonts) assigned their symbols (
α, γ, η, etc) to one of those codes, and each font was assigned differently, which is why there was endless difficulty. What Unicode did was create more than just 256 code numbers, but has an infinite number. Now every Greek letter and accent, every Hebrew letter and pointing, etc., has its own code number. Every Unicode font now assigns its symbol to its own code number. This way, as long as the writer and reader are using a Unicode font, the Greek/Hebrew, etc., will be display correctly no matter what Unicode font they choose to use.

How this all works is by installing other ‘virtual Keyboards’, one for each language. You can visualize it best this way:

The English keyboard keys in letters from this section of code numbers designed
for Roman fonts.

When you switch to your Greek Unicode keyboard, the computer now knows that
what you are typing in are different codes numbers for Greek fonts and accents.

When you switch again to your Hebrew keyboard, the computer now knows that
you are typing Hebrew letters and pointings, which have their own unique code number.

So you see when you switch to your Greek Keyboard, you have told the operating system and the word processor that you are now typing in different code numbers. Every language and writing system has its own code (its uni-code). It may sound complicated but what it means is that you only have to learn one keyboard layout, not one keyboard for every different font.


Okay so now you are an expert in the science of Unicode, lets get it started. You need to download at least one decent font for both Greek and Hebrew. A number of fonts (liek Lucida Grande) will display the text properly, but don't look terribly good. Below are my font choices:

  1. Download the SBL Hebrew font here

  2. Download the Gentium font (for Greek) here


  1. When you downloaded the SBL font, it either placed the .zip file to your desktop, or has unstuffed it for you. Open the SBL folder

    and double-click this Hebrew font icon

  2. This will open up Fontbook, click install. The SBL Hebrew Unicode font is now installed.


  1. If you have not yet unstuffed it, double-click the .zip file and open the Gentium folder.

  2. Click on the Gentium font which will open fontbook. Click install. Do the same for GentiumAlt The Gentium font is now installed.


  1. Open up your System Preferences, and choose International

  2. Choose the Input tabe in the international menu.

    On the bottom, have "show input menu" chosen. At the top of the table, choose "character palette" and "keyboard viewer".

  3. Scroll down in the table and also choose the Greek polytonic keyboard

    and the Hebrew QWERTY keyboard

Please note - if you need Hebrew cantillation marks, you need to find a compatible unicode keyboard, because Hebrew QWERTY does not include the cantillation marks.

YOU’RE DONE!! You have everything you need for typing in Greek and Hebrew. How do you use it you ask??


On the top of your screen there should now be a little American flag (or British flag if you’re in Europe, Canadian for Canada, etc). Click on it once, and it will look like this,

  1. Let’s do a little practice. Open up your Word Processor (remember, if you want to type in Hebrew, you cannot use Microsoft Word, but you can type in Greek).

  2. Type a few words in English, “test”. Now lets type in Greek. There are two ways you can switch to your Greek Keyboard, you can click on the language icon of your menu bar (the picture above) and choose your Greek keyboard. A quicker way is to use the shortcut key. Hold down the command key (the one with the little apple on it) and press the space bar. You will see that the language icon in the top bar has changed its icon, probably to Greek. Hit the command key and space bar again, and your English keyboard will come back. Now hold down both the command key and the alt/option key and press the space bar slowly a few times. You see that each time you hit the space bar while holding down command + alt the language menu on the top is switching. This is a quick way to scroll through your different keyboards quickly, so that you can type in several different languages easily. (if this isn't working, you need to choose these options in the keyboard shortcuts tab of the keyboard&mouse system preferences).

  3. Use the shortcut key and choose your Greek keyboard. Now in your Word Processor
    choose the font “Gentium”. Now type a little bit, “τεστ”. Wasn’t that easy?

  4. You may be wondering what the keyboard layout is. Choose the “Keyboard Viewer”, which will look like this:

    This shows you the layout of whatever keyboard you have chosen. With the Keyboard viewer open, hit the command key. It will show you now what key does what when the command key is down. Now hold down the alt key, it will show you what the keys are when the alt key is down. Do the same things for the shift button and the control button. This keyboard viewer is especially helpful for the Hebrew QWERTY keyboard.

You should now be a master of Unicode. Pat yourself on the back, and type away. A few concluding hints;

  1. If you are using Accordance (and if you aren't, why not?!), in its preference menu for Greek and Hebrew, choose to export in Unicode, that way you can copy and paste to your Word Processor in Unicode. This will save you a whole lot of time. I actually don't type in Greek or Hebrew a whole lot, I just cut and paste from Accordance and choose the correct font for the pasted text. Now that everything is set up, you can search for Greek or Hebrew Unicode fonts on the web that you may prefer to the ones I have given you above. Each font will display your typing correctly.

  2. If you are looking at a document that someone else has given you and you know for sure that they typed it in Unicode, but it is not showing properly (it may look like little boxes) just highlight all of the text and change the font to a Unicode font (Greek or Hebrew, depending on what you know it is supposed to be). Then it will display properly. Make sure that if you are typing in Unicode and sending a document to someone else that they have Unicode installed, otherwise they will not be able to read it (a quick solution to this is to send them the document as a .pdf file which you can quickly create in your print menu).

  3. PASS THIS LINK ON PLEASE!! Let’s all get on board and make the switch to Unicode. Scholarship will be better for it. That’s it. Cheers!!

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