Category Archives: Fonts/Graphic Design

Typing Hebrew on a Mac

Chris Heard has put together two screencasts demonstrating how to setup and use your Mac to type in Hebrew. You might want to be sure you have the unicode SBL Hebrew font installed before you watch the videos. The font is available free for download here. Be sure to also download the keyboard driver and PDF manual. You don’t need to use the SBL Hebrew keyboard drivers, but Chris does demonstrate them in the screencast. Thanks, Chris, for a great resource!

Hebrew Font Issues

I am pretty good at getting my Hebrew fonts to play nice on my computer. I use Mellel for wordprocessing most of the time. Scrivener does a decent job handling the mix of R->L and L->R text that I create. I’ve come to accept (after a great deal of weeping and gnashing followed by much counseling) that unless I am willing to shell out hundreds and hundreds of dollars for the Middle East version of Adobe’s Creative Suite, I will have to use workarounds for Hebrew in Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign. Now, if someone wanted to send me a version of ME CS4 to review…

What I’m perplexed by is the sometimes funky way that Firefox (3.5.5) and OS X (10.6.1) render the SBL Hebrew font vowel pointing. I’ve got the font loaded on my computer. I’ve got my various preferences set correctly (at least I am pretty sure I do). Nevertheless, things like John Hobbins’ blog often do not look the way they should. Here’s a link to a recent post, and here’s what I’m seeing (this is a screen capture):

SBL Hebrew font sample

Last year, when I was first trying to track down the problem, I received this answer to my post on the Fontlab forum (remember, this was posted 5/2008, hence the references to Firefox 3 as beta):

This is a limitation of Firefox 2. The font rendering technology cannot deal with the font, and so it ignores the font (Microsoft Office does the same thing). Firefox 2 will almost assuredly never support fonts like SBL Hebrew. Firefox 3, of which there is a publicly available beta, does support the font, and it will display the page you linked in SBL Hebrew.
Like Safari, however, even Firefox 3 does not position the vowels and diacritics correctly. This has to do with the technologies that OS X uses to render text. The older technology, ATSUI, does not provide support for complex layouts of OpenType fonts like SBL Hebrew, so one is left with the garbled mess that you now see. There is however, a newer technology called Core Text that does the layouts correctly. You can see the advantages of this API, which does support OpenType layout tables, in TextEdit. If you paste (or type) Hebrew text with SBL Hebrew in it, the layout is generally correct. The major drawback of Core Text is that it is very new and only available in Leopard. As such, it will be quite some time before it is widely implemented. There is some discussion about implementing it in Firefox here , but I would guess it will be a while.

The frustrating thing is that Safari WILL display the font and pointing correctly, so it CAN be done! Even on my iPhone (which, to date, cannot handle SBL Hebrew), I can view John Hobbins’ post with vowel pointing correctly lining up.

What about it, Mac users? What are you experiencing? Will Firefox ever support fonts like SBL Hebrew correctly? What is your browser of choice?

PC users: can you see John’s Hebrew texts in SBL Hebrew with the vowels in correct alignment? What browser are you using?

My other source of frustration is was with WordPress. Not the online blog site, but the program itself. I use WordPress for my blog on a private server. Somewhere in the past I could type unicode for Hebrew and Greek and it would display just fine. Then, more recently, when I typed in Hebrew text, the Hebrew showed up fine in the “New Post” creation window, until I saved the draft or published it, then *POOF* the Hebrew would disappear and be replaced with question marks. Some of my commenters have experienced this problem too. I think I have finally found the solution!! I’m posting the instructions here for others who might be having trouble.
Andre Oboler suggested the following:

If your blog displays question marks instead of Hebrew characters, you may need to tweak WordPress a little bit.
In the root directory of your blog installation, there’s a file called wp-config.php.
Open it in a text editor and replace “define(‘DB_CHARSET’, ‘utf8’);” with “define(‘DB_CHARSET’, ”);”. That should do the trick.

And the proof…

‏שִׁיר לַמַּעֲלוֹת אֶשָּׂא עֵינַי אֶל־הֶהָרִים מֵאַיִן יָבֹא עֶזְרִי׃
עֶזְרִי מֵעִם יְהוָה עֹשֵׂה שָׁמַיִם וָאָרֶץ׃
אַל־יִתֵּן לַמּוֹט רַגְלֶךָ אַל־יָנוּם שֹׁמְרֶךָ׃
הִנֵּה לֹא־יָנוּם וְלֹא יִישָׁן שׁוֹמֵר יִשְׂרָאֵל׃
יְהוָה שֹׁמְרֶךָ יְהוָה צִלְּךָ עַל־יַד יְמִינֶךָ׃
יוֹמָם הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ לֹא־יַכֶּכָּה וְיָרֵחַ בַּלָּיְלָה׃
יְהוָה יִשְׁמָרְךָ מִכָּל־רָע יִשְׁמֹר אֶת־נַפְשֶׁךָ׃
יְהוָה יִשְׁמָר־צֵאתְךָ וּבוֹאֶךָ מֵעַתָּה וְעַד־עוֹלָם׃

So now, comments can include Hebrew, Greek, and other “complex” fonts that were previously being stripped out!

Observe the Ant

Prov 6:6 Hebrew

Go to the ant… observe its ways and be wise Prov. 6.6

This photo is just amazing. Taken by 24-year-old amateur photographer, Bolucevschi Vitali, who captured the title of CIWEM‘s Environmental Photographer of the Year 2009 with this picture, Talking About Stars.

Talking about Stars

On a sunny day I took a camera and set out to photograph something of the life of ants. At first I was no good as the ants moved very quickly and I was easily distracted. But gradually I was drawn to a group which was climbing up a nearby dandelion. They would each pull out one seed and then parachute to the ground.