What is Unicode?

Here is a brief discussion of unicode and why it is important. For a detailed discussion please see Rod Decker's page.

The Problem

Before the unicode standard, it seemed that everyone had different ideas of where the Grek letters should go on the keyboard. Is the "x" key the ξ or the χ? This meant that whenever you sent someone a word processing document, you had to make sure they had the same font.

The Solution

The unicode standard decided where every Greek letter and combination of accents should go. This is technically called a "code page." There is one for "Greek and Coptic," and another one called "Greek Extended" that includes all the breathings and accents. On the Macintosh, you can see these in the Character Viewer.


But you still need to access these code pages if you are going to type Greek. The problem is that thousands of people have been using the TekniaGreek keyboard for years, which, for example, places the ξ on the "x," the smooth + acute combination (ἄ) on the "[" key, etc.

TekniaGreek Keyboard

Enter the TekniaGreek Unicode Keyboard. When it is installed in your Mac, you be able to use the keys you are used to but will be typing in unicode.

Greek Fonts

The key to understanding unicode fonts is that a single font has English and Greek (and Hebrew and possibly many other languages). Unlike the non-unicode way of getting to Greek that had one font for English and one font for Greek, a unicode font has the different languages all in one font. So how do you access the Greek? You don't switch fonts; you switch keyboards, English to Greek, and then back to English.

Note: not all unicode fonts have all languages. Some will have all, for example, the European languages, but not necessarily Greek and Hebrew, or they will have English and Greek but not Hebrew. So you need a complete unicode font.

We are working on our own. Teknia will be a Palatino-based font with Greek (and eventually Hebrew) that is optimized for print, and TekniaWeb will be optimized for screen display. But they are a ways off (unless some font meister wants to help me)

But there are many good fonts out there that have English and Greek in the same font, and sometimes even Hebrew.

  • Gentium by Victor Gaultney. Especially good for print.
  • Cardo by David Perry. Includes Hebrew.
  • Minion Pro by Adobe (installed with the free Adobe Acrobat Reader)
  • Galatia SIL
  • Galilee Unicode Gk by Rod Decker. Especially good for screen and video display
  • Many of the normal fonts supplied by Apple or Microsoft will have all the languages, like Lucida Grande, Palatino, Times New Roman, Verdana, etc.

Check the fonts out with the Character Viewer to confirm they have Greek and Hebrew.