Re: The display of *kholam* on PCs

From: John Hudson (
Date: Thu Mar 06 2003 - 15:42:15 EST

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    At 12:08 PM 3/6/2003, Dean Snyder wrote:

    >Has this Windows-only model of distribution been widely aired amongst the
    >membership of the Society of Biblical Literature? I know that many SBL
    >scholars use Macintosh computers, and for publishers to accept only
    >Windows-generated documents seems an onerous restriction, particularly in
    >such a large and internationally diverse organization as SBL.

    The fonts have a Unicode cmap, so they can be used in any environment that
    supports Unicode text input and editing. The font format is a TrueType
    flavoured OpenType font, which is the most widely supported font file and
    outline format (probably ever), and has native system support in all
    flavours of Windows, on Mac OS X, and on Linux and other flavours of UNIX
    via FreeType.

    In order to correctly *display* the text strings, the lookup features in
    the font need to be applied by a layout engine. This is done automatically
    in applications on Windows that make use of standard system text processing
    APIs. This is also done in some cross-platform, third party applications,
    such as the Middle East version of Adobe InDesign, that use internal text
    processing engines instead of system calls. I am not certain what level of
    Hebrew layout support is currently available to Linux etc. users, but I do
    know that both FreeType and ICU seek to achieve the same results as
    Uniscribe using the same fonts.

    The problem you have is that Apple, despite being involved with Unicode
    from the earliest days, have only recently shipped an OS with native
    Unicode text processing available; this text processing is only available
    to 'Cocoa' apps, i.e. apps writtenly natively for OS X, rather than
    'Carbonised' i.e. updated from previous versions; there are still very few
    native Cocoa apps, and even the MS Office suite under Apple has very poor
    Unicode support compared to the same apps under Windows; Apple have been
    saying for years that they would support OpenType Layout features in some
    way, but have yet to do anything; Apple continue to rely on their own AAT
    font format, despite the fact that almost no font developers are producing
    fonts for that format (GX by any other name smelling as sweet). So while I
    sympathise with your concern that the fonts might appear to be
    'Windows-only', I think the proper target for your frustration is Apple,
    who have been systematically fumbling the ball for several years now.

    >Also, are you saying that the requisite font layout features are only
    >doable via OpenType?

    In the initial version of the font, yes. It is an OpenType font, using
    OpenType glyph substitution and positioning technology to correctly render
    Biblical Hebrew from Unicode encoded text strings. That said, if funding is
    available, it would be possible to make a version of the typeface in the
    AAT format, using that technology to produce the same shaping (I've some
    experience with AAT, but I'm not sure just how difficult it might be to
    achieve some of the cleverer contextual stuff I have in the SBL Hebrew OT
    font; AAT is a very difficult format to develop for, and Apple's tools
    leave a *lot* to be desired). We're already looking at making a custom
    PostScript version of the font to be used with some older, non-Unicode
    typesetting software.

    The best long-term solution is for Apple to follow through on their promise
    to support OpenType Layout features, so that we have a genuinely cross
    platform font solution.

    John Hudson

    Tiro Typeworks
    Vancouver, BC

    It is necessary that by all means and cunning,
    the cursed owners of books should be persuaded
    to make them available to us, either by argument
    or by force. - Michael Apostolis, 1467

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