Now that you have a full appreciation of Unicode it’s time to setup windows to type in Greek (and Hebrew, for that matter).
First, open up your favorite document editor. I’m using OpenOffice.org, a free, powerful, and interpolatable solution to Microsoft Office. For testing purposes we need to use a Unicode font that supports the full set of Greek characters. If you’re using Vista, you can leave it on Times New Roman. Everyone else (and Vista users too, just to be safe), should set their font to either Palatino Linotype or Arial Unicode MS (I prefer the latter). Start typing. Still English. Now the fun begins.
Access your control panel and select “Regional and Language Options.” I am using Vista, so the name’s might be changed for XP or 2000 (and if you’re using ME or 98, it’s time to either upgrade or switch to Linux). Click on the “Keyboards and Languages” tab, which will open a new window. Click the “Add…” a keyboard/language button, which opens up yet another window. Browse for “Greek,” and then select the “Greek Polytonic” keyboard. Other keyboards will not work; you need Greek Polytonic. Click Ok, then Apply. Notice the Greek keyboard has been added to your list.
You will need an easy and convenient way to switch between keyboards, so click on the “Language Bar” tab. Choose any option other than “hidden” (I suggest docking it in the taskbar). In the “Advanced Key Settings” tab you can set special keyboard shortcuts for switching between keyboards, in accordance with your preferences.
There are other keyboards you might be interested in. Notice that I have two keyboards under “English.” The “United States-International” keyboard allows me to type words like “Bëla Fleck,” “Käsemann,” and “vis-à-vis” with particularly pretentious accuracy. I also have a Hebrew keyboard installed, which requires some comment. The Hebrew keyboard included in Windows is terrible; the layout is counter intuitive, and it lacks vowel pointings. You will have to install another keyboard, which can be downloaded here. The download includes instructions for installation and a keyboard layout in PDF.
Now that our keyboards are installed, you should see a new little bar in your already-busy taskbar. This is your language bar, which you can use to select the language you want to type in, as well as the keyboard you want to use for that language (if you set up more than one). Select “EL”, which is the Greek setting (remember, the Greek word for Greek is ελληνος).
Typing in Greek
Now go back to your word processor and start typing. You should see some Greek characters now. If not, check your language bar again (sometimes switching applications causes the system to revert to your default language).
The Layout of your New Keyboard
Now you need to learn how to use your new keyboard. There will probably be some keyboard-concepts you are not familiar with, the most important of which are called “dead keys.” Dead keys are keys that only function in combination with other keys. The standard English keyboard does not use deadkeys, so if you are used to that keyboard, this might take same getting used to (as will the “US-International”) keyboard. With a little practice, however, you will be a master, and might even consider switching to a dead-key enabled keyboard as your default (as I eventually did).
To get started, press the ” key in your Word Processor. Nothing happened. That’s because Microsoft is waiting for another key. Now type “a”. You should see something like ἁ. Dead keys are used by the Greek keyboard to create all those diacritical marks necessary for typing in ancient Greek. Don’t worry, they’re all there, you just need to find where to find them.
Take a look at the following diagram. This is a keyboard map for the Polytonic keyboard. The keys in yellow are all dead-keys and will therefore only work in combination with an appropriate secondary key (and only “legal” Greek characters can be produced–the fabled λ with a smooth-breathing is still only a fantasy).
Now try this one. Notice that the Right “Alt” key (and ONLY the right one) is greyed-in. This indicates a new keyboard state. When you hold down the right Alt key, the keyboard “shifts” to allow access to different keys, which are shown in the keyboard map. Again, the yellow keys are dead keys, so the key combination “alt-q” followed by an “a” results in the following character: ᾴ.
There are four total keyboard states, two of which you already use: (1) Standard and (2) Shifted. Now you add two more: (3) Alt and (4) Alt-Shift. Remember, it is only the right Alt that does this.
A Full Keyboard Map
Microsoft used to have full documentation of the Polytonic Keyboard layout online, but it no longer appears to be available. Rather than distribute the whole document, which is needlessly long and complicated, I have copied their map images (which I believe are public domain) and placed them in my own PDF cheat sheet. Download it here!
One more note: you may be wondering how to access keys that used to be easy to get to, such as the “;” key, which is now a dead-key. The answer: certain keys can only be accessed by typing a dead-key followed by a space. These are usually keys that are not often used, so it’s not really a problem. A map for these keys is provided on the second page of the above PDF.
All this sounds intimidating, but you will get used to your new keyboard quickly, and you will be proud of your efforts. No more searching that horrible “insert symbol” dialog. No more dependency on software like Bibleworks for Greek characters. Dead keys are your friends!
Next up: the best fonts for Greek and Hebrew.