The “How to Type in Greek” series of posts is designed to help you set-up your computer to type Ancient (Polytonic) Greek using a Unicode Font. Be sure to check out Part I (on Unicode), II (on setting up Windows), and III (on recommended Fonts).
This post is designed to show Linux users how to set-up a Polytonic Greek keyboard, with particular attention to Ubuntu. The goal is that our keyboard will function identically regardless of Desktop Environment or application—QT and GTK should each work flawlessly, and both KOffice and OpenOffice.org (as well as any other native Linux applications) should generate identical Greek characters. Once your keyboard is setup you will be able to dynamically switch between Greek and English in any application.
Before getting started you may want to read two previous posts in this series. (1) This post explains the advantages of Unicode and its usefulness (and necessity) for typing in Greek. (2) Once you have your keyboard setup, you will need to read through this post to find an open-source Greek font that implements all the necessary bells and whistles for typing in Ancient Greek (all the fonts listed are compatible with Linux).
A Guide by Vern Poythress
The most important resource for Polytonic Greek in Linux is this guide by Vern Poythress of Westminster Seminary. This is an excellent guide, complete with links and special files that will help you get the perfect setup. The only difficulty is that it is not distribution specific. In general this is a good thing, but I ran into problems with Ubuntu due to their default input method under 8.04, and the setup is much easier in 8.10. If you have problems with the steps below, follow Poythress’s guide.
Polytonic Greek works out of the box in Ubuntu 8.10, much to my surprise (see the comments to this post; thanks Simos). To get it working, right click on your panel and add the keyboard indicator. Next, right click on your new keyboard indicator and choose “Keyboard preferences.” This will bring up a dialog. Choose the layouts tab, then the Plus button. You choose your layout by Country then by Variant. You want “Greece” and the “Polytonic.”
That’s it. Everything should be working, though you may want to follow Poythress’s guide to tweak your keyboard layout a bit. If your would prefer to use SCIM, which is a different Input Method particularly useful for complex characters (and which might solve problems with compatibility issues), follow the guide below on Ubuntu 8.04.
Ubuntu 8.04: How to Set Up SCIM
Ubuntu, and several other GNOME-heavy distributions (like Fedora), do not use SCIM by default, which is the preferred input method for complex characters (accents and the like). You will therefore have to set it up manually, which is not difficult. Here are the steps I used for Ubuntu:
The latest versions of Ubuntu provide a pretty simple way of doing this. You just need to set a couple of language options. You need to allow for complex character creation. System –> Administration –> Language Support. Check the box for “Enable support to Enter Complex Characters.” This tells X.org that you want to use SCIM, rather than the default input method. You do NOT need to install anything else, so ignore any notices that tells you otherwise, and don’t select any languages. You are only concerned about characters and keyboards. Now you will need to restart.
When GNOME boots up again, there will be a little keyboard icon in your taskbar. Right-click on this icon and select SCIM Setup. Go to “Global Setup.” You should see a list of various Input Methods. You need “Other – English/European” . Check that box, Apply, then close out of the dialog. You may need to restart again, but it shouldn’t be necessary. You will now be able to use the keyboard icon to select the preferred Input Method. I have English/European set as default, but you can always move between different methods if you like. Just click on the Keyboard icon, and select what you want to use. Whenever you type in Greek you will need to be using “English/European” in order to get all the accents.
Moving to SCIM as the defult input manager may result in a couple of problems
(1) You may loose some shortcut features in Nautilus as a result of certain SCIM implementations. Nautilus allows you to type to select folders and files, and with SCIM this might no longer work. There is an easy fix, however. At the command line, type: im-switch -c . Select scim-immodule. Restart your x-server and you should be good to go.
(2) Regardless of distribution, you will need to install extra software if you use Virtualization technology, such as VirtualBox or VMWare.
For Ubuntu (or other Debian-based distributions) search for and install scim-bridge-client-qt and scim-bridge-client-qt4 in Synaptic, or just type the following in a Terminal:
sudo apt-get install scim-bridge-client-qt scim-bridge-client-qt4
All Distrubutions: Setting up your Keyboard
Now that you have SCIM set up and everything else working, you can install your Greek keyboard. Right click on the gnome panel and select “Add to Panel.” Select “Keyboard Indicator” and close out of the dialog. Right click on your new panel item (which probably says something like “USA”) and select the “Preferences” option. Click the “Layout” tab, then add a new layout. You need to add the “Greece” keyboard and the “Polytonic” variant. You can now switch to the Greek Keyboard layout by clicking on this panel dialog, or you can set a keyboard shortcut for alternating between keyboard layouts (I have keyboard-switching set to the Caps Lock key).
These steps provide you with all the necessary fundamentals for enabling Polytonic Greek in Ubuntu (or other distributions). But this is Linux, so the customization options are endless. You can, for example, remap certain keys so that they are more intuitive (such as the breathing marks). For this, and other hand tricks, follow Poythress’s guide, start with the section on “Adding Keymaps.” You can skip the section about the “Compose” file, which is unnecesary once you have SCIM working.
Enjoy all the polytonic goodness!