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Typesetting Arabic and CopticOther useful Egyptological applications

Typesetting Arabic and Coptic

Here is a list of fonts and applications for typesetting Arabic and Coptic on a Macintosh, each with a link to the developers site and a short overview of its capacities.

Something you’d like to read if you want to transscribe Coptic in our Latin alphabet (e.g. for e-mail communication) is the EEF transliteration chart.

Arabic typesetting environments

ArabTex by K. Lagally (tested version 3.11i) ****

Short — ArabTex is a Tex-package by K. Lagally for typesetting Arabic (and related scripts) and (basic) Hebrew. It has a lot of features (just take a look at the user manual) for advanced typesetting, and can easily be combined in one document with other scripts (e.g. Latin, hieroglyphs, …) using the power of Latex.

Availability — I have tested this Tex-package and it works fine with teTex on OS X Latex. Since there are no detailed installation instructions given in ArabTex’s documentation, here’s how to install it on OS X:

  1. Download the file arab311.tgz from K. Lagally’s site and unstuff it (using Stuffit Expander)
  2. Navigate in a terminal window (Applications>Utilities>Terminal) to the folder ‘arabtex’ just created and type the following commands (if a command results in a ‘permission denied’ error, add ‘sudo’ before that command and try it again):
    TEXPATH="/sw/share/texmf" # if you use teTex installed by Fink, use "/usr/local/teTeX/share/texmf.tetex" if you installed Latex using TeXShop/TeXLive-teTeX)
    cp -R tex/latex/arabtex/ ${TEXPATH}/tex/latex/arabtex
    cp -R doc/arabtex/ ${TEXPATH}/doc/latex/arabtex
    cp -R fonts/pk/arabtex/ ${TEXPATH}/fonts/pk/arabtex
    cp -R fonts/source/arabtex/ ${TEXPATH}/fonts/source/arabtex
    cp -R fonts/tfm/arabtex/ ${TEXPATH}/fonts/tfm/arabtex
    cp -R fonts/type1/arabtex/ ${TEXPATH}/fonts/type1/arabtex
    sudo texhash
  3. If you want to use the high-quality PostScript Type 1 fonts too (especially recommended if you want to print your documents on laser-printers or other printers of equal quality), you need to run these additional commands to enable them:
    sudo updmap --enable Map arabtex.map
    sudo texhash

ArabTex is basically available for all operating systems that can run Latex (OS 9, Windows, Unix/Linux), but there are no detailed installation instructions available.

Price — freeware (LaTeX Project Public License). The author asks that you credit the software if used in a scientific work and that you eventually provide him a copy of your work.

Strong points — advanced typesetting options (ligatures, etc.), generation of transliteration and Arabic text from the same input code, integration with Latex, nice high-qualtiy PostScript-font, support for many other Arabic-related scripts (e.g. Persian, Urdu, etc.) and even Hebrew.

Weak points — no wysiwyg-system, not very easy to learn, you have to learn (some basic) Latex too—but what’s wrong with that? ;-)

More information — visit ArabTex’s website.

Coptic typesetting environments

These applications combine Coptic and normal typesetting capabilites, allthough a Coptic font in any word processor will almost give you the same possibilities…

Coptic by S. Rosmorduc (tested version 2?) *****

Short — this is a Tex-package by S. Rosmorduc which adds a Coptic font to Latex.

Availability — since this is a simple Tex-package only including a bunch of files (fonts, styles, configuration etc.), it will work on any Latex-system, so also on teTex under OS X. However, installing this package may not be very easy if you don’t know how to install Tex-packages. Therefore, this is a simple installation how-to:

  1. Download the file from CTAN and unstuff it (using Stuffit Expander)
  2. Navigate in a terminal window (Applications>Utilities>Terminal) to the folder ‘Copte’ just created and type the following commands:
    TEXPATH="/sw/share/texmf" # if you use teTex installed by Fink, use "/usr/local/teTeX/share/texmf.tetex" if you installed Latex using TeXShop/TeXLive-teTeX)
    sudo mkdir -p ${TEXPATH}/tex/latex/coptic ${TEXPATH}/fonts/tfm/coptic ${TEXPATH}/fonts/source/coptic
    mv COPenc.def copenc.def
    chmod 644 copenc.def COPcopte.fd copte.sty
    sudo cp COPcopte.fd copenc.def copte.sty ${TEXPATH}/tex/latex/coptic
    make
    sudo cp copte.tfm ${TEXPATH}/fonts/tfm/coptic
    sudo cp bzrcopte.mf bzrsetup.mf copte.mf coptelig.mf ${TEXPATH}/fonts/source/coptic
    sudo chmod -R 644 ${TEXPATH}/fonts/source/coptic
    sudo texhash
    (you might have to repeat the last command if testing the package (cfr. infra) fails)
  3. Now test the package:
    latex essaicop.tex
    dvipdf essaicop.dvi
    open essaicop.pdf

    If this opens a pdf-file in Preview showing you some nice Coptic sentences, the package has been successfully installed :-)

It’s possible that it also runs on OS 9 (since there are also Latex-distributions for OS 9), but I haven’t tested this…

It should work on Windows and any Unix/Linux too, if you know how to install it…

Price — freeware (GNU General Public License).

Strong point — can be combined with the HieroTex-package, so you can easily type hieroglyphs, Coptic and Arabic and the same environment, i.e. you’ll never have to switch applications, integration in Latex which can produce very high quality documents, has lower- and uppercase characters.

Weak points — I first thought there was a bug in this package: I couldn’t get a supra linear stroke on the hori (coded h1), it gave me an eta with supra linear stroke (see screenshot and click to enlarge). The solution is not to use \textcopte{rwk\=h1} (as I first did), but to use the macro \barre{}, which draws a stroke above one or more letters. So \textcopte{rwk\barre{h1}} gives the right result. This macro is also a convenient way to draw strokes above abbreviations, e.g.. \copte{\barre{ihc}} instead of \copte{\=i\=h\=c}. So after all, there doesn’t seem to be a weak point ;-)

More information — visit Coptic’s website on CTAN.

Coptic fonts (TrueType and/or PostScript)

These fonts can easily be integrated in any application you want, making Coptic typesetting no problem at all.

SPAchmim by SBL (tested) ****

Short — this is a TrueType Coptic font which can be used in all native Mac OS applications (e.g. word processor, image editing, etc.). Included are all Coptic characters with different forms of the chai and supra linear strokes for all characters.

Availability — it’s a simple font-file, so it works on both Mac OS X and Mac OS 9 or any other operating system (Windows, Unix/Linux).

Price — public domain.

Strong points — easy installation, easy to use once you know where all characters can be found (see the readme-file)

Weak points — has only one set of characters, i.e. no distinction is made between lower- and uppercase, has no punctuation characters (typing a point will switch to Lucida Grande).

More information — visit SPAchmim’s website.

Coptic by CCER (tested) ****

Short — this is the Coptic font used by WinGlyph. There are four fonts in the zip-file you can download: two versions of one font, and another font is included twice (there are two fonts with different names but they look just the same to me).

Availability — available for both Mac OS X and Mac OS 9 (or any other operating system (Windows, Unix/Linux)), since it’s just a TrueType font.

Price — freeware or public domain (not very clear to me).

Strong points — a clear, quite complete font with a ‘modern’ look, has supralinear strokes and even characters with dots under.

Weak points — no uppercase characters (but does anybody use them anyway?), no punctuation characters.

More information — visit Yare Egyptology‘s site (which has a copy of these fonts).

Coptic alphabet by Deniart Systems (not tested) (****)

Short — this is Coptic font (both TrueType and PostScript Type 1 included), which has both upper- and lowercase characters. Also included are special versions of the most common punctuation symbols.

Availability — available for Mac OS X and Mac OS 9 (or any other operating system (Windows, Unix/Linux)), since it simply consists of one font file.

Price — $10.

Strong points — quite complete font with a nice design, can be used in any application that supports selection of fonts, has punctuation characters too (so you don’t have to switch between fonts for that).

Weak points — supralinear strokes don’t seem to be available. Other fonts have them usually mapped under the uppercase characters (e.g. ‘A’ gives you a lowercase alpha with a supralinear stroke), but since this font also has uppercase characters, it seems unlikely to me there are also supralinear strokes available…

More information — visit Deniart Systems’ website.

©2006 F. Vervloesem.