About GreekKeys Unicode
November 11, 2015: sales of GreekKeys 2008 ceased on October 28. The updated product GreekKeys 2015 is now available at the web site of the Society for Classical Studies (free to SCS members, $20 for non-members, free or discounted for those who purchased GreekKeys 2008 on or after August 1, 2014). Click here for the new sales and support site.
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What is Unicode?
Unicode is an international standard for encoding of characters and other symbols used in writing systems and printing throughout the world. The standard is overseen by a consortium, and the major manufacturers of computers and operating systems are cooperating in its implementation. For more information, visit http://www.unicode.org. Each character or symbol accepted into the Unicode standard has a unique code point or digital identification. This is usually represented in hexadecimal notation, with the hexadecimal digits (0-9 and a-f) preceded by U+. Most characters are in the range represented by four hexadecimal digits (Basic Multilingual Plane = BMP = Plane 0), U+0000 through U+ffff; but some are now in the Supplementary Multilingual Plane (= SMP = Plane 1) with five digits. Thus lowercase alpha is U+03b1, the combination of lowercase alpha with acute accent and iota subscript is U+1fb4, and the Greek acrophonic Attic symbol for one hundred staters is U+10152.
Before widespread support of Unicode, representation of polytonic Greek on computers depended on a number of different and incompatible schemes, depending on the operating system and the software being used. Casual users had great difficulty in moving files containing Greek from one application to another or from one platform to another. This confusion of incompatible and custom encodings can now be avoided. Everyone using personal computers with Mac OS X, Windows, or Linux should abandon or avoid the use of obsolete fonts and keyboards that depend on encodings such as Traditional GreekKeys, SPIonic, SuperGreek, WinGreek, etc. Continued use of such encodings is a detriment to the exchange, dissemination, and long-term survivability of knowledge that all scholars should care about.
As of 2008 only poorly implemented or poorly updated software fails to support Unicode Greek, at least for the regular characters used in polytonic Greek as provided in two blocks of characters defined by Unicode versions 4.1 and 5.0.
While Unicode Greek is a wonderful advance, it is not perfect or free from problems, especially if one needs to push the limits of typography in the more specialized areas of scholarship. First, the initial design of the Greek block was imperfectly conceived. Second, the theory behind Unicode character construction (by the combination of a base character and one or more modifications, such as diacritics) is forward-looking and anticipates developments in fonts, operating systems, and software that are not yet broadly enough or well enough implemented. And this theory also sets high technological requirements on future scholarly fonts, so that it is more difficult for scholars to develop their own advanced fonts, while there is little motivation for the commercial vendors to meet the specialized needs of a relatively small group of users.
If you are a classicist making the transition from an old custom encoding of polytonic Greek to Unicode, you may find it useful to read the paper "Before and After Unicode: Working with Polytonic Greek", a revised version of a 2006 presentation.
For further technical details about problems to be confronted in standardizing Greek polytonic texts, see Technical Details.
To obtain the code charts for the Greek and Greek Extended character sets, visit http://www.unicode.org/charts/ (you need to scroll down to locate Greek Extended).
For more information about the Unicode code points to be used for more specialized purposes, please see the documentation compiled by the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae project, especially the PDF Beta to Unicode Quick Guide.
What is GreekKeys Unicode
GreekKeys Unicode is the transformation of the popular Macintosh-only product of the 1980s and 1990s into a form suited to modern standards in multilingual computing. GreekKeys Unicode keyboards use the same pattern as the old GreekKeys keyboards, so that long-time users do not need to learn new locations for typing diacritics. But the data input by GreekKeys Unicode keyboards is in Unicode instead of in a customized encoding not recognized by any standards authority and in part now incompatible with modern computing. GreekKeys 2005 delivered to the Macintosh a mature version of GreekKeys Unicode inputs side by side with the traditional GreekKeys product, for those who still needed it. Now GreekKeys 2008 extends the same ease and generality of input of polytonic Greek to Windows users.
Along with the revision of the GreekKeys keyboards from a customized to a standards-compliant form has come the creation of new fonts. The newer fonts, based on Unicode, are inherently cross-platform and capable of containing hundreds or thousands of characters instead of the 255 characters of the pre-Unicode era. New Athena Unicode font reached version 2 at the time of the release of GreekKeys 2005, and is at version 3.2 in GreekKeys 2008. GreekKeys 2008 also includes three additional fonts with almost as many characters as New Athena Unicode.