On the previous computer I could type Hebrew in logical order in Word and everything worked peachy. On the new computer, no such luck.
Hoping that I get everything remembered correctly, it is a two-step process to make Windows (NT, 2K, XP) Hebrew-aware, and then to do the same for Hebrew.
- Go to your Regional settings control panel (e.g., select "Start -> Settings -> Control Panels -> Regional Options.
- Under "General", on the bottom half of your window, you will see "Language Settings". check the "hebrew" box. (Ignore "Advanced" settings here unless you want to add EBCDIC Hebrew—and unless you know what that is and are unfortunate enough to really need it—and if so there is a story that you should tell me—you really don't need this.)
- In the top pane of your "Regional Settings" window, choose "Input Locales", click "Add", and add Hebrew.
- Restart your computer
- If you will be using Microsoft Word 2000 or later (I can't speak for earlier versions), you now need to install the same resources in MS Office. Isn't it cool how Microsoft applications talk to each other? Start -> Programs -> Microsoft Language Tools -> Microsoft Office Language Settings and choose to add "Hebrew".
- For good luck, restart again.
At this point, you should have a little blue square icon in your toolbox or whatever Microsoft calls the cluttered set of teensy square icons at the lower right-hand edge of your Windows screen. Clicking that icon (there's a keyboard shortcut, but it escapes me at the moment) will cause the computer to think you want Hebrew. It should display characters in logical order as you type them.
For vowels, welcome to a wonderfully arcane system for inputting them. It is painful. You want this helpful page on Typing Hebrew Points.
There are some alternatives if you are interested in Yiddish, starting with a delightful keyboard layout manager that will make life simple for you and offer you several nice layouts. The problem is that the keyboard layout manager seemed to conflict with the above way of entering Hebrew, slightly. In the end, I decided to do without. But, for more information about it, and for lots of information about typesetting Yiddish, see Shoshke's "A User's Guide to Yiddish on the Internet". This covers Mac, Windows, Linux/Unix, etc.
I also tested Abiword. Since I didn't have to do more than piggyback on the Hebrew resources already installed in the control panel, this felt (and still feels) like a nifty tool for general Hebrew typing. It is also supported by the keyboard layout tool, mentioned above. But I can't figure out how to work with AbiWord and vowels. So, for now, this is not a tool in which to do Bible studies or to compose Hebrew poetry. I'll be working more with this anon, so expect to hear more.
I was under the illusion that InDesign 2.x, CS, supported BiDi Hebrew, although it was funky on the line wrap. The reality is much worse. InDesign supports OpenType fonts, but knows nothing about BiDi, so, for Hebrew, you type in your characters backwards. On a whim, I imported a Word document with vowelled Hebrew. It was not pretty. The vowels don't work backwards—you simply get a stream of backwards Hebrew with vowels interspersed as characters.
In the old days, this is how I set Hebrew using Quark XPress—I would write a filter in python (go back 20 years and it was Turbo Pascal) that re-encoded the characters to fit my own Hebrew fonts, reversed the order, and then hand-kerned the vowels into place. If I thought that gave me decent quality for reasonable effort I wouldn't be quite so desperate to take advantage of these new OpenType fonts. For InDesign to be useful for Hebrew, I will need the InDesign ME package, which costs a fortune. That will have to wait until I have some paying customers.
Now that I was reading files, I decided to see whether any of these programs could read imported Unicode Hebrew HTML files, such as I created a few weeks ago. InDesign could read the file, but failed to parse the Hebrew Unicode entities, but its sister CS program, GoLive, Adobe's web editor, had no such problem and even parsed the display direction correctly. Word parsed the HTML no problem (which is almost unfair—much of the Hebrew was created by saving the Hebrew Word files in the first place and then shoveling out that awful Word-generated HTML crud). AbiWord turned out to be super-finicky about reading HTML files—it had to be validatible HTML. Fair enough, I guess.
Right now, when I get caught up on too many programming projects, my next priority is writing about Hebrew typesetting—what pages should look like—I have a review of my synagogue's Mahzor from last High Holidays that I'll put together as a page as soon as I am able. Stay tuned. In the meantime, I hope that some of this application-munging is helpful to someone. If so, let me know.