Unicode in BibleWorks
I know, I know... Bwgrkn and Bwhebb are what make BW so incredibly unique and cool, and Unicode is, after all, just way too complicated. :p
But, I'd like to add one more voice to the discussion about switching to Unicode in BW (there is a discussion going on out there somewhere, isn't there?), from the perspective of someone who is constantly working with the language that goes the "wrong way".
Imagine typing this sentence, letter for letter, backwards...
...sdrawkcab ,rettel rof rettel ,ecnetnes siht gnipyt enigamI
Just try it... no really, try it (without looking at my attempt... you can check me after you're done and see if I got it right).
Now that you've tried it (you did try it, didn't you?), you've gotten a little taste of one reason why so many people find Hebrew so daunting. Now imagine that the keys on your keyboard have semi-randomly assigned Cuneiform characters on them and you have to guess which one corresponds with the English letter you want to type.
It takes absolutely forever to type that way, doesn't it? So frustrating that you just want to give up, perhaps? No wonder so many people just give up on Hebrew as soon as they pass those Seminary classes. It's not the only reason, but it is certainly one of them.
Please, BW staff, I implore you to consider switching to Unicode in the main interface of BW. At the very least, please consider it for Hebrew.
When I'm thinking in Hebrew, I'm thinking right-to-left. It is completely unintuitive for me, at that moment, to hit backspace and see the character to the left of my cursor disappear. It just doesn't work. It's like insisting that you work with English in a right-to-left context.
I know it's a pain for you as programmers. I know it would completely mess with some of the very core of this wonderful program (I not being sarcastic, it really is a wonderful program), but Hebrew scholars around the world would thank you dearly!
By the way, if you're an Old Testament scholar who doesn't use Unicode, give it a serious try for a month or two... force yourself to use it on a daily basis, and I'm confident you'll never look back. If you're already looking back, do me a favor and don't post below... it'll ruin my argument. ;)
If any of you haven't already, you can get started with Unicode here: http://www.tyndale.cam.ac.uk/index.php?page=unicode (I am in no way affiliated, I promise!).
Would anyone else like to see BW switch completely to Unicode?
Unicode is quite well supported in terms of export, and one can also type in expected right to left in the Editor and Notes windows. What I'm guessing you are getting at is the typing one does in the command line. Correct? Yeah, I'm also guessing that might be a big deal in programming terms. Not only would you have to deal w/ the R2L issue, but it would likely make searches much more complicated 'under the hood.' If I understand it correctly, it isn't too hard searching in something like Beta code because you can search for consonants and/or vowels and separately in a sense and filter out what you don't need. To do Unicode searches where each character is represents both the consonant and the vowel, searching for a three literal root would need lookup table w/ all the permutations of each consonant w/ every vowel. I suspect this is something like what Logos does, but the tradeoff is in speed.
Part of the problem is that on the command line for morphology searches there is a mix of Hebrew and English characters. So there will probably always be issues about the right-to-left nature of Hebrew vs. everything else left-to-right.
I personally have great difficulties with Unicode. I have been able to type consonantal text, but I cannot figure out how to add vowels. I have been trying to correct some html files created by someone else using Unicode fonts, and I have noticed that some of the Hebrew words are out of order when viewed in an html file, but when read in MS Word they are in the correct order. So I don't know if I should make them look right in Word, or if I should guess what html will do with them.
I wish that whoever is responsible for Unicode would start over for Hebrew and keep strike-over vowels and accents, as in the BibleWorks fonts. But, since I have used bwhebb for over 17 years now, perhaps I just don't have the heart to totally re-learn another Hebrew system. But I also know that it is a nice feature of BibleWorks to turn off the accents and/or turn off the vowels and view the original consonantal text (doing this sometimes makes it clear where the LXX came up with its translations which seem to be very different from the Masoretic text). If the text were to be Unicode, I suppose that the consonantal text would have to be a totally different database. And grouping the various spellings into lemmas would also be much more complicated and slow. But if enough institutions of higher education demand Unicode, and teach their students how to type in it, my guess is that BibleWorks will have to go along, if it is going to continue to be used.
Technically, you don't really have to turn off the vowels to be able to see how the LXX translator might have understood a different vowel pointing. The key is remembering that the vowel pointings were not original. They are not inspired. This is part of the beauty of OT text criticism. There are times - I'm sure I don't have to tell you this - that the LXX reading is, in fact, to be preferred.
Originally Posted by Mark Eddy