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Ezra SIL Frequently Asked Questions for Office 2003 — FAQ

Christopher Samuel and NRSI staff, 2007-06-15


What should I expect with the Ezra SIL fonts?

1. Marks may not display properly or consistently unless Office 2003 or later is installed. Part of the code for displaying Hebrew is included in this software, plus there are numerous bug fixes for language handling.

2. v 1.0 of the Ezra SIL fonts required data to be in the order of:

  • Consonant
  • Sin/Shin dot
  • Dagesh/Rafe
  • Vowel
  • Cantillation

v 2.0 requires data to be in the more restricted order of:

  • Consonant
  • Sin/Shin dot
  • Dagesh/Rafe
  • Vowel
  • Low Cantillation
  • Low Pre-positives
  • High Pre-positives
  • High Cantillation
  • High Post-Positives

v 2.5 requires the same data order, but is more prescriptive in the use of CGJ, ZWJ and ZWNJ.

See Keying in Hebrew.pdf if you are uncertain of the mark classes. This strict order may be handled internally in subsequent versions of Microsoft Office. Other Hebrew fonts may not require this order.

3. Note that where there are multiple vowels or multiple cantillation marks, they should be listed in the order they appear, from right to left and low before high.

4. As shown, cantillation marks which normally occur at the beginning of a word (pre-positives) must follow the first consonant and vowel, according to Unicode 3 requirements. The font will recognize and place them word-initial.

5. These fonts will not correctly display text which is in Unicode 5.0 canonical order. Use the order in statement 2, above. Some preliminary tests suggest that this is no longer true for Windows Vista or Office 2007, but this has not been checked extensively.


Some glyphs look similar and are hard to distinguish, especially at smaller point sizes.

The original Biblical Hebrew font (SIL Ezra) was optimized for reading at point sizes of 14 or 16. We suggest that you use Ezra SIL at a point size of 16 to be fully readable and not out of proportion to Times New Roman at point size 12.

The letters are not smooth, but have jagged edges on the screen, even at large sizes.

It may help to turn on ClearType for better screen display. Here are instructions for Windows XP, from Microsoft Help (search on ClearType):

To use ClearType for screen fonts

  1. Open Display in Control Panel.
  2. On the Appearance tab, click Effects.
  3. In the Effects dialog box, select the Use the following method to smooth edges of screen fonts check box.
  4. Click ClearType in the list.


  • To open Display, click Start, click Control Panel, and then double-click Display.
  • ClearType is ideal for portable computer and other flat screen monitors. ClearType may appear slightly blurry on desktop computer monitors.
  • Whether you select Standard or ClearType from the list, you must have a video card and monitor that support a color setting of at least 256 colors. Best results are achieved with High color (24-bit) or Highest color (32-bit) support. Click the Settings tab to set Color quality.

Which parenthesis do I type, right or left?

Sometimes the right parenthesis appears when you type ")" and sometimes you get the left one. This is because certain items are now "mirrored" in Unicode. These include parentheses, brackets, and curly brackets or braces. The application, not the keyboard or the font, determines which one you will get. So if you don't get the right shape when you type ")", try "(".

Licensing and Distribution

Since they're free, can I give a copy of the Ezra SIL fonts to my friends?

Yes, as long as you meet the conditions of the license (do not sell by itself, include the necessary files, rename Modified Versions, do not abuse the Author(s)' name(s) and do not sublicense).

The easiest method for sharing these fonts is to provide the zip or exe file to your friends, or give the URL to the download site:

This font is now under the SIL Open Font License (OFL) license. Further information on licensing can be found here: OFL-FAQ web version (1.1-update6).

Hebrew in the BHS

What characters are missing from Unicode for biblical Hebrew?

The Biblia Hebraica Stuttgartensia is a well-known Hebrew text. The Ezra SIL font was designed to display this text specifically. However, earlier versions of Unicode did not define some of the characters used in the BHS. New code points have now been defined and version 2.5 of the fonts handles them correctly. To read about the issues, however, see the links below:

Meteg and Siluq in the BHS Joan Wardell and Christopher Samuel, 2003-09-30
This short discussion on Meteg in biblical Hebrew explains how to encode various placements with a single codepoint.

Reversed Nun in the BHS Joan Wardell, Peter Constable and Christopher Samuel, 2003-11-05
This short discussion of reversed nun explains how it is used in the Ezra SIL fonts.

Puncta in the BHS Joan Wardell and Christopher Samuel, 2003-09-30
This short discussion on Puncta dots in biblical Hebrew and Unicode explains how they are used in the Ezra SIL fonts.

Contact Us

As our fonts and utilities are distributed at no cost, we are unable to provide a commercial level of personal technical support. We will, however, try to resolve problems that are reported to us.

We do hope that you will report problems so they can be addressed in future releases. Even if you are not having any specific problems, but have an idea on how this system could be improved, we want to hear your ideas and suggestions.

Please note that our software products are intended for use by experienced computer users. Installing and using them is not a trivial matter. The most effective technical support is usually provided by an experienced computer user who can personally sit down with you at your computer to troubleshoot the problem.

General troubleshooting information, including frequently asked questions, can be found in the documentation. Additional information is also available on the FAQ pages. If that fails to answer your question, please contact us by starting a topic on the  Language Software Community site.

We also have an email contact form, however we will responding to those messages only as staff resources allow. Please use the new community site before using the form.

Page History

2008-02-29 JW: reviewed
2007-06-15 LP: updated for Ezra SIL 2.5

2004-01-22 JW: Page creation

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