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SIL Hebrew Font System (Obsolete) - Known Incompatibilities and Support

NRSI staff, 1999-06-30

Ezra and Unicode

This SIL Hebrew Font System is a pre-Unicode or “legacy” font system. It provides a means of working with biblical Hebrew texts in an encoding created by SIL in 1995. These fonts are superceded by Unicode-encoded Hebrew fonts, such as Ezra SIL.

The transliteration fonts in this package were made obsolete with the advent of Latin Unicode fonts, available with any newer OS. Only a keyboard is helpful (not required) for typing Hebrew transliteration. See last item in Ezra SIL package or Hebrew-Greek Transliteration Unicode Keyboard for Macintosh for two examples.

General Statement

This software is being made available at no charge to the public as a courtesy. It is not a trivial matter to install and use. It is recommended for those already familiar with using a non-roman language on their computer, those familiar with Hebrew, and those who have used keyboarding programs previously.

The encoding was chosen to meet certain needs within the SIL organization. It is not compatible with any known encoding or body of text, other than that of Translator’s Workplace. Because of this, or because of the complexity of installation and use, it may not be suitable for your use.

Windows Version 1.1

There is not enough space in a standard TrueType font to handle all possible combinations of consonants, vowels, and cantillation marks, given the approach we have taken. Therefore, you may notice that the placement of certain characters on the page is not the preferred. You will get the best results only from the Macintosh GX version of the fonts.

Due to the space limitation discussed above, the following features are not fully functional.

  • Vowel and cantillation combinations with qoph may collide or overstrike the qoph “tail”.
  • Full spelling of vowels. Full spelling vowels, such as kamets-he and hireq-yod, are not retained in the Display Encoding. They are available only in the Standard Encoding (Full). We don’t expect this to be a problem, since text in the Standard Encoding is intended for storage and analysis, not display.
  • Defective hireq. A hireq preceding a word-final mem may sometimes fall to the left, under the mem, such as in the word “Jerusalem”. This is not supported.

Other Facts

  • Shewa and silent shewa. Kamets and kamets-o. To retain the difference between the two shewas and the two kametses, they must be keyed as two distinct characters. They will look identical in Ezra, but will be different in the transliteration.
  • The keyboard charts indicate the characters $, ^, and +. These keys are only valid when used in combination with other characters. They have no function when typed in isolation.
  • The keyboard charts indicate a character called ZWL (zero width letter). This is a character made available for certain uses in publishing, such as for preventing final forms of the consonants from appearing. Another character is the non-breaking space. If your application supports it, you may find it useful. It is not on the keyboard chart, but can be found at location 176 (Alt-0176) or Opt-5.
  • Weak aleph. A holem preceding an aleph which has no vowel would normally display over the right side of the aleph. The Ezra-DE keyboard for PC handles it for most situations. If needed, turn off the keyboard and type the holem as Alt-0215. Then turn the keyboard back on.
  • If you find that some vowels and low cants are “touching”, you may wish to move a character slightly left. This can be done by inserting one or more thinspaces (Alt-space on the Ezra-DE keyboard) before it. Note that thinspaces are not retained when converting (using CC) to the Standard Encoding.
  • In the standard encoding keyboards, a single ‘=‘ will give a dagesh (dot). To type a stand-alone dagesh when using a display keyboard, type ‘=‘ ‘=‘. This is intentional, but not documented on the chart.
  • The CC table DE2SE will automatically change some shewas to silent shewa and leave others as the spoken shewa, even if the original text only had the spoken shewa, or a combination of the two.

Known Incompatibilities

  • Overstriking characters such as vowels and cantillation marks will not display using certain display drivers. If you experience difficulty, try installing the standard Microsoft video driver for your display.
  • Certain key combinations cannot be blocked in Microsoft Word 6.0 for Windows. Using any keystroke not documented may result in illegal characters being displayed or other undefined action by Word 6. Known problem combinations are Alt-2 and Alt-m.
  • Certain key combinations must be blocked in Microsoft Word 2000/2002 in order to use the keyboards. Instructions are included in the Installation Guide.
  • When using Microsoft Word 6.0 for Windows with the transliteration keyboards, typing an ‘i’ followed by a space will cause the ‘i’ to disappear.
  • If you use “Insert Symbol” in Microsoft Word, and then use the “Reverse” macro to reverse the text, all inserted characters will turn into parentheses. Using the provided keyboard will avoid this problem.
  • The Ezra font is a symbol font, not Unicode. Therefore, characters will convert to question marks when saved from Word, except in ‘.doc’ format.

Mac version:

Known Incompatibilities

  • SILKey and BBEdit Lite 3.5: Certain key combinations require replacing letters on the display. In BBEdit, too many letters will be removed.
  • Ezra fonts and SoftWindows 2: We were not able to get SoftWindows to correctly display the overstriking characters in the Ezra fonts. Once a single overstrike had been typed, no more letters would appear until a carriage return was typed.
  • PageMaker 5.0 and SIL Heb Trans fonts: PageMaker 5 seems unable at times to locate individual fonts when they are placed in families.
  • PageMaker and Quickdraw GX are incompatible, therefore PageMaker is incompatible with the GX versions of the fonts.
  • Certain key combinations cannot be blocked in Microsoft Word 6.0 for Mac. Using any keystroke not documented may result in illegal characters being displayed or other undefined action by Word 6. Known problem combinations are Alt-n and Alt-m.

Macintosh GX Version 1.0

Known Incompatibilities

  • PageMaker and GX are incompatible, therefore PageMaker is incompatible with the GX versions of the fonts.


This font package is obsolete. For SIL projects, please contact the computer support person in your entity or area if you need assistance.

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