5.0340 Multilingual WP (More) (1/394)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Sat, 28 Sep 1991 17:55:25 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 5, No. 0340. Saturday, 28 Sep 1991.
Subject: Multilingual WP

Date: Fri, 27 Sep 91 07:10:56 PDT
From: "John J Hughes" <XB.J24@STANFORD.BITNET>
SUBJECT: Multilingual Word Processing, Etc.

Although I have not read all of the exchanges in the current HUMANIST
"series" on multilingual word processing, I'd like to voice some
opinions and mention (in a noncommercial way, of course) a couple of
"genuinely interesting" products.

As Richard Goerwitz points out, it is true that graphics-based systems
like Macintoshes and NeXTs make multilingual word processing and other
forms of text manipulation easier than these tasks are on text-mode
systems (e.g., DOS). However, it is my conviction that it is still
possible to do nice, acceptable, and fairly painless multilingual word
processing in text mode on DOS machines, depending on what alphabets and
scripts you need to work with.

The following numbered items are responses to several inaccuracies in
Richard Goerwitz's recent critique of text-mode DOS systems. I'll limit
my remarks on the IBM side of life to text-mode DOS programs. My purpose
is not to be unduly critical but to try and sharpen the discussion and
clarify some muddy issues.

(1) QUOTE: "First of all, the PC system is ROM based. That is,
characters are essentially hard-coded into the video card, and you don't
get any control over their pitch, font, or anything else. You can obtain
an EGA or VGA (or even a Herc Plus), and this will let you load in some
fonts. Still, you're stuck with whatever you've loaded in - the pitch,
font, etc. And the kerning relationships can't be altered (or even
specified in the first place). What's worse, you can't even display
diacritics or do overstrikes."

(a) I assume that Richard is _not_ thinking in terms of WYSIWYG, since
no text-mode program could ever be 100% WYSIWYG, due to the monospacing
of text-mode characters on-screen, the fixed character cell height, and
the (relatively) finite number of possible ROM-based characters on EGA
and VGA cards (the HGC+ and InColor cards allow for more downloaded

(b) Control over character size, attributes, kerning, overstrike, and
font family/type on any system--graphics-based or text-mode--depends on
the application, not the system, software. In windows-type operating
environments (e.g., Macintosh, Microsoft Windows, NeXT), the system
software facilitates the system-wide availability of installed fonts.
Application and/or system software controls scripts (e.g., right to
left, left to right).

(c) On text-mode systems, it certainly _is possible_ to control all the
font characteristics Richard says are impossible to control. On my PC,
for example, using Borland's Sprint (a powerful but not very popular
word processor), I can _print_ Greek, complete with all diacritics and
user-specified kerning, in any size my PostScript printer will support.
True, I cannot see Greek on-screen, but I do not find that so terrible,
considering the minute control Sprint gives me over character size,
attributes, spacing, kerning, and so forth. If I were clever enough, I
could design a Greek screen font and a set of Greek "combination
characters" (i.e., any letter+diacritic(s)), download them to a Hercules
Graphics Card Plus or to a Hercules InColor Card (or to an EGA or VGA
card), map the characters to keys, and then be able to display Greek
with accents and diacritics on-screen. If being able to see Greek
on-screen really were that important to me, I would attempt to do this
or find someone to do it for me or see if a commercial Greek screen font
existed for one of my video cards. Nota Bene is an example of a
text-mode DOS program that allows users to see proper Greek, complete
with all diacritical marks, on-screen. Nota Bene also supports many
other nonroman alphabets.

(d) David Packard's Ibycus Scholarly Computer is an example of a
text-mode machine that has _several thousand_ nonroman characters,
including fully pointed Hebrew and completely accented Greek, stored in
EPROMS. Anyone who has seen this computer displaying Greek and Hebrew
(at a horizontal resolution of something like 1400) will attest to the
beauty of the fonts, the fast screen redrawing, and to the fact that
Hebrew and Greek are displayed just as they look in their printed
counterparts, that is, with all accents and diacritical marks in their
proper positions for Greek and with all vowels in their proper positions
for Hebrew.

(e) Finally, if all I am interested in doing multilingually is Hebrew
and Greek (substitute your nonroman and/or multilingual needs here), and
if I am meeting or know that I can meet my needs on a DOS-based machine
using a text-mode program, why should I rush out and by a Macintosh or a
NeXT, when I can get more hardware "bang for the buck" in the
IBM-compatible world (will Apple ever be able to compete with ZEOS, for
example)? Lest I sound provincial, I have several IBM-compatible
computers, a Mac II, and would like a NeXT. And, yes, I use the Mac a
good deal, though I prefer the command-driven, text-mode DOS machines.
(After using the Mac intensely for a week, my right wrist feels like I'm
a candidate for carpal tunnel surgery; I hate mousing!)

(2) QUOTE: "A user should be able to utilize any font of any size he or
she wants, and use it any time it seems useful to do so. The Mac allows
you to do this."

(a) Contrary to this statement, although on a Macintosh all installed
fonts are available to all applications that allow users to select
fonts, not all installed sizes of a font are available in all Macintosh
applications, much less "any size" of any installed font. Available font
sizes are determined by the application.

(b) Consider three popular Macintosh word processors, MacWrite,
Microsoft Word, and Nisus, for example. My (old) copy of MacWrite (4.6,
July 1987) limits me to the following sizes for all installed fonts: 9,
10, 12, 14, 18, 24, though I have installed Greek and Hebrew fonts in
sizes larger than these. Lest a 1987 copy of MacWrite seem too
antiquarian to serve as a credible counter example, my copy of Microsoft
Word 4.0 (April 1989) also limits me to 9-, 10-, 12-, 14-, 18-, and
24-point fonts. But Nisus allows 9-, 10-, 12-, 14-, 18-, 24-, 28-, 36-,
48-, 72-, and "other"-size fonts (I just made a 200-point Geneva letter
with Nisus). But even "other" is limited to 255 points in Nisus and to
250 points in Ventura Publisher 3.0.1 for the Mac.

(c) Perhaps the Adobe Type Manager (ATM) would allow me to work with any
reasonable size of any font, but I cannot find a menu selection on my
copies of MacWrite or Word that would allow me to select font sizes
other than the listed sizes. Furthermore, if ATM is the solution, then
it still is not correct to imply that the Macintosh _inherently_ by
virtue of being a graphics-mode machine supports any size of any
installed font.

(3) QUOTE: "There is also the problem of wordwrap, ligatures, and other
problems inherent in the display of things like Chinese, Arabic, etc. Do
you really want to have to enter your Hebrew or Arabic in "backwards"?
And remember, if I get to the end of a line in English, and then want to
write in a right-left script, the words will do a most peculiar thing.
Essentially, word1 of the sequence will end up on the right top, while
the last word will end up on the left: 1drow 3drow 2drow."

(a) I work with Hebrew, and I have a PostScript Hebrew font. Hebrew is
more complicated than Greek for three reasons: (a) the script is
right-to-left, (b) Hebrew vowels and accents (cantillation) are placed
within, above, and under letters, and (c) there are _far_ more Hebrew
combination characters (consonant+vowel or consonant+vowel+accent) than
in Greek. Just for fun, I've mapped a few of the PostScript Hebrew
characters and vowels to tagged English equivalents and printed them
successfully, for example "@Heb(AaSeR)" might print the Hebrew word
"asher" in Hebrew, complete with vowels.

(b) What about the right-to-left script? Nota Bene allows you to type
Hebrew right-to-left, as does ScriptureFonts, a WordPerfect add-on
utility (see below). Sprint comes with a strong LISP-like macro
language. Although I have not taken the time to write a Sprint macro
that would flip lines or paragraphs of text, this would not be such a
difficult task. Such a macro would allow me to enter Hebrew
left-to-right without typing backwards. For example, instead of typing
"doG" to get "God," I would type "God" and then use the macro to flip
each word on each selected line into its proper right-to-left order, so
that in Hebrew the "G" printed rightmost, followed on its left by the
"o," followed on its left by the "d." In other words, to get "asher" to
print out in Hebrew, I would enter "asher" in tagged English and then
use the macro to flip the letters. Although that is not as easy as
typing right-to-left in the first place, it's better than having to type
Hebrew left to right _and backwards!_ Programs like Nota Bene and
ScriptureFonts, however, allow users to enter Hebrew right-to-left.

(c) What about right-to-left word wrap? Contrary to the quotation above,
at least two text-mode DOS multilingual word processing programs--Nota
Bene and ScriptureFonts--support proper right-to-left Hebrew word wrap.

(d) What about ligatures? Like so many issues that have to do with
fonts, scripts, and alphabets, ligatures is an application-specific
issue. Whether you can print a ligature is a function of two things:
whether your application knows how to handle these characters and
whether the font you wish to use has the ligatures you want to use. This
week I was "shocked" to learn that although the "fi" and "fl" ligatures
are available from within most Macintosh applications, they are not
available from within Ventura Publisher 3.0.1 (the latest version). (To
see these ligatures on a Mac, pop up the Key Caps DA, select the Times
font, hold down the SHIFT+OPTION keys, and look at the "5" and "6" keys
on the top row of the Key Caps keyboard on-screen.) More generally
speaking, any application can produce ligatures if the ligatures exist
in the fonts the application accesses. For example, with Sprint, I can
print any ligatures that exist in any of the fonts I use. And the nice
thing about Sprint in this regard is that I can define a table of
ligatures and every time the program goes to print, it will consult this
table and automatically print the proper ligature. For example, every
time my copy of Sprint sees "fi" it prints the "fi" ligature _with no
additional information in the input file_, if the selected font includes
the "fi" ligature. If the selected font does not include the selected
ligature, Sprint just prints an ordinary "f" and "i."

(4) QUOTE: "Even if we get DOS software that knows about all the
different scripts, and can handle all the necessary fonts, ligatures,
alternate character forms, and overstrikes, then we still run into the
biggest problem of them all: Portability. If you have an interface that
does indeed know how to handle various languages, knows how they wrap,
etc., then a great burden suddenly shifts off of the application program
itself, and onto the system software that underlies the applications.
What this means is that you could share files much more easily, and
shift and move text around from package to package, without having to
worry so much about whether each one will understand the format and be
able to display/manipulate it. On a system which lacks such an
internationalized script display interface, every program would be an
island unto itself."

(a) Excuse me for wondering how many scholars who do multilingual word
processing and other forms of text manipulation sit up nights worrying
about portability. Once you have your multilingual needs figured out in
your application program(s) of choice, do you worry about being able to
port your files to other applications? If Sprint is my word processor of
choice, and if I have solved all my Greek and Hebrew multilingual word
processing needs in Sprint, I'm not the least bit worried if my Sprint
files can be imported into Nota Bene, WordPerfect, or 101 other DOS
programs. Once I have mastered Word and PageMaker on my Mac, to select
another example, so that I can create, edit, and print Greek, Hebrew,
Cyrillic, and what not in a way that meets my needs, why should I worry
if my files will be compatible with Nisus and Ventura Publisher, for
example, unless I plan to switch my text manipulation activities to
these programs?

(b) Most users cannot afford the time or money required to application
hop. If program X is meeting my needs, why switch to program Y?

(c) More importantly, the ability to preserve font and formatting
information from application to application is a function of the
applications, not of the operating system or platform. True, the
Macintosh OS makes it easy to preserve font information among
applications, but it does not make this automatic. I have Macintosh
programs that use but that cannot export nonroman fonts in such a way
that the font type and size is preserved (you have to select the
exported text and its proper font to display the text in its proper
alphabet). And I have a whole slew of Macintosh programs that cannot
read one another's files. Nisus 2.03, for example, cannot import a
Microsoft 4.0 Word file consisting of simple English in a Times font.
Most likely more recent versions of Nisus can do this successfully, but
they can do so only if the Nisus programmers created a filter that
allows Nisus to import Word 4.0 files. Even the ability of a program to
import a file does not guarantee that the file's formatting will be

(5) QUOTE: "My quarrel with the PC is over its entire approach to text
display. It's a crusty old remnant of bygone days, and really doesn't
belong in a modern system....I think it would be wise to think of the PC
(and DOS in general) as a dead end road which that still has a few
blocks left, but which ultimately will not get you anywhere you want to
be....Windows will help with some of these problems. It's not a good,
basic solution to the problem, though. A Mac is a good, basic solution
to the problem :-)....The PC is really more in a class with the old,
klunky toy computers of the late 70s and early 80s. It's an operating
system that's gone on well beyond its time, and humanists who make
pretenses of multilingual work really shouldn't pour too much of their
precious (and usually skimpy) resources into it."

(a) The main confusion in quotation (5) above is between operating
systems and hardware platforms. A given hardware platform can be
operated by as many operating systems as have been designed for the
platform, and each operating system will have its own distinct
interface. For example, I can run my Macintosh under System 6.0.x, under
System 7.x, or under A/UX (Apple Unix). The first two operating systems
are quite similar and require me to use icons and a mouse. A/UX is much
more command driven. Many Mac addicts would call it ugly. I also can
turn my Macintosh into a PC by using SoftPC or II-in-a-Mac or by using
an IBM emulator board, such as Orange Micro's Mac 386 (or their 286). In
the first two cases (software emulation of a PC), the Macintosh hardware
platform is playing host to a purely software-based PC operating system.
In the third case, the Macintosh platform has been invaded by a board
with a PC processor and operating system on it. In all three cases, one
platform is being operated under an operating system most Macintosh
users disavow (some more strongly than others...). It's one thing to
dislike DOS; its another to dislike the hardware DOS typically runs on.
If you saw a NeXT workstation running a DOS program by using a DOS
emulator, would you say: "I hate NeXTs"?

(b) It's not the case that the PC--the hardware--is klunky or a toy or
has outlived its usefulness. Maybe DOS has. I believe that part (not
all) of the truth here lies in the fact that picture-oriented
(right-brained?) computer users find command-driven interfaces ugly,
primitive, and intimidating. Personally, I strongly dislike icons and
mice. I'm so left-brained I wonder if I have a right half. On my
Macintosh, all folders and files are displayed by name, not by icon. If
I can use a hot-key shortcut to perform an action and so avoid the
mouse, I do. I dislike programs (e.g., Ventura Publisher) that do not
provide a hot-key shortcut for each major action. All of which is to say
that none of us should confuse our personal preferences--Fords or
Chevys, Winchesters or Remingtons, antelope or beef, Macintoshes or
IBMs--with what is best for everyone or even with what is "best" in some
absolute sense. Don't get me wrong, I'm not an ethical relativist, but
which computer or operating system a person prefers is hardly an ethical
issue. As far as I'm concerned, it's purely a pragmatic issue. If you
can write faster and be more productive with a #2 wooden lead pencil,
who am I to say you should use a Parker ball point pen?

(c) Perhaps preferring the Macintosh to Windows 3.0 is like preferring
Fords to Chevys. Perhaps not. Windows 3.0 _does_ help with many of the
problems mentioned by Dr. Goerwitz, including accessibility of installed
fonts to all Windows programs, portability of files (to the extent
provided for by the applications designers, as is true on the Mac also
and also under DOS), and so forth. I wish Dr. Goerwitz would elaborate
on: "Windows will help with some of these problems. It's not a good,
basic solution to the problem, though."

(6) QUOTE: "But if anyone is considering a major investment at this
point, I'd definitely say "wait." Wait for the NeXT. See if a Mac will
suit your needs (and isn't too expensive; they have a terrible
price/performance ratio, unless you can get substantial academic
discounts, and even then...). The PC should be last on the list, unless
you like driving antiques :-)."

(a) Now I'll get REALLY OPINIONATED, to ape John Dvorak's use of bold
text, since I believe that there are easy answers to the question:
"What computer should I buy for my multilingual word processing needs?"

(b) If you don't have a computer, DO NOT WAIT, for you are in the dark
ages! If you are computerless, buy any model of any of the three
machines mentioned above (Mac, NeXT, IBM), and you will soon wonder how
you ever got along without your new computer. That is to say, any car is
better than no car.

(c) If you have a computer (Mac or IBM) with no hard drive, sell it or
buy a hard drive. You're not in the dark ages. You're in the twilight
zone. And don't pay more than $3 to $5 a megabyte for the hard drive!

(d) If you have an 8086 or 8088 PC or PC XT or an 8-MHz AT or a
Macintosh Plus or an earlier model Macintosh, find a computerless
colleague (preferably in another college or university) that you don't
like and offer him or her a "good deal on a starter machine" or give the
hardware to your favorite school, church, or child. You're neither in
the dark ages nor the twilight zone. You're in the slow lane--very slow
if you are working on a PC or PC-XT or Macintosh Plus.

(e) If you have an 80286 machine and yearn for something better, buy an
80386 or an 80486 machine from one of the reputable mail order houses,
such as ZEOS. Use PC Magazine and the Computer Shopper as your buying
guides. Do comparisons. Get sound advice from knowledgeable persons with
no vested financial interest in what you purchase. Be sure these people
know what they are talking about and that they are not card-carrying
members of one hardware camp or another. For example, currently for
$3,000 and change you can get a 33-MHz, 80386 computer with 8 MB of RAM
and a 210-MB hard drive from ZEOS, complete with a SuperVGA color
monitor and card, keyboard, several ports, DOS 5.0, Windows 3.0, a
mouse, Lotus 123 for Windows and AmiPro for Windows. For $300 more, you
can have the same machine and software with a 33-MHz 80486 processor.
Either of these machines will knock your socks off in terms of speed,
power, and storage capacity. Apple can't come close to giving you this
much hardware or software bang for the buck and neither can NeXT, unless
I am happily mistaken. Why ZEOS? Year after year, machine after machine,
and review after review, ZEOS models win either the PC Magazine's
"Editors Choice" or are one of the Editors Choices. Whatever you get,
buy as fast a processor, as much memory, and as large a hard drive as
you can afford.

(f) Finally, if your multilingual word processing and text manipulation
needs are no more complicated than working with Western European
languages that use a latin alphabet, you really do not need a Macintosh
or a NeXT machine. Buy a PC and WordPerfect 5.1 or WordPerfect for
Windows or Nota Bene. If your multilingual needs are limited to Greek
and Hebrew, buy a PC and Nota Bene or WordPerfect 5.1 and
ScriptureFonts. If your needs include Arabic, I believe that Nota Bene
is available with an Arabic alphabet. If you need to work with Chinese,
Japanese, Korean, or a similar Oriental language, plan to buy a
Macintosh _after_ you have found an application (e.g., word processing
program) that can work with your Oriental language and handle its script
in a way that suites your needs.

(g) I don't see any reason to wait to buy, unless you want "the best,"
in which case you will be waiting forever, since new models of computers
are on the drawing boards months or years before the latest models hit
the shelves. For example, just as 80486 models are starting to catch on,
computers are being designed around the 80586 chip.

(7) Here is some brief and incomplete information on some of the
programs mentioned above.

(a) WordPerfect 5.1 is the industry standard word processor for PCs.
WP51 can print, but not necessarily display, a broad range of nonroman
characters, including Hebrew and Greek. According to my records, the
Word Perfect Corporation's phone number is 1-800-321-4566.

(b) WordPerfect for Windows. If this is commercially available, it is
news to me. This product is _long_ overdue.

(c) Nota Bene from Dragonfly Software in New York is one of, if not the,
most powerful word processing programs for PCs. It includes a textbase
management program/component and is available with multilingual add-on
modules for Greek, Hebrew, Cyrillic, and other alphabets and scripts.
According to my records, Dragonfly Software's phone number is

(d) Sprint is available from Borland. Sprint is a "dressed-up" version
of FinalWordII, which descended from two mainframe university programs:
EMACS from MIT and Scribe from Carnegie Mellon. According to my records,
Borland's phone number is 1-408-438-5300.

(e) ScriptureFonts from Zondervan Electronic Publishing is a WordPerfect
add-on that allows users to enter, edit, and print properly accented
Greek and properly pointed Hebrew on a wide range of printers. I believe
the price is $99, which includes various sizes of bitmapped and laser
fonts (including fonts for HPs and PostScript printers). The program
comes with a 60-day money-back guarantee. According to my records,
Zondervan's phone number is 1-800-727-7759.

(f) Nisus, from Paragon Concepts, is to word processing on the Macintosh
what Nota Bene is on the PC: a powerhouse. According to my records,
Paragon's phone number is (619) 481-1477.