5.0356 Multilingual WP (3/190)

Elaine Brennan & Allen Renear (EDITORS@BROWNVM.BITNET)
Thu, 3 Oct 1991 19:37:51 EDT

Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 5, No. 0356. Thursday, 3 Oct 1991.

(1) Date: Thu, 3 Oct 91 02:57:29 CDT (133 lines)
From: Richard Goerwitz <goer@sophist.uchicago.edu>
Subject: Re: 5.0354 Multilingual WP

(2) Date: Thu, 3 Oct 1991 9:49:39 +0200 (EET) (35 lines)
Subject: RE: 5.0354 Multilingual WP

(3) Date: Thu, 3 Oct 91 23:38 +0100 (22 lines)
From: Peter Bryder <WENG@SELDC52.BITNET>
Subject: Re: 5.0337 Multilingual WP,

(1) --------------------------------------------------------------------
Date: Thu, 3 Oct 91 02:57:29 CDT
From: Richard Goerwitz <goer@sophist.uchicago.edu>
Subject: Re: 5.0354 Multilingual WP (6/207)

It's nice to see the flurry of interest that's arisen in multilingual
word processing. For a while I was largely content to see my
statements blasted, defended, skewed and what not. It's time, though,
to make a few more thrusts. I dearly hope that there are techies out
there reading this, busily designing the systems of tomorrow. This is
a very useful debate, and I hope something comes of it other than hot

What I see essentially here is a barrage of half-solutions to a
problem that has never really been solved. One person, for instance,
states (quite correctly) that an

Israeli company called Micro-Macro produces a word processor
called Rav-Ktav which writes both Hebrew and English on a Mac; I
believe it can write Arabic as well (the problems of Arabic are
almost identical with those of Hebrew with the added fillip of
initial, median, and final forms of each letter; I remember being
shown a program that would deal with Arabic correctly, but I do
not remember whether or not the program in question was Rav-Ktav).
Rav Ktav is a relatively primitive word-processor....

It's a helluva lot of overhead trying to get a PC to understand
non-English wordwrap and character sets (whether drawn via the ROM, or
drawn manually). It takes a very complex system to do these things,
since the programmer must essentially create unique a video interface
for him or herself. And even then, the solution is normally not truly
language independent, but rather restricted to a few specific scripts,
fonts, and directions. In sum, it takes time and effort, and the
result is something of an environment unto itself.

"So what?" John Hughes, in effect, says:

If (X) is my word processor of choice, and if I have solved all my
Greek and Hebrew multilingual word processing needs in (X), I'm
not the least bit worried if my (X) files can be imported into
Nota Bene, WordPerfect, or 101 other DOS programs.

John, while you're right that (X) will solve the problems of the
lonely, bleary eyed, computer-naive user who sits alone at a console,
you're not taking into account the rest of us who actually use the
machine as more than a typesetter. Search and retrieval software is
important to many of us, as are notepads, databases, and our own
applications which we write (yes, a sizeable number of us program our
own machines). And what about sharing information with colleagues?
All the work that your "X" wordprocessor does now has to be repeated
for every single piece of software that needs to view X files, to
manipulate them, search and index them, cut and paste them. People in
the DOS world don't understand this level of integration because it
doesn't exist for them.

Although we've had many lively disagreements here, I cannot agree more
with John Baima's assessment of the situation:

Now I'm sure that John Hughes, as Product Manager for Zondervan
Electronic Publishing, was excited by [Goerwitz's disparaging
comments about portability and PCs] and stated, "Excuse me for
wondering how many scholars who do multilingual word processing
and other forms of text manipulation sit up nights worrying about
portability." Many, I would think. And it is not just 101 DOS
apps, John, it is over 10,001 apps.

In fact, John (Baima) should know. He's actually written the software
for a flexible linguistic database package that runs under DOS, and
which provides compatibility with a number of existing applications
programs. It is from very personal experience that he points out the
problems that developers generally face when adding multilingual
display capability to DOS packages, and, in specific, those that are
involved with a WordPerfect add-on:

Don't get me wrong, I recommend John [Hughes'] Scripture Fonts
program for people who want to do Hebrew in Word Perfect. But
honestly, if the contortions that were necessary to make Word
Perfect do right to left input and print Hebrew with vowels is not
an idiosyncratic kludge, I've never seen one. By necessity
Scripture Fonts is not compatible with any other Word Perfect add
on, let alone products outside Word Perfect in a seamless way.
Yes, maybe my program and a few others can output to Scripture
Fonts, but no DOS solution for Hebrew or any other "difficult"
language is anything but idiosyncratic.

John Hughes berates me, as I perhaps deserve, for confusing the OS and
the hardware issues, but in fact his objections amount to something of
a red herring. The OS is hard to work with, and so is the hardware.
As Tom Crone points out:

One of the biggest problems IBM has left us with the PC is the
lack of a standard video interface. You can find PCs with CGA,
Hercules, EGA, VGA, and extended VGA video (and soon XGA?). The
only thing common to all those is the 80 column text screen, which
is a left over from the punched cards of 20 years ago. The
problem is there is no consistent "hardware platform" to write
systems for.

Whether we talk hardware or software, the problem is essentially that
the multilingual solutions for all DOS packages come on the wrong
level. The solution should be on the operating system and interface
level, and not on the application level. John Baima makes this point
nicely when he says:

If each application has to work out a new solution, we will never
have a good situation. It simply costs too much to reinvent the
wheel for each app. Ask John how long it took to get his product

He continues,

I could not disagree more with John's statement, "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."

In sum (for those still with us), I am impressed with my own ignorance
about the features and availability of various individual software
packages and tack-ons that John Hughes discussed. I simply cannot
understand, though, how someone who has cut a line of display
interface code could argue that font and formatting information should
be a property of each application. Nor do I see how any developer
with this sort of plan can actively advocate, or take advantage of,
new developments in interface design, such as the NeXT's truly
object-oriented system (not a fake one like X, coded on top of
traditional C). While I appreciate your reply and your extensive
expansions and commentary on my posting, I cannot help but conclude
that you have missed the point, John (Hughes).

I'd invite you to reply, and any others who want to join the fray.
And, incidentally, I wonder whether there are any people from NeXT,
Apple, etc. reading this.

(2) --------------------------------------------------------------42----
Date: Thu, 3 Oct 1991 9:49:39 +0200 (EET)
Subject: RE: 5.0354 Multilingual WP (6/207)

Just a postscript to the current discussion: the best Israeli WP
I know about is Wordmill, which comes in different versions: one
version can handle Hebrew + Arabic + English, with correct
forms of the Arabic letters of course and correct wordwrap,
plus footnotes etc. I've never used it myself but have seen it
at work at a friend's. Since it's an Israeli program, I doubt
very much whether it bothers with Hebrew vowels :-) -- and of
course it's also copy protected :-(

On the other hand it's one of the biggest WP around over here, so
it's got the support that some others don't (in the Hebrew-English
version it's very popular for business wordprocessing).

Warning: Israeli computers come with the Hebrew in a chip (the
companies routinely replace the original chip with one including
Hebrew in all computers and printers sold here) so anyone thinking
of an Israeli program has to check whether the Hebrew is in the
software or expected to be in the hardware. Judging from what I
know of my friend's hardware setup, I'd say Wordmill has the
Arabic in the software but expects to find the Hebrew character
set provided. Of course you can always get someone to buy you
an Israeli chip and ask your friendly dealer's technician to
put it in your computer for you (if you're not the type who
does such things alone) -- I once bought a video card in the
States and got the chip replaced when I got back here, no
problem :=) Again, if you want vowels and cantillation
marks, you have no choice but a software solution, the
Israeli market is business-oriented and has no patience with
academics, Bible scholare and similar weirdos :-!!

Judy Koren, Haifa
(3) --------------------------------------------------------------25----
Date: Thu, 3 Oct 91 23:38 +0100
From: Peter Bryder <WENG@SELDC52.BITNET>
Subject: Re: 5.0337 Multilingual WP, OSs, characters, fonts (1/121)

Richard did not speak of Chinese which was debated earlier. I have made
a system on thje Mac that writes Arabic, Chinese, Hebrew, Japanese and
Korean at the same time. You can even write Hebrew and Arabic
"corrrectly" not backwards if you use the wordprocessor Nisus which have
a Hebrew version (which nationally also work with Chinese, my
speciallity). If people out there are interested you may contact me
personally on e-mail or any other way. I might not answer straigt away
as I just returned from Athens where it was 45 degree centigrates and a
lot of pollution, but I will recover

Dr. Peter Bryder
Lund University
Department of History of Religions
Allhelgona Kyrkogata 8
S-223 62 Lund