Polytonic Greek coding

Number3Pencils's picture

I've been working lately on a font with Greek in it. I decided to take the plunge and make polytonic characters for it. But the coding, argh, the coding! I read through these two threads on the topic—http://www.typophile.com/node/83725, http://typophile.com/node/15982—to get the gist of the issue. The take-home messages I got were:
—A principle that one should stick by is to make all changes reversible. So, if a user presses a button to capitalize the glyph ῴ, your font shouldn't turn it into two separate characters Ώ+ι or Ώ+Ι, because then if the user tries to turn that letter back to the original lowercase, it turns into ώ+ι.
—When you set Greek in all-caps, the accents disappear, except for the dialytika (¨). And you get an extra dialytika on a (bare) Iota if the vowel before it has an accent, so that ρωμέικα becomes ΡΩΜΕΪΚΑ.

But I still have some questions about how I need to go ahead.

Since I'm kind of a low-tech guy and couldn't think of an easy way to do it better, I handwrote the questions and scanned them. (You can disregard question 1d, because after I wrote it and scanned it, I looked again at the thread in the first link, and realized the question was answered there.) So, here they are.


Michel Boyer's picture

A good tool to look at the effect of features is the FontForge metrics window. You can paste directly your Greek polytonic text (that you can get from Perseus) in the small window at the top and activate at will the features to see not only the resulting glyphs but also their name. If the name does not fit below the display, you can hover the cursor on top of the letter in the display to get the full information on it. Here is something interesting from John Hudson's SBL Greek:

Here calt, smcp, ss03 and a few other features were on and I kept the cursor on top of the iotadierisis to get its full name.

Number3Pencils's picture

Ooh, thanks for pointing me to SBL Greek. Nice font. That's a pretty cool alternate Iotadieresis.

I've been doing something similar with FontLab, which also lets you see resulting glyphs' names. But I can't figure out what combination of features gets me to the single-glyph ΩΙ and ΑΙ combinations that Arno gives when I press the TT button (question 1a).

I note that SBL Greek uses the capital-shaped small iotas in its small caps, so I'll probably use those (question 2a).

Michel Boyer's picture

I don't know how InDesign proceeds. With Arno Pro, in the particular case of ρωμέικα put in small caps, the pdf produced by TextEdit uses iota.c for the iota (dieresis) smallcap, which is what I see in FontForge. However, the pdf produced by InDesign (CS 3) uses u03CA.a instead. Where InDesign got that, I don't know. I could find no combination of features giving u03CA.a in the FontForge metrics window.

Number3Pencils's picture

I figured out how to get the single-glyph ΩΙ and ΑΙ combinations in the OpenType window! It's hidden in calt. Type the single-glyph Ωι combination, and then type any capital Greek letter. Ωι changes into ΩΙ!

I still wonder about question 1a, though (what does InDesign do when you press the [TT] button?). Do I need to tell InDesign to do anything special for all-capping Greek, or can I just trust it to know the right characters to switch to? And why does the "UPPERCASE" command work differently from the [TT] button?

I also still need to know question 2b (Can I make my font so that the default smcp forms in Greek have accents on them?). I suppose it makes sense to base my default behavior around modern monotonic Greek. So: if you had a text in modern Greek, and you clicked the small-caps button, would you find it bizarre to see the small-caps letters keep their tonoi? (I had to look up the plural of tonos.)

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