SIL Ezra in Windows ME

Peter Kirk Peter_Kirk at
Sun Dec 3 11:00:49 EST 2000

SIL Ezra was designed for older "western" versions of Windows which did not
properly support RTL text. So it had to use a coding and display method
quite incompatible with Microsoft's support for Hebrew in the Hebrew version
of Windows, which is based on Unicode. Beginning with Office 2000 and
Internet Explorer 5, Microsoft provided ways to display and key Hebrew with
these programs (and others compiled to support this) in all language
versions of Windows 95 and 98, in a way compatible with Hebrew Windows but
not with SIL Ezra. This RTL support was always built into Windows 2000, and
presumably also into Windows ME, which is not really a different animal,
more a minor upgrade to Windows 98. But the MS Hebrew support is not yet
sophisticated enough to display fully cantillated text, though MS is working
on it.

Meanwhile SIL Ezra should continue to work in Windows ME (though we have
noted the problem with IE5.5 which may also be in ME). But to use SIL Ezra,
you will have to use the (limited) tools provided with it in the SIL Hebrew
Font System (from, as it is not compatible with the Unicode
based RTL tools provided by ME, Office 2000 and IE5. As far as ME is
concerned, SIL Ezra is a symbol font, so text using it is not recognised by
the system as Hebrew or any sort of text but is treated as a set of symbols
like Wingdings. Other symbol fonts with Hebrew character shapes include
Hebraica, Monotype Hadassah, TopType Soncino, and a series Guttman xxx, but
their allocations of shapes to codes are different from SIL Ezra.

By contrast, the fonts BWHebb, Shebrew and Hebrew are encoded as "Western".
This means that text encoded with these fonts, while looking like Hebrew,
may be understood by programs or even operating systems as in a Western
language. Programs like Word 2000 are apt to try to guess the language of
the text and correct the spelling and punctuation to fit its guess, which
could obviously have disastrous results with Hebrew text. (It will not guess
Hebrew, unless the text is in Unicode.) Worse still, programs may delete or
replace with boxes characters with codes which are not defined in the
"Western" scheme. The difference between "symbol" and "Western" is a simple
setting within the font which was often ignored by font designers as it was
ignored by older programs - and I had to use a sophisticated tool to find
out which fonts are which. Now that programs are trying to do intelligent
things based on these settings, users of badly designed fonts are getting
caught out. Moral: use BWHebb only in BibleWorks and SHebrew only in the
programs it comes with; don't even try to use them in Word or for web pages.

The fonts David and Miriam, as well as certain versions of Times New Roman
and several other fonts provided by Microsoft, include Hebrew characters
with Unicode encoding. These can be used to display Windows standard Hebrew,
with various degrees of completeness and accuracy. David and Miriam do a
reasonable job with text with vowel points, but not with cantillations. New
versions under development will provide more comprehensive support.
Meanwhile you can and should already use Unicode Hebrew for your web pages,
which is what sites in Israel already do. At least all IE5 users will be
able to view them, and the standard should soon be supported by all

Peter Kirk

-----Original Message-----
From: Deborah Greenhill [mailto:ravdev at]
Sent: 02 December 2000 04:11
To: Biblical Hebrew
Subject: Re: SIL Ezra in Windows ME

Now that you have solved that issue, perhaps you have answers for me.
I cannot get the SIL Ezra to toggle the RTL keyboard or make the supposedly
automatic final consonants.  I assume that it is because the fonts are made
for Windows '98 and 2000.  Windows ME is a 'different animal'.

Which brings up another question: does anyone know of any Bible software
that will use Windows ME.  I find that all the prior versions "lock up" the
keyboard at certain points, so that I have to reboot.

Any help in this matter would be most appreciated.
Dr. Deborah J. Greenhill, ND
and PhD Candidate in Philosophy
Federated States of Micronesia
----- Original Message -----
From: <Polycarp66 at>
To: "Biblical Hebrew" <b-hebrew at>
Sent: Saturday, December 02, 2000 4:06 AM
Subject: Re: SIL Ezra in HTML

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