Wait, wait, I know what you’re thinking: “You can’t add fonts to an iPad!” Well, that’s what I thought, too, until I learned about AnyFont, an amazing iOS utility app by Florian Schimanke. AnyFont does just what the name implies: it allows you to import any font (well, any TrueType or OpenType font) onto your iOS device and use it in iWork apps, Office apps, or any other app that uses the iOS font chooser. Of course, the first font I tried to install in this fashion was SBL BibLit, and it works like a charm in Pages. Even vowel points line up properly.
Now, to actually type those vowel points, you’ll need either an external keyboard (which will follow the Hebrew layout native to the Mac OS) or a software solution like the Davka Nikud on-screen keyboard (which is effective, but slow, since you have to switch character sets (not keyboards) each time you want to type a vowel point. You can also copy and paste pointed text from Accordance or Olive Tree’s Bible app (which, after many years of being called “Bible Reader,” has gone through a perplexing number of name changes in the last few years). I don’t currently know of any way to type cantillation (trop) marks on the iPad. Accordance seems to strip the cantillation marks when you copy text, but Olive Tree’s Bible app preserves them, so that option exists if you need the marks in your iOS word processor.
But this talk about vowel points digresses from the main point: AnyFont enables you to use SBL BibLit and other third-party fonts on iOS. And to me, that’s a very big deal and a very good thing.
I haven’t had many nice things to say about Microsoft Office for Mac in the last few years two decades. Despite the suite’s power and the fact that it outstrips it competition in many different ways, I’ve used other software in preference to Word, PowerPoint, and Excel for many years, largely because right-to-left text processing in Office for Mac has been poor nonexistent since the 1980s, even after the advent and wide adoption of Unicode. I have consistently made sure to have legitimate access to the latest version of Office (currently as a personal subscriber to Office 365) for collaborative purposes, but I almost never use it for my own independent work.
If you’re frustrated with your attempts at right-to-left text processing on a Macintosh, the problem may lie in your keyboard layout. For quite a while now, I’ve been using the Biblical Hebrew keyboard layout prepared by Tiro Typeworks and distributed by the Society of Biblical Literature. Two or three days ago, though, I discovered that the vast majority of my frustrations with right-to-left text processing on a Macintosh were caused by using the Tiro keyboard layout.
Despite the ubiquity of Unicode and the support for right-to-left processing built into Mac OS X, previous versions of Apple’s iWork suite supported Hebrew rather poorly. The cursor remained “stuck” on the right-hand side of the text, selecting individual letters ranged from difficult to impossible, and animating Hebrew text in Keynote resulted in large blank spaces on the screen. Moreover, the iWork suite couldn’t handle the complex font information embedded in the SBL Hebrew font, so you’d get misplaced vowels, accents, and so forth if you were using them.