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Greek Fonts

Netscape does not recognize Greek characters by default under Unix or Mac, but it is straightforward to get it to do so, without using GIFs. The table below offers a number of options, and there are others. One other option is to do it the way the Greeks do, but I'm assuming you'd rather stick with the Latin1 (ISO8859-1) character set than switch to Greek (ISO8859-7).

Sadly, the fact that your browser can recognize Greek does not mean that the rest of the world's browser can. If it is essential that the world see your Greek, then you must use GIFs, such as those created by the latex2html utility, at least until HTML4.0 and/or MathML become a widespread reality. Amongst the disadvantages of GIFs: (1) unlike normal fonts, they cannot be rescaled dynamically by the user, (2) Netscape and Internet Explorer have arranged it so that it is impossible to align GIFs correctly simultaneously for both browsers, at least for letters with descenders, such as g.

An alternative technology for rendering fonts is to use dynamic fonts, but (1) these fonts do not include Greek, (2) they render much more slowly than native bitmapped fonts, (3) they are not supported on Macs, (4) at least on my machine (Netscape 4.0 on a Linux box) they work only in part.

To write Greek p in HTML for the benefit of folks whose browsers can see Greek, use some or all of <fontface="math1,symbol,Ismini,Athenian,Attika,Kadmos,Sparta,Sgreek">p</font>.

If oikoV (<fontface="symbol">oikoV</font>) looks Greek to you, then your browser recognizes a symbol font.

If not, then:

  • on Unix running X, add this line to your .Xresources (formally known as .Xdefaults) file (as suggested by TeX2HTML as a buggy quick fix; however, the said bugs seem to have disappeared, at least under Netscape 4.0);
  • on a Mac, follow TeX2HTML's advice on enabling the symbol font on a Mac.
Browsers running under Windows recognize a symbol font by default.

For mathematicians, this is the simplest way to see Greek.

Mathematicians know that variables, like a, should be written in italics, and variables written in Greek are no exception. The symbol font above may or may not show up in italics in your browser.

Does oikoV (<fontface="math1">oikoV</font>) look Greek to you, and italicky to boot? If so, it's a good chance that (at least on Unix running X):

  • you have Mathematica loaded on your system;
  • you have modified your /etc/XF86Config file so that your FontPath includes the directories (e.g./usr/local/mathematica/SystemFiles/Fonts/X/ and /usr/local/mathematica/SystemFiles/Fonts/Type1/) where Mathematica keeps its fonts;
  • you have added this line to your .Xdefaults file (as you already did to enable the symbol font above).
The ancient Greek word for home rises not from the depths of my classical education, but from one of the Greek dictionaries on the web, specifically the Greek dictionary provided by the Perseus Project. Apparently the ancient Greek word for home should properly be written with accents.

On Unix running X, does okoq (<fontface="Ismini">okoq</font>) look Greek to you, with accents? To make it so:

  • copy the Perseus Project's Ismini font into your font directory (on my system, /usr/X11R6/lib/X11/fonts/Type1/);
  • add a line like this to the fonts.dir and fonts.scale files in that directory, making sure to increment the first line on said files.
For Greek scholars, this font is the sine qua non. What's the Greek for ouch?

By the way, where did the in okoq above come from? Strangely enough, it's part of the Latin1 character set, the only Greek letter therein. If you have a compose key on your computer, then typing the three key sequence ``<Compose>/u'' (or ``<Compose>mu'' or something like that) should give you a . If you don't have a compose key, then &micron; (including the semicolon) yields in HTML. Here is the complete Latin1 (ISO8859-1) character set.

The Ismini font is scaleable, not bitmapped. To allow the Ismini font to change size under Netscape, you have to go into the Edit Preferences - Fonts box, click on the Ismini font, and turn on Allow Scaling.

Sadly, Netscape does not remember font preferences across sessions, so you have to turn on Allow Scaling for scaleable fonts every time you start Netscape. If you know how to persuade Netscape to remember that scaleable fonts are scaleable, email me.

On Mac or Windows, does okow (<fontface="Athenian,Attika,Kadmos,Sparta,Sgreek">okow</font>) look Greek to you, with accents? To make it so: Aren't okoq and okow different? Yep.
Does οικος (&#959;&#953;&#954;&#959;&#962;) or οικος (&omicron;&iota;&kappa;&omicron;&sigmaf;) look Greek to you? Then HTML4.0 has arrived, with potential access to zillions of characters, as long as you have the appropriate fonts loaded on your machine.

You may be able to get this to show up in Greek by choosing the Unicode (UTF-8) encoding option on your browser, in place of Latin1 (ISO8859-1).

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Updated 24 July 1998