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Hebrew Wordprocessing

Do you need a Hebrew wordprocessor? I purchased the top two brands and here are my comments on their abilities. Regarding my experience with wordprocessors, I was an expert level WordPerfect 5.1 & 6.0-DOS user and I am an advanced level WP 2000 user. I have used MS-Word a few times. Over the years I have used about seven other wordprocessors, mainly DOS versions.

DAVKAWRITER

These comments mainly refer to a previous version. I now have Davkawriter 5.0 but I have not used it much. From reading Davka's overview of new features, I think everything here still applies.

If you only need to type and print Hebrew and English, Davkawriter is definitely the best. If you need to include troph (cantillation marks), Davkawriter is basically your only choice.

DavkaWriter has more of the feel of a "desktop publishing" wordprocessor, i.e., basic shape drawing capabilities, Flexi-text, etc.

DavkaWriter does not have an auto-nikud feature.

DavkaWriter can export in several variations of DavkaWriter, Text and Rich Text Format (RTF) formats, including "RTF for Hebrew with Troph". DavkaWriter also can export in line by line reverse order, so that wordprocessors that can only handle left-to-right text will display the text properly.

Like WordPerfect, etc., DavkaWriter can handle any font that displays left-to-right and does not require displaying multiple characters one on top of the other (unlike Hebrew ). Hence, it can handle Greek, Cyrillic (Russian, Ukranian), etc.

DavkaWriter comes with a set of special Davka fonts, which take full advantage of its capabilities. DavkaWriter can use all standard TrueType fonts, including those from Dagesh, WordPerfect, etc.

The keyboard map for DavkaWriter displays at the bottom of the screen.

DavkaWriter 5.0 can output HTML, including with vowel points. However, Netscape cannot handle vowel points properly and MSIE has problems in some situations.


DAGESH PRO 2000

This is the prior version. The current version is Dagesh Pro IV.

Dagesh Pro is the best multilingual wordprocessor. I bought this before I bought DavkaWriter. I bought it specifically to make charts, etc., of biblical Hebrew grammatical endings with the nikud.

Dagesh Pro comes with an auto-nikud (vowel points) feature: a pop-up menu with the different nikud and you can select the one you want.  Unfortunately, the typeface is so small that it is often impossible to tell the difference, e.g., between a tsere and a patach or a seghol and a kametz, even on a 17-inch monitor set to 640x480 mode. This may not matter to someone well-versed in Hebrew but for a beginner it is a big problem. I e-mailed Galtech about this and they said the pop-up menu is created with standard Windows menu generation software so they cannot change the type size on the list.

Dagesh Pro works pretty well for Hebrew but cannot type troph. (Pro IV can.) It also has some problems handling chaf sofit (final chaf). Chaf sofit is the only letter where nikud are written above the bottom "line" of the letter, i.e., if you are writing on lined paper, a shva or a kametz would be above the line "inside" the letter. You can add those points, but Dagesh Pro will position them below the line like other nikud. I e-mailed their Galtech tech support and they said this is due to a problem in Windows handling "ligature", i.e., several characters in the same "space". They said the problem is fixed in Dagesh Pro .

Cutting and pasting sometimes have some problems reformatting text.

If you need to type multiple languages , Dagesh Pro is probably a better choice than DavkaWriter.

Speaking strictly from a programmer's point of view, Dagesh has one feature that is amazing - proper full justification of Arabic text. Other languages justify text by microspacing, i.e., adding space between letters. Arabic justification widens the letters!

If you need to output in multiple formats, Dagesh Pro 2000 wins hands down. You can type text in Hebrew, Greek, Arabic, etc., highlight it, and select "Copy as graphic". The highlighted material will be copied to the clipboard as a graphic, which can be pasted into a graphics editing program! Dagesh Pro can output in HTML with unicode coding! This means that not only can you save a page in HTML, you can even do it with non-Latin alphabets!

Dagesh Pro can handle standard TrueType fonts, but not DavkaWriter's special Davka fonts.

The keyboard layout help is a separate utility. Unlike DavkaWriter, it contains layouts for numerous alphabets and languages, including Arabic, Cyrillic, etc.


TRANSFERRING DOCUMENTS

Documents must be transferred between these wordprocessors in RTF format. DavkaWriter is probably the only wordprocessor that can handle "RTF with troph" format. Hence, to move a document containing troph from DavkaWriter to Dagesh, you must export it in RTF for Hebrew without troph. (May not be true for Pro IV.)


TYPING HEBREW: ENGLISH-PHONETIC KEYBOARD LAYOUT

Both wordprocesessors come with several available keyboard layouts for typing Hebrew. You switch the layout from a drop-down menu. Both have a  special "English phonetic" keyboard where each Hebrew letter is mapped to its nearest English equivalent. Hence, instead of having to learn to the standard Israeli keyboard layout, you can type "a" for Aleph, "b" for vet, "B" for bet, "c" for chaf, "C" for kaf, etc. Shift adds a dagesh. Nikud are entered by pressing Ctrl plus a number. Both wordprocessors use almost the exact same layout. Hence, you won't get confused switching between them.


A SUGGESTION . . .

Which one do I recommend?  BUY BOTH!

Currently, Dagesh Pro IV can be bought for $119 on the Internet. Davka Corporation sells DavkaWriter for $149. Davka Corporation offers a competitive upgrade for $49. Buy the Dagesh (from someone else) for $119, then use the receipt to buy a competitive upgrade. You'll wind up with both wordprocessors -- for twenty dollars more than DavkaWriter alone.

Plus, you'll get Sephardic and Ashkenasic Siddurs, one Tanakh with Kittev and Qere and one without, over 25 Hebrew fonts, Jewish clipart, photos of Israel, and a separate auto-nikud utility called Word Point. (Which comes with Dagash Pro, not DavkaWriter. It probably can be used with DavkaWriter, but I haven't tried it.)

  

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(c) 2001 by Rick Reinckens