July 30, 2008

Audio Greek/Hebrew Flashcards for your iPod

I came across this posting, "Create smart playlists in iTunes for audio flashcards", on MacOSXHints today. It has tremendous potential for users or instructors creating a audio exercises. With some careful preparation, you can have phonetic exercises, vocabulary, etc. and they can be listened to at the computer or on the go on your iPod. When I was involved in teaching the Greek program at Brite, each semester we'd make countless cassette tapes of the audio exercises we had recorded for students. This would be a very worthwhile project for a Greek or Hebrew (or theological German/French/Spanish, any language) instructor.

Have a look at the write-up to learn more.

Question: Can't you associate an image with a song? This would allow for visual feedback as well. Just a thought.

July 25, 2008

Entering Unicode Text and Symbols

If you want to make entering Unicode text a natural part of your workflow on your Mac, whether it be Greek, Hebrew, or special symbols, it is best if you spend a couple minutes preparing your setup. You need to make the "International" preference pane and the Input Menu your friend. In OS X 10.5, you will find the "Input Menu" tab in the "International" system preference pane. Make sure you do six things in this pane:

  1. Check "Show input menu in menu bar"
  2. Check "Character Palette"
  3. Check "Keyboard Viewer"
  4. Scroll down and also enable only the few languages that you'll be using, such as "Hebrew - QWERTY" or "Greek Polytonic" or another Unicode keyboard you have installed.
  5. Also check the "Unicode Hex Input" keyboard.
  6. Finally, either simply note or even customize the two keyboard shortcuts listed that enable you to both toggle between the two most recent input keyboards and to cycle through all unicode keyboards listed in your input menu. For more information on customizing your shortcuts, have a look at this post on Juggling Keyboard Shortcuts.
All this preparation will put the Input Menu in your menu bar that will look something like this:

So, if I'm writing text where I occasionally need to switch to the Greek keyboard, all I do is select Greek from the menu the first time, and from then on out, I use my quick keyboard shortcut to toggle between the two. However, you have other options.

At any point, you can open the "Keyboard Viewer" to have a look at the keyboard layout you currently have selected. But what about the entering of some random letter or symbol in Unicode?

You can open the "Character Palette" from the input menu and search for the glyph. However, if you do a lot of this, then I'd highly recommend getting the great app Unicode Checker.

Also, if you know the Unicode hex number for the letter or symbol, you can switch to the "Unicode Hex Input" keyboard and then hold down the option (⌥) key while you press the numbers/letters for the character. If you're just typing in your default language otherwise, you can keep this specialized keyboard selected. This functionality will be familiar to Windoze users.
For instance, let's say you want to enter that symbol for option. Perhaps you're familiar with my listing of all keyboard symbols here. Then, since you know that the option symbol is hex #2325, with the "Unicode Hex Input" keyboard selected, you hold down the Option key and press "2325" and out pops the "⌥" symbol.

The final thing I'd add is if there are some special symbols you think you'll be wanting to enter with some frequency, you may want to create a text file or snippet so that you can quickly copy and paste them in. I have a text file called Unicode Dingbats Symbols where I collect all Unicode symbols of interest for quick reference. Or, you might use TextExpander or other text replacement utility to change "+command" into "⌘" and "+option" into "⌥" as you type. Or, like me, you may put some frequently used text like this string "⌘⌥⌃⇥␣⎋⇧⇪⏎⌤⌫⌦⌧⇭⏏⌽⇱⇲⇞⇟↑⇡↓⇣←⇠→⇢" on a shelf in Quicksilver that pastes into your document with a keystroke.

Just a few minutes of prep work will have you typing in Unicode with ease. Find the methods that work for you. (You know what they say about obtaining cat skins.)

July 08, 2008

Quicksilver's Back

News from 43 Folders on Quicksilver development:

"Since going open source late last year, things have seemed pretty quiet in the world of our favorite app launcher, Quicksilver. Today, our pal, Tim Gaden of Hawk Wings, posts on the availability of a bug fix release of Quicksilver that’s come out in the last few weeks. He also points to a thread on the QS Google Group that suggests Quicksilver’s auteur and flippered mystery bot, A1c0r, is currently hard at work on a substantial rewrite: "Please note that this is only a bug fix version, the creator of Quicksilver (Alcor) is working on a complete re-write of the frameworks of Quicksilver and should hopefully release it soon ;)"
And there was much rejoicing.

July 05, 2008


Danny Zacharias does IT support for his school. He posts what they've set up as the ideal classroom setup on deinde.org. When I did this thinking at the seminary, and as I do it now in the Mac lab at my church, the desktop setup was equally important as well. I'd encourage more of these posts from other IT folks, and screen shots as well as discussion about log-in setups, etc.

July 02, 2008

Introducing ISO 32000-1, er PDF's

This is a welcome development on the standardization of the .pdf document format. PDFs have been the proprietary format of Adobe but a year ago Adobe finally released PDF's for international open access and standardization. The format has just been formalized as such. Let Adobe's process be a shining example over against the Mob-like manner in which Microsoft got its new OOXML format accepted into ISO.

I have previously touted the great capabilities Preview.app has for working with PDF's, and these tools will only improve with the PDF format becoming open.

One other PDF note is that Adobe has just released version 9 which I still can't imagine using in place of Preview.app. It does have the added feature of displaying embedded Flash which would be as useful to me as shoving bamboo shoots under my fingernails.