Monday, June 16, 2008

Troubleshooting Greek Font Display

Starting around the year 2000, Unicode Greek fonts have become more and more widely used, much to everybody's relief! Before the advent of Unicode, Greek fonts were not standardized. With Unicode, it is now possible for people to create Greek fonts according to a standard. As long as people are adhering to the Unicode standard, you don't have to use the exact same font set they are using; all you have to do is to make sure you are using a Unicode-standard font.

For example, here is today's Greek proverb displayed in a Unicode Greek font:
Ὀυχ' ὁ τόπος τὸν ἄνδρα, ἀλλ' ὁ ἀνὴρ αὐτὸν ἔντιμον ποιεῖ.

If you are not seeing the accented letters, that means you are having a font problem. Here is how you can troubleshoot the problem.

Install a Unicode Greek font. A great free font package which includes a Greek font is the Gentium font set. You can download and install the Gentium font set for free from the SIL website.

Upgrade your browser if necessary. The newest versions of the Firefox, Safari and Explorer web browsers are all Unicode-font compatiable. If you are having trouble viewing the Greek font, it could be that your browser is an older version which is not fully Unicode-compatible.

Check the webpage encoding. There might be a problem with the encoding of a specific webpage. You need to make sure that the page is UTF-encoded. To do this, you will need to check the source code for your page. It should look like this, with a UTF-8 coding statement in the header part of your webpage:

If you are the author of the page, you can correct the encoding if it is incorrect. If you are not the author of the page, you could do the author of the page a big favor by contacting them to let them know that there is a problem with the page. Especially if people are loading dynamic content into an older webpage, the encoding could be a bit out of date.

In general, Greek font display has become easier and easier on the web. You can use a simple utility like to create the Greek and pretty much safely cut-and-paste it into any web publishing application, such as or Of course, it's not because these websites are focused on ancient Greek - but the Unicode standard is used for both modern languages and for ancient languages, which means that the ancient languages have benefited from better and better support for living languages with non-Roman fonts. :-)

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