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Greek Fonts Primer

Date last modified [27-May-2004], originally created in June-1995

Keywords: greek fonts, Win98, WinME, Win2000, WinXP, MacOS, DOS, iso-8859-7, cp-1253, cp-737, cp-851, monotonic, modern greek

Summary: This document provides a primer on greek language computing TODAY, in all computers reasonably current (ie Win98, MacOS 8.x, X11R6 or later) using the encodings iso-8859-7 / win-1253.

We suggest options for email and Web-browser software apps (Outlook, Netscape 4.x and 7.x for Win and Safari for Macs) which work correctly with Greek, and configuration settings. Also updated the part about Greek under MSDOS, because many commercial applications (e.g. book-keeping) in Greece still run under DOS using IBM DOS codepage 737 (or in text-mode under Win). Mac users look at Greek for MacOS.

This document doesn't cover polytonic greek (used only by academics studying classic/ancient greek), if you're looking for that, please skip directly to info on polytonic greek fonts

Beware that some products/fonts offered for sale or for free (mostly for polytonic greek), implement Greek support in non-standard ways.

Windows users read this before downloading files from Internet: If you want to read/write/print MODERN greek (e.g. view greek Websites, send email in greek etc, which are ALL using monotonic iso-8859-7 standard), before you rush to download and install greek fonts from the Internet, take a few minutes to read the rest of this document.

Outdated sites: On all sites I've checked recently, the fonts / instructions offered for download and installation of greek fonts, are dated back to 1996-1998, before Unicode fonts became part of modern operating systems (Win98 PanEuropean edition, Apple MacOS 8.x etc). Those old greek font files (usually arial.exe/.zip containing the TTF fonts by Pouliadis or Magenta, dated 1992) offered for download, don't support multiple encodings and the quality (on screen and in print) is poor by today's standards. These old font files should only be used with Win95, as the language support pack by Microsoft itself is no longer available.

But for Win98 or later (NT4, WinME, Win2K, WinXP), be careful that any fonts you download don't overwrite your system fonts, which probably ALREADY SUPPORT Greek (and many other languages).

Background on monotonic vs polytonic: There are two different types of greek language, each requiring different fonts:

  • modern greek language - using a minimum number of accented characters ("monotonic system") used exclusively in the country since the early 1980's. All material currently published, in printed or electronic form, use this system. Covered by standard iso-8859-7 / win-1253 charset encodings, supported by all modern operating systems (Win, MacOS, Unix/X11 etc). Obsolete encodings for monotonic greek include cp-737 and cp-851 (used under MSDOS) and MacGreek (proprietary for Apple Macs).
  • classic/ancient greek - using many different accented char combinations ("polytonic system") used in academia for classic greek literature in its original form (e.g. Homer's Iliad, or Thucydides), the greek orthodox church publications etc. In this case, skip the info below and jump directly to info on polytonic greek fonts. Windows 2000 supports Unicode polytonic greek by default.
Greek fonts included in all major OS standard installation: Since 1999 (after release of Win98SE, MacOS 7.x), full support to read/write greek characters (for modern greek, ie the "monotonic" system) is included as standard in ALL popular operating systems: Windows 98 Paneuropean Edition, Windows NT4 (need to set default Locale at installation), Windows Millenium, Windows 2000, Windows XP, MacOS v7 to MacOS X, Unix/Linux X11, handheld devices PalmOS, WinCE etc).

If you have an old installation of Win98, you should go to Windows Update and download the PanEuropean Language Support pack. Also read:

If you want to read/write/print ANCIENT Greek (e.g. greek Homer's Iliad from the original text, or bible texts), you WILL need to get and install a polytonic greek font.

Which standard Win TrueType fonts support greek: The TrueType fonts supplied with the Windows operating system since Win98SE, WinNT4 e.g.

  • Arial
  • Times New Roman
  • Courier New
all include greek characters. These are high-quality fonts by Monotype, licensed by Microsoft for inclusion in Windows, and can be used as screen fonts and for printing on high-resolution devices. The specific encoding for Greek is ISO-8859-7 (Greek/Latin [ISO]), or win-1253 (Greek [Windows]). Minor differences exist between the two, e.g. the code for the Euro € currency, see link below.

Application support required: Still, even though your computer may have greek fonts, the APPLICATION software program (e.g. MS Outlook) needs to support Greek (basically non-Latin character sets) as well. Some don't, or don't work very well. For Internet e-mail in greek, you can use either MS Outlook Express/2000/2003 (all work fine) or NetscapeNavigator Mail 4.x [download] (Netscape Mail v4.x I think is a GREAT choice, if you don't like MS Outlook or don't want to worry about its security holes and if you don't need multiple accounts) or Netscape v7.

On the other hand, Eudora doesn't work well (both for Mac and Win, but you can make it work on Mac using translation tables). Technically speaking, Eudora will use the wrong iso-8859-1 charset to describe email content written in Greek.

For Web-browsing: Use MS InternetExplorer 6, or Netscape v7, or Opera, Safari. Netscape v4 is fine for email only, but isn't usable as a Web-browser anymore, because it doesn't support modern standards (e.g. CSS).

How to configure the Web-browser

  • MS Internet Explorer users: You need to go to InternetExplorer Tools Internet Options General Fonts, and specify a Web page font and Plain text font for Language script "Greek"
    Setting up greek fonts under MS Internet Explorer 6.0 browser
  • Also make sure that you have not setup your system to ignore the formatting options on Web pages, and only use your defaults (InternetExplorer Tools Internet Options General Accessibility)

  • Netscape Navigator 4.x users: Go to NN4 Edit Preferences Appearance Fonts, and specify For the encoding: Greek the Variable / Fixed width font type and size
    Setting up greek fonts under Netscape Navigator 4.x browser
Buggy sites / emailers: Note that sometimes, pages on greek Websites (even by big well-known companies), while written with ISO-8859-7 encoding, do NOT contain the correct information for your browser to automatically identify them as such. But, if you can read the MakThes site, you can be pretty sure your browser is correctly configured. If you want to read a buggy site, you can specify (IE View Encoding Greek (Windows) ) greek as default encoding. Similarly, there are buggy email software apps which don't specify character encoding correctly.

Writing greek: To WRITE greek as well, you need to go to your OS control panel and install a keyboard driver. (Windows Start Settings Control Panel Keyboard Language Add)

For professionals: If you are a graphics designer or typographer, looking for typefaces other than the ones supplied with the base operating systems, note that many high-quality typefaces for greek are in Adobe Postscript (Type 1) format (vs TrueType), as most professional graphics designers in Greece used Macs and Adobe technology. Beware that those fonts use the "Mac Greek" encoding, different from other encodings and so you won't be able to transfer text between applications on different platforms (e.g. QuarkXpress on Mac -> Win). Apple kept their own incompatible encoding for Greek despite greek customer complaints, a very bad decision. Every other OS switched to the official standard of iso-8859-7 after 1996.

The TrueType fonts by MonoType (Arial, Times New Roman etc) which are bundled by Microsoft with Windows are of very good quality, but many other TT fonts aren't suitable for pro work (no kerning, no hinting, not many weights etc). Look at Adobe, LinoType and Monotype for pro fonts.

Polytonic fonts (for ancient/classical greek): This document deals with modern greek issues only, for classic greek please visit

Selected links about Greece: In our Links section you can find a selection of interesting greek Websites about the city of Thessaloniki, the region of Macedonia and Greece in general.

Other useful resources/links about fonts to visit are:

You can read the remainder of this document, if you are interested in greek support under DOS (plain DOS, or DOS under Windows 3.1), as many greek software programs used in the commercial sector operate still under DOS. Or older versions of MacOS v6.x.


NOTE. Please note that the rest of this document was written back in 1995-1997, at a time when greek character support was non-standardized (different greek encoding on every platform: DOS, Win, Mac, X11 etc), in order to allow people to read the first greek newspapers on the Internet Makedonia and Thessaloniki on-line.

To correctly display the greek WWW pages on your screen, your system needs to support Greek according to the standard ISO 8859-7. If it doesn't, you need to install a suitable Greek "font". You also need to correctly configure your WWW-browser (Netscape, Mosaic etc).

We provide the software and instructions on how to do this on various platforms. Note that sofar our solutions enable you to view/print greek text (but not actually write Greek on all systems).


MS Windows 95

To access greek characters, if you are using Windows 95 / Window 98, you need to activate 'Multilanguage Support'. Select 'Control Panel', from the 'Settings...' option on the 'Start' button menu. Select 'Add/Remove Programs'. Select the 'Windows Setup' tab, select 'Multilanguage Support' and then click on 'details...'. Select the components you require and then click 'Okay'. Unfortunately Windows 3.x does not let you access these additional characters, and the 3.5" disk version of Windows 95 does not include Multilanguage Support.


MS Windows 3.1

To add greek to your Windows 3.1x system

1) Get the file arial.exe or and execute it in your \WINDOWS\SYSTEM directory. It is a self-extracting LHA file that contains greek TrueType fonts.

2) Add the "Arial Greek" font to your Windows. Select [Main] -> [Control Panel]. In the [Control Panel] double-click the [Fonts] icon. Click [Add New Font] and select all four "Arial Greek" as the fonts you want to add.

3) In Netscape, from menu [Options] select [Preferences]. Then, from [Set Preferences On] choose [Fonts and Colors]. Finally, using the [Choose Font] buttons, select "Arial Greek" as your viewing font. NOTE: You can also find information about this at HRI.


Macintosh / System 8.5 or later

Newer versions of MacOS support Unicode fonts. For in-depth discussion of greek support under Mac, please visit:

Macintosh / System 7.x

Get file patcher.sit (unpack it with StuffIt) and apply the patch to Netscape 1.1N. You can then use your own high-quality greek (non-standard) Mac fonts, which yield best results for the moment. (tsaoutos@hyper.gr)

Alternatively, for an ELOT-928 compliant Mac font, get hellastimes.sit.hqx (70 KB) and once you've decompressed its contents, drop the font files in the System Folder. Select "HellasTimes" as the font to use in Netscape and "MacRoman" encoding (Options -> Preferences -> etc). (topalis@euclid.iacm.forth.gr)


DOS (and DOS terminal mode under Win98, WinME etc)

Windows 2000 - DOS based programs - Greek Keyboard Has Incorrect Mapping for MS-DOS-Based Programs

These solutions REQUIRE a VGA graphics adapter (Hercules etc not supported). All PCs after 1995 come with a VGA-compatible graphics card, so you should be fine. The greek screen fonts are loaded via software into the adapter (software screen fonts), vs changing the VGA ROM itself, as was the case in the early 1990s in Greece.

To PRINT greek under DOS (for applications like book-keeping, invoicing etc), you need to either get a replacement EPROM or (most likely) download printer software fonts.

TSR software loaded in DOS window (recommended): Get abcgrl.zip (4KBytes), run the TSR com file and follow instructions. It offers support for ISO 8859-7 (ELOT 928) and older, obsolete character sets (851, 437). Switch to ELOT 928 with Alt-3. Other options are IBM 851 (Alt-2) and IBM 437 (Alt-1). Note: Legacy software is written with IBM DOS CodePage 737 character set (Alt-1). Alt-1 means to CONCURRENTLY press the Alt-key and the "1"-key (not on the numeric keypad)

Method using tools provided by Microsoft: Another way, using the DOS-supplied programs for handling different codepages, uses a CPI file. Get dosgreek.zip (12 KB) a ZIP file which contains GAUSS.CPI and GRKEYB.COM. To add the Greek Font GAUSS.CPI under DOS 6.xx or DOS 7.0/Win95.

1) Add the following lines to your CONFIG.SYS file:

if you have DOS 7.0/Win95
	DEVICE=C:\WIN95\COMMAND\DISPLAY.SYS CON=(EGA,,1)
	COUNTRY=xxx,737,C:\WIN95\COMMAND\COUNTRY.SYS

if you have DOS 6.22 or earlier
	DEVICE=C:\DOS\DISPLAY.SYS CON=(EGA,,1)
	COUNTRY=xxx,737,C:\DOS\COUNTRY.SYS

where xxx is your country code.
	

2) Add the following lines to your AUTOEXEC.BAT file:

if you have DOS 7.0/Win95
	C:\WIN95\COMMAND\MODE CON CODEPAGE PREPARE=((437) C:\path\GAUSS.CPI)
	C:\WIN95\MODE CON CODEPAGE SELECT=437

if you have DOS 6.22 or earlier
	C:\DOS\MODE CON CODEPAGE PREPARE=((437) C:\path\GAUSS.CPI)
	C:\DOS\MODE CON CODEPAGE SELECT=437

where path is where is the GAUSS.CPI file.

3) Restart the computer.

To Add Greek DOS Keyboard driver add the following line to your
CONFIG.SYS file:

INSTALL=C:\path\GRKEYB.COM

where "path" is where is the GRKEYB.COM file.

The swap between the Greek and US Keyboard is with Ctrl-Alt-Space.

X11 Window System Release 5 or later

Get file X11_greek_fonts.tar.z (58 KB) and decompress it with GNU gzip.

You can find an excellent description on installing Greek under X11 in [Greek and X11] (ngramm@hyper.gr). We also recommend that you read [Greek in WWW] by the Democritus University of Thrace. Consult the manual of your system for details.


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