So, since I’m headed to seminary this year, it was fairly obvious that I’d need to have working Hebrew font support on my laptop. I run Ubuntu 7.04 on said laptop, and so no silly Windows keymaps were going to work for me. After a few hours of work, and only a couple profanities, I have SBL Hebrew working as my Hebrew unicode font of choice in OpenOffice.org. My goal in this post is to lay out what I did, so that you can, if you have the need, easily get Hebrew fonts working, typing in the correct direction, with vocalization, etc, etc, etc in Ubuntu using OpenOffice.
Step 1: Install the proper Hebrew keyboard layout. To do this, right click on the Gnome panel, click “Add to Panel” and select “Keyboard Indicator” under “Utilities.” Now, right click on the new icon on the panel (for those in the USA it should say, “USA”) and select “Keyboard preferences.” In the new window click the layouts tab and click “Add.” Find “Israel” and select the “lyx” layout. If you have no need for vocalization you could use the phonetic layout.
Step 2: Install Hebrew Unicode Fonts. Do not bother with the culmus fonts. They are open source, but I have been unimpressed. Instead I recommend something like SBL Hebrew or another unicode font of choice. To install a TrueType font in Linux you need to copy the .ttf file to a directory under /usr/share/fonts/truetype I made a directory there called SBLHebrew (via the command, sudo mkdir SBLHebrew). After copying the .ttf file to the directory, run the following command: sudo fc-cache -f -v
Step 3: Configuring OpenOffice. Now it’s time to open OO.o (if you had it opened already, close it and open it again). Click Tools -> Options -> Language Settings -> Languages and tick the Complex Text Layout box. Then select Hebrew as your CTL Language. This is where I got stuck. I thought I was done, but I wasn’t! Keep the Options window open and click on “OpenOffice.org Writer” and then “Basic Fonts (CTL).” Now, set those fonts to “SBL Hebrew” or whatever unicode font you would like to use. Click ok.
Step 4: You should now see on your toolbar in OO.o two buttons that indicate typing either left to right or right to left. Click the Gnome Keyboard Indicator to change to the ISR (may be listed as lyx) layout. Within OpenOffice click the right-to-left button. When you begin typing you should be typing in Hebrew, specifically with the SBL Hebrew font.
My only hope after this is that getting a Greek unicode font to work is a bit easier. At least I won’t have to deal with the right-to-left bit.