A few months ago, I wrote a post (here) on how LaTeX was a suitable answer to doing Hebrew over Microsoft Word, especially in OS X. After a month or so of tinkering more deeply with LaTeX, I have come to appreciate its capabilities over that of Word. Granted, Mellel is another contender, but because I am not so familiar with Mellel, I will leave that up to others to comment. From what I can tell, Mellel has similar features to LaTeX, including the ability to take advantage of the capabilities of OpenType fonts.

I have included below a sample from the final version of my thesis (I rechecked all the Hebrew and Greek passages that I copied by hand, so I’m hoping there are no mistakes). I took to heart jamtuck’s comment (here) to do the MT and LXX in adjacent columns, and I was pleased with the result. So, thank you for the idea, jamtuck!

There are some other features I wish to point out with LaTeX that solidifies the choice of LaTeX over MS Word as a paper-preparation software. First is LaTeX’s ability to automatically resize the Hebrew and Greek fonts to match the surrounding text. This can be seen all throughout the sample file, but particularly on p. 66. My text font is a little smaller than Times New Roman, Palatino, etc., so the SBL Hebrew and SBL Greek fonts normally stand a little higher. However, with just the insert of an option, the Hebrew and Greek were scaled down appropriately. I could only imagine in Word that to change every Hebrew and Greek word would require a few clicks per word. Second, is the proper order of Hebrew that spans two lines, as seen towards the upper part of p. 30. There isn’t need to worry about whether a few lines of Hebrew will turn out correctly because LaTeX makes sure it does. In contrast, Word would flip do all sorts of gymnastics to my Hebrew. Third, the access to true small caps is not accessible in Word, at least as far as W2008 is concerned. Every occurrence of “MT” and “LXX” in my thesis is done in small caps as required by The SBL Handbook of Style. Word does have a way to generate small caps, but these are fake small caps, which I find lacking.

There are other points that I could make as to why LaTeX would be the way to go with biblical languages but I think these suffice. The only caveat I can give with LaTeX is that there is a steep learning curve, especially when one needs to modify the style files. On the bonus side, LaTeX and the bibliographic generator BibTeX are completely freeware.

I would like to hear from Word and Mellel users as to whether either of these programs have similar capabilities to the above points. My guess is that the WYSIWYG interface of Mellel, those who are serious about producing documents with proper Hebrew might be better off with it than with LaTeX.

JohnDave’s Thesis Sample with MT-LXX tables created in LaTeX