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13 February 2005

State of Greek and UTF-8 in the Mac OS X Terminal

Some of the setups I made to enjoy a foreign language

The Mac OS X application should be ready for utf-8 and thus for working in Greek. But that's not the complete truth. Applications to work in the terminal have to be ready too. The ones that come with Mac OS X are not. I mainly use vi / vim, mutt, lynx. The vim that comes with Mac OS X.3 (Panther) does not sport the multilingual abilities needed. I experimented with compiling my own, but in the end I used an old version I had downloaded from Marc Liyanage at I custom compiled my own mutt, same with lynx. The point is that you will have to look into your application compile time and runtime settings.

As for the setup itself, in the "Terminal Inspector", the "Character Set Encoding" has to be set to "Unicode (UTF-8)" and "Wide glyphs for Japanese/Chinese/etc." should be set off (contrary to what Apple Help suggests).

What's really ugly is using vim to write in Greek: It's OK while you are in input mode. You just keep writing and input works fine. Then you hit Escape to switch to command mode and every key command either just beeps at you or does something unexpected. The problem is that vi does not know what to do with "ξ" (xi), which is what you get when you hit "j" while in Greek keyboard mode. So the thing is to type "i" (input), switch to Greek keyboard, type your text, switch to non-Greek keyboard again, hit "Escape" (command mode), and continue editing. Also vim wants to be told about using unicode utf-8 explicitly (:set encoding=utf-8).

One day I will set up my vimrc so that command mode will work in the Greek keyboard too, hopefully I just have to remap the Greek letters to vi commands. What I currently do is to type most Greek texts in TextEdit. Not only don't have to struggle with switching keyboards for command mode, but I also enjoy the ASpell spellchecker. See, my spelling in Greek is pretty catastrophic, so I use a lot of suggestions.

Posted by betabug at 19:13 | Comments (6) | Trackbacks (0)
ch athens
Life in Athens (Greece) for a foreigner from the other side of the mountains. And with an interest in digital life and the feeling of change in a big city. Multilingual English - German - Greek.
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Re: State of Greek and UTF-8 in the Mac OS X Terminal

for your vim command mode woes (when in Greek-keyboard mode)

:help langmap

or directly
:set langmap=ΑA,ΒB,ΨC,ΔD,ΕE,ΦF,ΓG, ΗH,ΙI,ΞJ,ΚK,ΛL,ΜM,ΝN,ΟO,ΠP,QQ,ΡR, ΣS,ΤT,ΘU,ΩV,WW,ΧX,ΥY,ΖZ,αa,βb,ψc, δd,εe,φf,γg,ηh,ιi,ξj,κk,λl,μm,νn, οo,πp,qq,ρr,σs,τt,θu,ωv,ςw,χx,υy,ζz

Posted by: tassos pavlakos at September 24,2005 13:11
Re: State of Greek and UTF-8 in the Mac OS X Terminal

hi sascha - did you finally manage to use greek in vim (mutt, et al)? ... if yes, I would REALLY appreciate some help on the topic

really nice blog btw

Posted by: Andreas Triantafillidis at December 31,2005 10:37
Re: State of Greek and UTF-8 in the Mac OS X Terminal

I'm trying to install a Greek spellchecker in Mac OS X, what do you suggest I do?


Posted by: Apokarteron at August 10,2006 01:20
Re: Spellchecker: ASpell or CocoAspell

You can get a good quality Greek spellchecker for Mac OS X for free.

Search for CocoAspell, download and install it with the Greek language
file and you are all set to use it in applications like,
TextEdit, Pages, and many others. If you want to use the spellchecker
in Terminal applications too (very few people need this), then install
Aspell instead (or install both).

Posted by: betabug at August 10,2006 20:08
Re: State of Greek and UTF-8 in the Mac OS X Terminal

Have a look at this hint and if it works for you, say so!

Posted by: Tassos at September 09,2006 03:08
Re: State of Greek and UTF-8 in the Mac OS X Terminal


seen this before on the .pl page of the author. It works for me using 10.3 and switching to bash. The shell seems to function completely with greek characters, e.g. piping things into files etc. I did not try out the screen/irssi thing, but I guess it will work too.

Also I use tcsh on my home Mac, tryed to get that to work as well for greek on the command line using the same line described in the hint. But the commands and settings are all different in tcsh, so I gave up, even though it should be possible.

Posted by: betabug at September 11,2006 10:46
Re: State of Greek and UTF-8 in the Mac OS X Terminal

I've been reading the answers but it seems that I can't install the *&$%#@ cocoaspel Greek spell checker.
I'd reall apreciate if someone could hellp me on this.
Thanks in front.

Posted by: Vag at May 08,2008 21:24
Re: State of Greek and UTF-8 in the Mac OS X Terminal

Vag, if you don't tell more about what exactly the problem was, how could anybody possibly help you?

Posted by: betabug at May 08,2008 22:27
You can trackback to:
Greek in vim with langmap - only ISO-8859-7

In a comment to my old post about "State of
Greek and UTF-8 in the Mac OS X Terminal" Andreas Triantafillidis asks
if I finally managed to use vim with Greek. Answer: The state is still
somehow the same. Using a vim with multilingual capabilities compiled
in, I can read and write in Greek, but not as good as I
want, because mapping of keyboard commands does not work with
Unicode, but read on for what I got with ISO-8859-7...

Read the linking post here: ch-athens at December 31,2005 13:57
vim, Greek, and utf-8 Keyboard Commands

Trying something I wanted to play around with for a long time, I made
more progress in setting up vim to work with Greek. As seen in the
previous posts about this topic there are some prerequisites to get this
working (especially on Mac OS X). To get keyboard commands work with the
greek keyboard too, you can use the map keyboard command, it's a bit
more tedious than langmap, but you can put it into your .vimrc and have
it always ready. Read on for details...

Read the linking post here: ch-athens at January 08,2006 12:42