Of Mice and Keyboards

SuperGreek Rides Again

two examples of SuperGreek key correspondences

If you know what you are doing, you may skip right to the disclaimer and take it from there.

If you are looking for information on converting old (“legacy”) Greek texts to Unicode, try the links at the bottom of the page.

α. Where’s My Keyboard?

The Problem

Chapter One: When I first got a Mac that used Unicode, I had to find a keyboard for typing polytonic Greek. At the time, there wasn’t one included with the OS. My old friend GreekKeys was no longer available, so I landed on SuperGreek Unicode. By the time the Mac OS added a polytonic Greek keyboard, it was too late: I’d become hooked on SuperGreek. It’s very hard to change keyboard layouts. Imagine if computer manu­fac­turers suddenly decided everyone had to use Dvorak instead of QWERTY. Besides, the built-in layout uses the modern characters with “tonos” instead of the classical series with “oxia” (known to everyone outside Greece as “acute”). Don’t let anyone tell you they are the same.

Chapter Two: In 2010 I was forced to upgrade to a brand-new, Intel-based iMac. I hate making changes; it was a nasty shock to find I could no longer use my Classic applications from 1991. An even nastier shock was finding that my beloved SuperGreek Unicode layout froze the computer when I enabled it.

The Solution

With the aid of Ukelele and an existing polytonic keyboard I arrived at CustomGreek. The layout is reconstructed from memory. The standard Α-Ω alphabet and the basic add-ons—accents, breathings, iota subscript—should be in the same places as in SuperGreek. Others were restored or added on a best-guess basis. But that’s OK, because you don’t really remember them yourself, do you? I also added a Caps Lock option, which wasn’t available in the original SuperGreek.

β. CustomGreek

Keyboard Layout

Keys colored green are the same as on your everyday English keyboard. Blue is for dead keys, shown with α or υ. Note that iota subscript is not made with a dead key. It is a separate character, option-a, h or w, corresponding to plain α, η and ω.


keyboard layout


keyboard layout

When we get into the Option keys, I am frankly making things up. I can’t remember what was on the original SuperGreek keyboard, apart from the iota subscripts and the dieresis dead keys in the lower-right corner. So I just threw in some archaic letterforms to fill in the empty spots. The top row of shift-option keys are probably inherited from the keyboard I used as a template; I’m sure I didn’t put them there!

We seem to have ended up with two sets of angle brackets < > and two capital lunate sigmas Ϲ. I hope nobody minds.


keyboard layout


keyboard layout

γ. Download

Obligatory Disclaimer

Download and install this keyboard layout at your own risk. If your computer explodes, melts down, freezes, hangs or does anything else you did not want it to do, it is your problem. This keyboard has not been tested on anyone else’s computer. If you have results to report, feel free to contact me.

I am especially curious about the surprising number of Windows users down­loading this file. Remember, it’s a keyboard layout (.keylayout), not a font! If you have found a way to use it, I would very much like to hear about it.

CustomGreek Keyboard Layout for Intel iMac (11K zip file)

Click, and you’re all done.

The download is a single .zip file. You will find it in your Downloads folder unless you have given instructions to put it somewhere else. If your computer hasn’t already unzipped it, double-click and the computer will deal with it. If it unzips into a folder, leave the folder itself behind. Only install the files inside the folder. There will be two files: the keyboard layout itself, and an icon. This is what you will see in your menu bar if you have the “input menu” enabled.

How and Where to Install

Keyboard layouts can go in any folder called /Library/Keyboard Layouts/. There are several of them on your computer: one for the computer as a whole, one for each user (even if there is only one of you), and maybe some application-specific ones. Most people will find it easiest and most practical to use the top-level Library—the one you see when you open your main hard-drive icon.

Making Changes

If you ever change the CustomGreek layout—for example by tweaking it in Ukelele, or down­loading someone else’s version with the same name—you will need to reinstall. Drag the CustomGreek package out of the Keyboard Layouts folder, and drag it back. The next time you log out and in again, the new keyboard will be enabled.

If you do edit the keyboard yourself, you will be happy to see that all dead-key states have descriptive names such as “smooth acute” or “circumflex”. None of this opaque “State1”, “State2”, “State3” business.

Version History

Remember that this is a keyboard layout, not a font. Changes in the keyboard layout will not affect documents you have already typed, or documents you will type, or even documents you are right in the middle of typing.

CustomGreek original release: September 2010

CustomGreek 1.1: October 2011. Redid the option- and shift-option areas, adding some archaic or alternative letters such as koppa and lunate sigma. I also added the keyboard pictures to this page.

δ. Converting from Old to New

I have no personal experience with any of the tools or fonts discussed here. But one of them might be what you’re looking for.

ε. Grazie a Tutti

This page has always had an unusual lot of visitors from Italy. Thanks to two different Italian academics, this minor mystery has been solved.

First piece: Back in the day, Italian high schools required eight years of Latin along with five years of Greek. (The modern languages were not neglected, either. You had to have two years of French or German or English—your choice.) Students read the Iliad and Odyssey, a tragedy—in short, all the works that you and I didn’t get to until grad school.

Second piece: Among Mac users, SuperGreek was the font of choice. So there’s your built-in market.

ζ. Help!

If you simply don’t get all this font-and-keyboard stuff, have a look at Fonts and Input. The page is targeted at a different script, but the basic information is the same for all languages.