Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2005.05.07

Gainsford on Afonasin on SNS-Greek & Latin 1.0 for Windows.   Response to 2005.04.41

Response by Peter Gainsford, Victoria University of Wellington

Eugene V. Afonasin's review of SNS-Greek & Latin 1.0 for Windows, a tool for accessing the TLG and PHI CD-ROMs, does not engage in one of the most valuable things a review can do: namely, to draw attention to the product's pros and cons as compared with its competitors. In a situation where the product being reviewed may be a significant investment, comparison shopping is especially important.

Afonasin's review gives a partial list of SNS-Greek & Latin's competitors in endnote 2, naming Musaios, Lector, Antiquarium, and Diogenes. Of these, Musaios, Lector, and Antiquarium are available only for Microsoft Windows; Diogenes works on Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and various flavours of Unix (including Linux, BSD, and Solaris). Other utilities for accessing the TLG and PHI archives include, for Microsoft Windows, Ibygrep and Silver Mountain Workplace; for Mac OS X, Accordance (designed for searching biblical texts, but extensible to search the TLG, though seemingly not the PHI archives); for the Mac Classic environment Lexis, Pandora, and an older version of SNS-Greek & Latin; and for Unix-like systems TLG Index Utilities. Finally there is the TLG's own web interface, available by subscription, which is extremely fast and offers a substantially larger corpus of texts than the TLG CD-ROM, though of course it does not provide access to the PHI archives. Afonasin is correct to point out the incompleteness of the TLG's list of software that may be used to access the TLG. Only Diogenes and the TLG web interface work both on Microsoft Windows and on Mac OS X.

The prices of TLG/PHI utilities vary enormously. Since the most expensive option costs USD2310, price is worth a good deal of attention, especially for an institution or scholar that has to watch his, her, or its budget. Three of the above options are free: Diogenes and TLG Index Utilities are free and open-source (released under the GNU General Public Licence); Lexis is free of charge, but available only for the Mac Classic environment. The remaining options are commercial, like SNS-Greek & Latin. Their price usually depends on whether a site licence is desired, or just a licence for an individual user. Accordance, Pandora, and Silver Mountain Workplace seem not to distinguish between site licences and private licences: according to their websites they have only a single price (all under USD150). Antiquarium, Lector, Musaios, and SNS-Greek & Latin advertise separate prices for site licences and private licences, ranging from USD350/80 up to USD2310/231. SNS-Greek & Latin falls somewhere in the middle of this range. Finally, the cost of a site licence for access to the TLG web interface varies depending on the size of the institution, while an individual licence costs USD400 per five years.

Another important factor to bear in mind in choosing a utility is the range of formats in which it can output text. This is primarily an issue with Greek text, of course. The standard used in all recent operating systems for representing all alphabets is Unicode: a Unicode-capable computer does not require any extra or special fonts to display Classical Greek. (Unicode fonts are included on both the Windows XP and Mac OS X operating systems. It may be worth noting, however, that on a Mac only the most recent version of Microsoft Office, Office 2004 for Mac, can make use of Unicode fonts.)

A surprising number of TLG utilities, including SNS-Greek & Latin, do not support Unicode but rely on the user having to install supplementary fonts, often at extra cost. These naturally raise issues of portability: if you want to submit something to a publisher which features Greek text, you have to hope that the journal editor has bought the same font that you have, if you have not used a Unicode font. Documents that use a Unicode font are much more portable.

Of the TLG utilities named above, the ones that can provide Unicode output are Accordance, Antiquarium, Diogenes, Silver Mountain Workplace, and the TLG web interface. The others -- Ibygrep, Lector, Lexis, Musaios, Pandora, and SNS-Greek & Latin -- do not. SNS-Greek & Latin requires extra, commercial fonts which push up the price. Notably Diogenes and the TLG web interface, in addition to being able to output Greek text in Unicode format, also include options for SuperGreek-style fonts, GreekKeys fonts, Beta Code, transliteration, SGreek, SPIonic, and various others: in terms of both fonts and operating systems these are by far the most versatile options available.

The basic information I have provided may suggest that Diogenes provides the best of all possible worlds; but the facts that it is free, and has certain kinds of versatility, may not necessarily make it the most suitable choice in all cases. Diogenes probably requires more effort than some other utilities to set up on a Windows or Mac system, though since it can be run over a network, this only ever needs to be done once for an entire institution. Other utilities, notably Silver Mountain Workplace and Antiquarium (both for Microsoft Windows), arguably have more intuitive interfaces and may be easier to use. Furthermore, different utilities provide different degrees of versatility in terms of search options. The choice is up to individual users and institutions, but a little comparative information of the kind given here at least allows an informed choice to be made. Certainly it is difficult to see what advantages SNS-Greek & Latin offers over the other options available.









Silver Mountain Workplace:

SNS-Greek & Latin:

TLG Index Utilities:

[[For a response to this response by the producers of SNS-Greek & Latin, please see BMCR 2005.05.13.]]

[[For a response to this response by Eugene V. Afonasin, please see BMCR 2005.05.34.]]

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