BMCR 2005.09.10

Antiquarium 2.0. A search engine for the TLG #E and PHI 5/7 CD-ROMs

, , , Antiquarium 2.0. A search engine for the TLG #E and PHI 5/7 CD-ROMs. : Quadrivium Software, . $500.00 (corporate).

In the last two years, since the appearance of two totally new search engines, Antiquarium and SNS Greek & Latin, the options available to Windows users of Thesaurus Linguae Graecae have significantly increased. In parallel, Mac developers seem at a creative standstill, as 1) APA’s Pandora is stationary at v. 3.0.2 (May 2003), and there is no news for the future; 2) a version of SNS Greek & Latin for Mac OS X has been announced only for the middle of 2006. Now there are also two multi-platform products: Diogenes, free and running in Windows, Mac and Unix, but still taxing for PC-novice users, and TLG Online, which gives access to the authors and works added to the TLG database after the publication of the CD #E (February 2000). The latter is rather expensive, especially if bought in addition to the cd-rom version — and of course it cannot be used with the Packard Humanities Institute “cousin” products (PHI 5: 1. Latin texts, 2. Bible versions; PHI 7: 1. Inscriptions, 2. Papyri).

Some weeks ago, in reply to Eugene V. Afonasin’s review of SNS Greek & Latin 1.0 for Windows (BMCR 2005.4.41), Peter Gainsford stated that for a potential buyer of one of the TLG/PHI utilities on the market “price is worth a good deal of attention, especially for an institution or scholar that has to watch his, her, or its budget”, and that “another important factor to bear in mind in choosing a utility is the range of formats in which it can output text” (BMCR 2005.05.07).

In the light of these considerations, we’ll not focus on all the features of Antiquarium 2 (for that, one can take a look at Quadrivium Software’s exhaustive website, and at Thomas J. Mathiesen’s review of v1.0, BMCR 2002.04.15), but rather on “the product’s pros and cons as compared with its competitors” (Gainsford), a task facilitated by the fact that this browser has a number of characteristics that can orientate the choice (one way or the other). However, anyone who wants to evaluate the program can download from the Quadrivium website a fully functional demo version, except for exporting and printing.

Before speaking about Antiquarium 2 from the classicist’s point of view, a few technical remarks are necessary. Unlike other browsers (Musaios, Silver Mountain Workplace, and Lector), initially developed for MS-DOS or Windows 3.x and only afterwards adapted to more advanced operating systems, Antiquarium 2 has been natively designed for 32-bit platforms; besides the self-evident advantages in terms of elegance and architectural coherence, this has facilitated the implementation of noteworthy characteristics, like full support of BetaCode specifications (we’ll touch on this point later). In view of a possible purchase, however, it should be considered that version 2.0 compatibility with Windows 9x and Millennium has been abandoned, and now Antiquarium runs only under Windows 2000/XP, with a minimum display resolution of 800×600 pixels.

An unquestionable point in favor of Antiquarium is that all its basic routines are written in Assembler, a programming language that assures high operating speeds also with middle-power processors — especially with the files transferred from the cd-roms to hard disk — and compactness of the executables; albeit supporting both the TLG #E and the PHI 5&7 CDs, in fact, Antiquarium 2.0 requires less than 2 Mb of disk space. Moreover, like the good old applications for Mac, the installation consists simply in copying the program folder onto the hard disk and the font Gr_Symbol in the /Windows/Font directory; additional libraries, or modifications to the Registry or to system directories, are not required.

The most important characteristic of Antiquarium against its competitors is the ability to correctly display (and print) every single BetaCode character. BetaCode is a method, developed in the late ’70s by David Packard and adopted by the TLG staff in 1981, to translate into standard ASCII codes the characters used in ancient languages and many formatting instructions; in this scheme, for instance, omega corresponds to “w” (without quotation marks), digamma to “*V”, subscript dot to “%179”, bold to “$1”, caesura marker to “@31”, and so on. If one recalls that the TLG Beta Code Manual 2004 Edition has 110 pages, it’s well understandable why the developers of all other browsers for TLG/PHI have chosen to implement only a (quite variable) subset of it, with the symbols most commonly used in literature and epigraphy. To tell the truth, for those applications supporting several Polytonic Greek code systems (WinGreek, SuperGreek, LaserGreek, etc.), this is an understandable and — in some ways — necessary choice; nevertheless, anyone making lexical searches, or works on papyri, inscriptions, or scientific texts, very often loses more time in rearranging and reformatting outputs than in locating the needed information.

For all these users Antiquarium will be like manna from heaven, thanks to the combination between a well-known Unicode font, Microsoft Palatino Linotype, included in every version of Windows 2000/XP, and Quadrivium Software’s font Gr_Symbol, which includes the remaining BetaCode characters (around 650 glyphs). Now, it is precisely the font Gr_Symbol that makes the difference between Antiquarium 2 and the other three applications (Silver Mountain Workplace, Diogenes, and TLG Online) since it, by supporting Unicode, can display more of the 256 symbols of non-Unicode fonts; in several cases, chiefly with papyrological and epigraphical texts, while Antiquarium accurately reproduces the originals, these browsers represent the less common signs with their equivalent codes in the BetaCode system.

This clear superiority of Antiquarium 2 in the graphical representation of texts has, alas, a price: the impossibility of using fonts other than the pair Palatino Linotype / Gr_Symbol (when a document has been imported in a word processor, though, Palatino Linotype can be replaced with another Unicode font with support for classic languages, such as Gentium or Alphabetum). Should one need to export Greek frequently in other non-Unicode codepages, it will be better to look somewhere else (for example, at the free Diogenes).

Another feature that will be welcome to many scholars is the ability to customize the TLG indices. Antiquarium 2 does the job in an intuitive and polished way: opening the “TLG Indices” window, it is necessary only to select with the mouse one or more authors within the predefined thematic categories and subcategories (e.g. Subjects/Lexicographa, Epithets/Chronography, Geographi/Alexandria, etc.), or even (as in SNS Greek & Latin) the single works of a given author. So, if we want to find the occurrences of the word “Athena” in all the mythographers except Pseudo-Apollodorus, the steps are: 1) open the window “TLG Indices”; 2) mark off the desired category (Epithets/Mythographi); 3) select with the mouse, in the lower part of the window, all the authors; 4) deselect Pseudo-Apollodorus; 5) add (with the mouse right button) the items to the search window.

In this regard, the thoroughness of the search window (“Mass Find Window”) deserves special recommendation. It is possible: a) to find more words in the same context, in the given order or not; b) to use the wildcards “?” and “*” and the Boolean operators and or not; to specify the proximity maximum line number; to include or exclude the diacritics; to check (customizable) alternative spellings, both for the Greek and the Latin: xyn-/syn-; omega(eta) + iota, or omega(eta) + iota subscript; gign-/gin-; adn-/ann-; u/v, etc. An equivalent flexibility — which often results in a larger number of correct occurrences in a lesser time — can be found only in SNS Greek & Latin for Windows. Both these engines, of course, implement the TLG Word List, too.

Another point in favor of Antiquarium 2 is its interface, sober and minimalist, which at first glance gives no idea of the amount and the variety of operations that it makes possible. The main workplace, called “Document Manager”, gives access to four windows, with self-explanatory names: Authors Window, Works Window, Mass Find Window, and Document Window; in the latter it’s possible to browse one or more documents at the same time (if desired even in raw BetaCode), to print it/them (whole document, selected lines, current page, pages x-y), to copy it/them in memory. Sad to say, the option “export all document” is lacking, in consideration of some provisions of the TLG license, but in printing it’s possible to preserve the layout of the original edition and to include or exclude chapter titles and subtitles.

Antiquarium 2, conversely, does not make concordances (like Lector, Silver Mountain Workplace, SNS Greek & Latin, and Musaios, the latter through separately-sold plugins), cannot interface with Perseus (like Silver Mountain Workplace or Diogenes), or utilize customary indexing of TLG (like SNS Greek & Latin for Windows; these indices, though, are optional at an extra price of 80 Euro), but it is the sole browser that can invoke the digital unabridged version of the Liddell-Scott-Jones Greek-English Dictionary (LSJ). In the future it is to be hoped that at least the creation of concordances will be implemented, while the speed of the search engine is already impressive today. Quadrivium Software has announced for late 2005 a truly revolutionary product, a version of Antiquarium for Pocket PC handhelds: if the complex technical problems of such an enterprise can be satisfactorily solved, it will be possible to use the TLG/PHI databases even on the road, on vacation, on the top of mount Everest… The Classicist, everybody knows, never sleeps.

Some final remarks. Antiquarium 2 can be purchased with credit card directly and securely on the Quadrivium Software website (through the well-known Register Now! service); the software, sent by e-mail, is personalized with the buyer’s name, but is not copy protected nor does it, like SNS Greek & Latin, require activation (a procedure that damages the honest users without discouraging piracy). The individual license costs $200, the corporate license $400; the passage from Antiquarium 1.0 to 2.0 costs $100 and $250 respectively. A more consistent discount for the upgrades could be perhaps desirable (updates of the Antiquarium current version are free of charge: Quadrivium sends them on request of a registered user); nonetheless, the overall high quality of the product, its very low learning curve, and above all the power of its routines in crucial fields like searching, displaying and printing, make Antiquarium 2.0 a wise choice for every scholar of the ancient world.