One might think that rabbinical students spend much of their days sitting in the beit midrash arguing over sections of the Talmud containing the debates of the medieval sages. That's only partially correct. When I was in rabbinical school, I remember the arguments we had (students and teachers) over which is the best Hebrew word processor.
When it comes to typing a document in English, the most popular choice is certainly Microsoft Word, with a minority of law firms and businesses still using WordPerfect. When it comes to typing a document in Hebrew (or mixing Hebrew text with English), there are a handful of options on the market. For years, there hasn't been just one Hebrew word processor that really stands out.
I've had a chance to work with many of the Hebrew word processor applications out there and used Dagesh Pro (from TES Software) for many years and found it to be very good. Some of its impressive features include adding vowels automatically and the ability to include trope marks (cantillation notes). It comes with over 100 fonts and has a very good Microsoft Word filter and can save documents as HTML code.
For the Mac, Nisus Writer Pro (from Nisus Software, Inc.) is an impressive application. The latest version of Nisus came out in May and boasts the abilty to track changes within the document. The new version also comes with drawing tools and watermarks.
Both Nisus Writer Pro and Dagesh Pro offer free trial downloads of their software online. These two applications have certainly advanced in their capabilities in the past few years.
The best Hebrew word processor for Windows, however, is now DavkaWriter 7 (from Davka Corp.). [Note: Davka Corp. also sells a Hebrew word processor for the Mac called Mellel II, which runs on Mac OS X.] This latest version of DavkaWriter has over 25 new features and enhancements. They did a complete redesign of the application, allowing it to run faster and be much more user-friendly. Many of the improvements in DavkaWriter 7 are features that users have become accustomed to in Microsoft Word. In ealier versions of DavkaWriter, I found myself copying the text and pasting it into Word so I would have the use of all of Microsoft's features. However, now the majority of those features are available within the DavkaWriter app itself.
DavkaWriter 7 includes screen capture, draggable document tabs, and a zoom slider for instant page adjustment. It features an accurate display of Hebrew vowels and cantillation marks, as well as a built-in text library of vocalized Hebrew texts (including the Tanakh, Mishnah and Siddur with the text of the Torah and Haftarah readings). It also comes with the Rashi commentary on the Chumash.
Whether you're looking to use a Hebrew word precessor for scholarship or simply to type a few Hebrew words in a Hebrew font, DavkaWriter 7 is exceptionally easy to use. I tested it on Windows 7, Vista and XP without any problems. It sells online for $159 (comprable to Dagesh Pro), but discounts are available if you're upgrading from a previous version. The Mac compatible Hebrew word precessors (Mellel II and Nisus Writer) sell for around half the price of the Windows compatible applications.
The competition for the best Hebrew word processor on Windows will likely continue as each company improves its product, but for now the answer is DavkaWriter.
Rabbi Jason Miller, The NY Jewish Week's tech expert, is an entrepreneurial rabbi and blogger. He is president of Access Computer Technology, an IT and social media marketing company based in Michigan. Follow Rabbi Jason on Twitter and Facebook.
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