Tuesday, July 15, 2008

So Simple, So Smart

I just downloaded a little app for the Mac called LatinEdit that is just dang smart, even in version 0.1, all the more so because what it does is so simple. It's designed to transcribe and translate Latin documents from an image file into digital text. It has three fields: one where you can view the image, a second where you can type the Latin, and a third for your translation. It includes the LatinWords dictionary onboard; even a novice or hack Latinist (like me) can take a stab at translation.

What I like best are the little touches. For example, there's a "Poetry" menu, with commands to mark long and short stresses, feet and caesurae. (The caesura mark looks like this: ‖) You can add and modify kerns and ligatures. There's keyboard shortcuts for these too. You can also mark passages for later revision, and insert and export footnotes. You can detail your preferences for the dictionary as well: if you only want definitions, or you want additional examples, or words in context, etc., set it and forget it.

Essentially, it's a workflow management application, but it has a clear purpose and is well-integrated. The only deficiency I can see is that you can only work from one facsimilie at a time; there's no way to collect, sort, and manage a database of images (a la iTunes or iPhoto), which could make working on a longer document a drag.

But the principle is great. I could easily imagine a GreekEdit, ArabicEdit, GermanEdit, etc., performing the same tasks. And for modern texts, add OCR and you've got a scanning, correcting, translating platform that would be a digital humanist's dream.

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