ruruminations – cnàmh na cìr – chewing the cud

How to get polytonic Greek on your Android phone/tablet (especially on your browser)

This is a challenge for many people who have android phones and tablets, unless of course they have rooted devices, on which it is not a problem. But for those of us who are not brave enough to root our expensive electronic gadgets, here are a couple of helps.

First of all if you have a Samsung Galaxy Series phone, or any other phone/tablet that has the flipfont system installed, all you have to do to get polytonic greek on most apps is install a suitable flipfont, such as Tahoma, via the Fontomizer app.

Many apps use a font framework, which although not always open to alteration, it facilitates complex fonts and fonts otherwise unsupported by the Android system. Examples: Tertius (the best free offline Greek and Hebrew Bible reader available for free), Bible Lexicon, Olive Tree Bible, Cadrebible, Remember me, Ankidroid etc. One particular Bible app, AndBible has a font framework which allows you to use any font you choose within the app, even to the point of being able to attach specific fonts to specific Bibles, although there is a problem with the Hebrew fonts. Details of this can be found online.

But internet browsers mostly don’t work with the flipfont. There are some excellent sites for reading Koine and Classical Greek such as and, which, since Firefox for Android is ,as it comes out of the box, unable to render lots of the polytonic letters. But there is a way to install fonts on Firefox for Android, by means of extensions. These can be constructed from a basic extension developed by Mathieu Pellerin to enable Khmer fonts. I have put this together using the freely available SBL Greek font which renders Greek beautifully.

(The source code on which this is based is to be found at My own modified source code is available in the .xpi files linked here, since an xpi file is just a renamed zip file. So if you want the source code or to read the licenses, just copy and rename the .xpi file with the extension .zip and you will be able to access the source code and licenses freely.)

I would recommend that if you wish to use this Firefox extenion that you install it, not on you main Firefox for Android installation, but that you install the Firefox for Android Beta app, so as to allow you to customise without interfering with the setup of other web-pages. The main reason being, that the way the installation works, if it is simply installed with no Firefox for Android settings changed, polytonic Greek will become readable, but Firefox for Android will use the SBL font as a fallback for letters previously showing up as blocks, whilst Greek letters without accents/breathing marks will probably show up in the default font for the x-western character set. (See the second last paragraph for the a more suitable font extension for that kind of set-up. But follow the principles of the following installation process.)

To install:

download the SBL Greek font (incl licenses).xpi file.

Copy onto your phone sdcard (in any way you wish). You can place it in the sdcard main directory if you wish.

Then type file: in the address bar. This will open a file explorer in Firefox for Android, most likely in the phone root directory. Tap on mnt and then on sdcard (may be sdcard0,1,2 etc. depending on your phone).

Tap on SBL Greek font (incl licenses).xpi and wait a second or two

A dialog box should appear asking if you wish to install, tap ok.

You now have SBL Greek on Firefox for Android.

If you simply want polytonic Greek text to be readable, but aren’t fussy about it being just so, then you can ignore this next bit. But if you want it to be just so, with consistent beautiful typeface, and a decent size then you’ll need to get into the guts of Firefox for Android (Beta if you have followed my advice).

It’s actually a lot less painful than it sounds. All you have to do is enter about:config in the address bar and a special configuration page will appear. Once the box and button appear you can get started by entering font in the box and pressing enter. This should bring up every setting relating to fonts.

Scan down for browser.display.use_document_fonts and modify to 0

Scan down again for font.default.x-western and modify to serif

Scan down again for font.minimum-size.x-western and modify to 18 *

Scan down again for and modify to SBL Greek

Scan down again for and modify to SBL Greek

Scan down again for font.size.inflation.emPerLine and modify to 20 *

Scan down again for font.size.inflation.forceEnabled and toggle to true

These setting are suitable for a Samsung Galaxy S3, but if you use a different size of phone or use a tablet, you may wish to adjust the settings marked with an asterisk.

If you are reading something that is marked as being Greek text you may need to adjust the setting for .el or .x-unicode fonts or even to add settings for .grc fonts, but for the sites mentioned above the above settings work fine.

So if you have followed the above, you now have Firefox for Android (Beta) functioning as a polytonic Greek reader. Enjoy!

[If you wish to have a quality serif Hebrew font on your Firefox for Android, then I have developed an SBL Hebrew font (incl licenses).xpi. Once installed you need to change the following settings in about:config, enter .he to find the relevant settings and change the following:

Scan down again for font.default.he and modify to serif

Scan down again for and modify to SBL Hebrew

You should now have SBL Hebrew diplaying for all Hebrew on Firefox for Android (Beta).]

After you have done all this, you can bookmark the sites and tap on options to place the bookmark on the home page. These bookmarks will only open Firefox for Android (Beta), if you bookmark within that app. They will not open the other instance of Firefox for Android.

[[If you prefer sans serif fonts, and a simpler effect for both Greek and Hebrew, then the best option for you is to install the DejaVu Sans fonts(incl licenses).xpi extension. as that font sits alongside the existing generic font very well without changing any settings. It works for both Hebrew and Greek. For Hebrew you will have to change the second setting mentioned above, but modify it to DejaVu Sans. But for polytonic Greek, this font will render the previously boxed letters, in a form very similar to the other letters, so negating the need to change settings in order to achieve consistency with regards to text/typeface. Those of you who know the inner workings of Firefox, may say at this point, but isn’t DejaVu Sans already installed on Firefox for Android. The answer to the question is yes, but! The but is this, only a subset of DejaVu Sans is actually installed, which does not include the polytonic Greek. I can’t verify whether it has any Hebrew, but from what I know it seems to only be aimed at the Maths Symbols subset.]]

[[[A final note: if you have books in Kindle for Android books that don’t render the Greek properly, if they are not DRM protected, then you can copy the relevant .mobi file to your computer and install and use Calibre to convert it to a .epub file. This will then open and render perfectly in Aldiko book reader. I don’t think you even need a suitable flipfont installed, although, I have been unable to verify that.]]]

{Since writing this post my own phone Galaxy S3 has updated to Android 4.3 and some of the difficulties with polytonic Greek mentioned above seem to be a thing of the past. Not sure about Hebrew yet though.}


10 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Excellent post. Accurate and informative. Thank you very much!

Comment by πμχ

Many thanks for all the explaination!

Comment by eca35fr

When I click to download the dejavu font I get the Hebrew file instead. The link seems to be broken. Thanks

Comment by Graham

You are right, I had inadvertently uploaded the incorrect file to box when updating this file. I have corrected it now I hope. Thank you for pointing that out.

Comment by rumaclean

Thanks. Very nice job. Works really well.

Comment by Graham

Excellent post! It works fine. Thank you very much! Eὐχαριστῶ πολύ!

Comment by Τηλεγραφητής

It worked fine on my Samsung Galaxy Player. I just used “Firefox for Android” and didn’t do any of the “fussy” tweaks, but the result was “just so” enough for me! Thank you very much.

Comment by Arnold


Comment by Antonio Bellini

Thanks for the post you have made. The suggested solution works for me, and I’m glad that you’ve decided to share it with others.
I would like to ask about one issue. The greek characters with diacritics are smaller than the others. What should I edit in the Firefox to change it?

Thank you in advance.

Comment by Alexandra

Thank you to all of you who have left kind messages. I have only just discovered a batch that had remained undiscovered. Wasn’t intentional I just haven’t been using my blog much recently. Glad that you have found it useful. And for those who have asked tech questions, sorry I don’t have answers at the moment. I’m no tech expert, just a problem solver, who has tackled one particular issue. Anything beyond that issue is probably beyond the limits of my knowledge. Plus I’m using another phone now with an updated version of Android which includes Greek and Hebrew support.

Comment by rumaclean

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