Friday, 2 March 2018

The Oracc Advisory Committee

The Oracc Advisory Committee (OAC) will work with the Oracc Steering Committee (OSC) to broaden the consultative framework within which Oracc planning and implementation takes place.

The OAC’s responsibilities are to work with the OSC on various matters relating to Oracc development, maintenance, use and evangelism.  The OAC will develop the agendas for the meetings and advise the OSC on matters of interest and concern, and on the priority of those matters.

The OAC will be constituted as a group of up to 6 members, with 3 joining the group in year one; a further 3 in year 2; and an annual rotation of up to 3 members after that.  Initial terms will be for two years, renewable for up to a further two years.

The OAC will meet regularly via Skype and annually in person, with the first face-to-face meeting taking place in Philadelphia on Monday/Tuesday 5-6th November 2018.  Some travel funds may be available to support those attending the face-to-face.  In addition, members of the Steering Committee and the Advisory Committee present at the annual Rencontre Assyriologique Internationale will have a “working lunch”, typically on the Wednesday of the meeting.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

The new oracc serve command

If you are managing a project please read this.

In the new buildserver/webserver architecture projects work on the build machines and only send stuff to the webserver when they are satisfied it is ready.  Only public projects and subprojects can be sent to the webserver.

While your work is not on the webserver you can still use it on the buildserver, which also functions as its own Oracc website.  There is no need to send projects to the webserver to see how they look--you can do that on the buildserver.

In order to get a project onto the webserver you need to follow several steps:

1) make the project public by setting <public>yes</public> in 00lib/config.xml

2) oracc build

3) ask one of the steerers (Steve, Eleanor, Jamie, Niek) to rebuild the project list

4) oracc serve

5) wait until the next 10-minute mark, and a minute or two after that.  The webserver looks for new data on the tens, so new data won't show up until a few minutes after that

I'm going to remove (3) when I have some time, but probably not for several weeks.

New ATF mode files for Emacs

I have updated the ATF mode files for Emacs to work with the new build servers.

In addition to this, I have added an upgraded dead-key mode written by Niek Veldhuis.

Instructions for how to use this are in the file oracc-init.el but here they are for convenience:

;; If your project is on build-oracc use the first oracc-build definition,
;; otherwise use the second.  Use a semi-colon at the start of the line to
;; comment out the definition you don't need.

(setq oracc-build "")
; (setq oracc-build "")

;; If you prefer to use the slash (virgule, /) as the dead key for the Oracc
;; Emacs keyboard, use the first definition.  Otherwise use the second to make comma
;; your prefix key--this is more user-friendly if you are using a German keyboard. 
;; Use a semi-colon at the start of the line to comment out the definition you
;; don't need.

(setq oracc-prefix "slash")
; (setq oracc-prefix "comma")

Please note that Niek's former documentation about selecting atf-mode_de.el no longer applies as I have replaced this with the oracc-prefix variable.

For information on getting and installing (in case it has been a long time) see:

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

News for Oracc editors

The Steering Group has five exciting pieces of news to share with Oracc editors, project managers and other content creators.

1. Nammu 1.0.0 Released

I’m delighted to announce the release of Nammu 1.0.0, thanks to the ever-excellent UCL Research Software Development Group team: Raquel Alegre, Stuart Grieve and recently joined Anastasis Georgoulas. You can find it here:

The big changes you’ll notice immediately are:

  • the ability to change font size, screen colour
  • the inability to save files as anything but .atf

As ever, if you notice bugs in Nammu or have feature requests, please report them to Raquel and the team at We’ll give bug fixes high priority but new features will be on the back burner for now; see (4) below.

2. New Server Set-up

Nammu is also ready for a change to the way Oracc’s servers work.

Until now, when you ran “oracc build”, your project built on a machine at Penn Museum which is also the public web server — you if you messed up the build, you messed up your public website.

The new set-up separates the “build” and “serve” processes onto two different machines. So we’ll all be building projects on one of two machines — or for the Munich team — with the “oracc build” command as usual. This will generate a website in the usual way, and you’ll be able to look at it, etc., and share URLs with others, but it won’t be a public machine (not indexed by search engines, we won’t advertise it). So you can experiment a bit more without worrying about breaking things :)

And then, once you’re happy with the way your project website looks on the private build server, there’ll be an extra command, “oracc serve”, which will move everything over to the public web server,

The new build server address at Penn is already built into Nammu 1.0.0. If you're not one of the Munich team, email your project liaison now for a new password.. If you are one of the Munich team, you'll get instructions from Steve or Jamie in due course.

Windows users may need to update to PuTTy 0.70 ( in order to connect to build-oracc in a terminal session. This isn't necessary when you work in Nammu; perhaps necessary when you work in Emacs and/or use the terminal for oracc commands. Cyberduck for windows (for moving files to the server) has no issues with the new server as far as we know; Filezilla works fine, too.

3. New Editing Forum on Github

There’s now a lot of shared expertise amongst the Oracc editing community. Individuals often have questions that others can answer; so to lessen the burden on us liaisons, and to help you all get answers faster, I’ve set up a new “issues” section on Github at which works just like the bug reporting page.

So, in future if you have questions about editing ATF, please post them to Github rather than emailing one of us. We all monitor it, and will respond when we can. If you’d also like to get email alerts about the Editing forum, tell me (Eleanor) your Github account name and I’ll add you as a “collaborator”. It’s really easy to register if you haven’t already.

4. New Website in Development

The current Oracc website is now showing its age. Steve designed it when hardly anyone had smart phones, when there were only a few projects, and when it was still quite challenging to handle bidirectional script.

So now that Nammu has all its core editing functionality, I’ve asked Raquel and the team to bring the Oracc website into the 21st century. No-one’s going to mess with your content; we’re just going to make it look a WHOLE lot nicer, especially on small screens; and easier to find; and allow content-creators to work in Arabic, Farsi, Sorani, etc.

We’re setting up two focus groups to help us get the design right.

One will consist of my final-year History undergrads, some of whom have basic Akkadian, most don’t, so they’re a good proxy for public users.

But we also need a focus group of research users, and I very much hope we can construct that group from some of you and/or your own project team members. Please let me know before WEDNESDAY 11 OCTOBER (when we start work on this) if you’d like to join in. It won’t be time-consuming!

5. Long-term Support for Oracc Development

The work that Raquel and her RSDG team do for Oracc has been funded by UCL for the past three years: variously, by the Social and Historical Sciences Faculty, and/or my own History Department. I’m super-thrilled to say that for the next FOUR YEARS, RSDG’s work for Oracc will be funded by UCL from the overheads of a magnificent new grant.

The Nahrein Network ( fosters the sustainable development of antiquity, cultural heritage and the humanities in Iraq and its neighbours. Funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council's Global Challenges Research Fund, it supports interdisciplinary research to enable universities, museums, and community groups in the region to better serve local, post-conflict needs.

A key goal of the Nahrein Network is to reduce Middle Eastern academics’ international isolation. Another is to research locally appropriate ways to train the next generation of academics in ancient Middle Eastern history, cultural heritage, and related fields. A third is to help local audiences make meaning of local heritage, in local languages and local contexts. As you know, in the Middle East, access to traditional print media is often prohibitively expensive or practically challenging in other ways, but almost everyone uses smartphones and other handheld devices, every day. Open-access, reusable online outputs are therefore a natural solution to increasing the accessibility of academic research, pedagogical materials, and resources for interested publics. So of course, that means Oracc.

Together the Network, Oracc, and RSDG have agreed the following programme of essential work, funded as part of UCL’s commitment to the project:

For end users:

  • Optimise Oracc’s website for small-screen devices using responsive design;
  • Enable bidirectionality on Oracc’s website to support mixed script use;
  • Add pedagogically necessary enhancements, such as Arabic-language glossaries and text- or corpus-specific lists of cuneiform signs;
  • Write online help pages in Arabic (and maybe also Kurdish dialect(s) and Farsi if time allows).

For content creators:

  • Extend Oracc’s bespoke ancient-text editor Nammu to support bidirectionality in modern translations;
  • Add glossary-editing functionality to Nammu;
  • Write error messages for Nammu in Arabic;
  • Check and adapt Oracc’s XHTML schemas and templates for educational ‘portal’ pages to support bidirectionality;
  • Write Arabic-language documentation for content creators

As well as various face-to-face activities in Iraq itself (first up: a workshop on digital humanities at the University of Baghdad, in the spring).

This programme of development work isn’t going to take all four years’ worth of funding, so there will be plenty of opportunity to keep up with new needs and expectations once this first tranche of work is completed.

PS The Network is also looking for a postdoc to work on issues around sustainable development, antiquity, heritage and the humanities, deadline 27 October:

Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Editing ATF with Nammu

Introducing Nammu, Oracc's new ATF editor

Nammu is Oracc's new, platform-independent editing software for creating transliterations, lemmatisations and translations of cuneiform texts. It is being written for us by Raquel Alegre and Jens Nielsen of UCL's Research Software Development Team.

If you are an existing Oracc content-creator and have been editing ATF in Emacs, that's all you need to do. You'll find that Nammu is an intuitive replacement for Emacs, and that you can use all the Oracc keyboard shortcuts as usual.

New to ATF?

If you haven't edited ATF before, you may also want to download:

You should also read the online help pages on learning and using Oracc ATF and on lemmatising.

Do contact any one of the Oracc Steering Group (Eleanor, Jamie, Niek, or Steve) if you would like to have your own Oracc project space (which can be public or private, as you like).

Tips and tricks

Nammu now has all its core funcationality – you can edit real texts with it unproblematically -- but it is still under development. If you like you can join the oracc/nammu group on Github to:

Here are some ease-of-use features that we're currently working to enhance:

  • At the moment there is no line-wrapping, so you have to scroll across for long lines.
  • Nor is there any search/replace facility yet — also coming soon, we hope.
  • There's no split screen option yet, either, so for the moment I suggest that you create translations in your usual word processor as you lemmatise, then paste them into Nammu for validation when you finish. It works for me!

For more details see here.

More about Nammu

Nammu has some built-in help but you can also:

  • watch a video of me using Nammu to edit a tablet from Tell Khaiber
  • watch the whole video, in which I introduce Oracc and Tell Khaiber
  • read Raquel's slides about the programming and principles behind Nammu
  • ask any one of the Oracc Steering Group (Eleanor, Jamie, Niek, or Steve) for further help!

Friday, 18 July 2014

Oracc 3 Released

On behalf of the Oracc Steering Committee--myself, Eleanor Robson, and Niek Veldhuis--I am pleased to announce the appearance of Oracc 3, the most important visible feature of which is a reimplementation of the main browsing interface (the "pager"). The pager has been streamlined and rewritten for improved stability and many more changes have been made under the surface to support Oracc's next moves, including the creation of new dedicated servers, one at the University of Pennsylvania and the other at University College, London.

For help on the new user interface, click on the query icon, or see .

To access additional resources from the pager, click on the plus icon.

The documentation has been extensively revised by Eleanor Robson, and the portal implementation has been reworked by Ruth Horry to be responsive to different sized media such as mobile devices. Niek Veldhuis has provided extensive feedback and testing over the last year which has yielded many improvements.

In addition we encourage you to follow Oracc on various social media platforms--just click on the FaceBook, Blogspot and Twitter icons at the foot of the home page, / .

As usual, please report any bugs to me,

Portals on ESP2

For Project Managers with ESP portal sites

All portal sites on Oracc now need to be in the new version of ESP, called ESP2. If you need help in converting your site, please contact your project liaison.

ESP2 differs in several ways from the old version of ESP. We have made these changes primarily to make it easier to use Oracc on small screens such as phones.

Help pages have improved

All Oracc help pages are now written in ESP2 and have been revised and restructured to make them easier to use. But the documentation is for you! So if anything doesn't make sense, let me know, and I will try to improve it.

Some highlights to draw your attention to:

Style guide
Clearer, more comprehensive advice on good practice
Project URLs
How to link to Oracc pages that are outside your own project
Embedded content
How to embed static content (search bar, corpus stats, video, twitter feeds, etc.)

Minor changes to the schema

If you edit your ESP2 site on Emacs (strongly recommended!) you'll need to download and install the new schema as described here to make sure your xml files are valid.

Changes to where files live

ESP2 is now the default website software on Oracc, so the xml files have been moved up to the top level of 00web. Configuration files such as structure.xml are now in 00web/00config. To make uploads and rebuilds easier, images and static downloads such as PDFs and KML files are now store separately, in 00res/images/ and 00res/downloads/ respectively.

In other words, the directory structure is now:


For full information, see the new Oracc help page on ESP folders.

Tabs and image maps have gone

The tabs on the right-hand side of old ESP pages have disappeared. If you want to link to external sites from the left-hand menu, you can use <struct:link> to do so.

Many old ESP sites used image maps, especially on the front page. Image maps do not shrink to fit small screens so we have removed this functionality but the images used in the image maps have been kept. All links must now be text-based.

You should delete the <param:tabs> element and its contents from your 00web/00config/parameters.xml file.

For more hints on this topic see the new Oracc help on Links and Site Parameters.

Headers have gone

We have removed the header above the main title — with links to pages such as Access Keys, Site Map, Text Size, Privacy, Web Standards, Credits & Copyright, etc.

We now recommend that you make these available via the main menu instead.

Edit your 00web/00config/structure.xml to add:

<struct:page file="about.xml" id="about" accesskey="6" type="page">
    <struct:page file="404.xml" id="404" hide-menu-link="yes" type="page"/>
    <struct:page file="accesskeys.xml" id="accesskeys" accesskey="0" type="page"/>
    <struct:page file="cookies.xml" id="cookies" accesskey="7"  type="page"/>
    <struct:page file="accessibility.xml" id="accessibility" type="page"/>
    <struct:page file="sitemap.xml" id="sitemap" accesskey="9"  type="page"/>

and remove the old <struct:page> elements for these pages from the file. (They may have different names, e.g., standards.xml, copyright.xml.)

For more information see the new Oracc help on Site Structure and 00web/about/.

Footers need to change

All Oracc sites (and indeed all websites) need to comply with European Union law on notifying users about the site's use of cookies. We therefore strongly recommend that you change the content of your header. To do this, edit your 00web/00config/parameters.xml file so that the <param:footer> element looks like this:

<param:footer>The [NAME] Project at <esp:link
url="" hide-print="yes"></esp:link> / 
Content released under a <esp:link
rel="external" hide-print="yes">CC BY-SA 3.0</esp:link> licence, 2013-14<br/>
<small>Oracc sites use cookies only to collect Google Analytics data. 
Read more <esp:link page="privacy">here</esp:link>; 
see the stats <esp:link url=""
rel="external" hide-print="yes">here</esp:link>; opt out <esp:link
url="" rel="external"

Changing [NAME] to the name of your project.

For more help on parameters.xml see the new Oracc help on Site Parameters.

Some About files need to change

Again, this is about making Oracc's policy on standards, legal compliance, etc., a bit clearer. Download these template files and edit them to suit your project:

  • 00web/about.xml
  • 00web/about/accessibility.xml
  • 00web/about/cookies.xml

Then place them in your project's 00web and 00web/about folder respectively.

appearance.xml has disappeared

You now choose the fonts and colours for both portal and corpus in 00lib/p3colours.txt. For details see the Oracc help page about web colours.


You can now rebuild the portal and the corpus separately:

  • Use the oracc build portal command to rebuild the portal;
  • Use the oracc build corpus command to rebuild your corpus if you have one;
  • Use the oracc build project command to rebuild both.

If you have added new images or downloads to your site, you should run oracc resources before you run oracc build portal in order to copy the new files to the right place on the webserver.

See the help page on the Oracc command for more information.

The new rebuilding process is documented on the Oracc help page