Published on Egyptological, In Brief, 27th February 2012
By Andrea Byrnes
I have been using the iPhone app “HieroPocket” for a few months now, and I thought that for those of you who already own an iPhone or are thinking of buying one it might be useful to summarize its key features.
The application is easy to navigate, featuring two main sections – the Dictionary and the Sign List, both available from nice big buttons on the home screen, which has a papyrus-themed background (figure 1).
The dictionary (figure 2) is organized in the order of the basic Egyptian alphabet. To enable users to navigate the dictionary without having to scroll through the entire word list it is divided into batches: f to fd, h to hd, k to kt etc. Tap on the batch that you want (e.g. f to fd) and you can scroll through a complete list of the words that fall into that range. Under f to fd, for example, the top three listed are f, f3i and f3w, list on the left of the screen. On the right of the screen are the corresponding hieroglyphic words. You can tap each of these to find out more information, including its Gardiner sign list designation. So if you tap f you will be given the following information: [pron. suff.] He, him, his (3rd pers. sing. m.) I9. For a longer word you will be given more detail, including the Manuel de Codage syntax for the layout using Gardiner signs. So tap on f3w and you will see: [n.] Magnificence, splendour. I19:F40-G43-Y1:Z2.
The sign list will be familiar to anyone who has given hieroglyph self-teaching a whirl. When you tap on Sign List you are presented with a list of categories, beginning with A. Man and His Occupations. Tap on this and the format is very similar to the dictionary. On the left of the screen is the Gardiner sign name, starting with A1, and on the right is the hieroglyphic symbol that the Gardiner sign name represents, in this case A1. Tap on that and you are given more information, in this case: s ; j [pr. suff.].
It has a really helpful “Notes” section that can be reached by clicking the small question mark symbol at the bottom right of the home screen. It incorporates a very small user guide, and also has several pages to help you learn about hieroglyphs. The user guide is short, reflecting the self-explanatory nature of the app, but adds the potentially useful information that if you shake your phone it will shuffle to a random word or sign. I say potentially useful, because nothing I did to my phone would make this feature work. The introductory pages take you through the basics of Middle Egyptian, teaching a lot of useful information along the way.
There is a bibliography, but it is weighted towards French titles (it is made by French graphics company ArtworkAtWork) and excludes many of the excellent English language teach-yourself hieroglyph books.
I have found this to be a great little application, particularly when looking at photographs in books or in museums when I am reading a text and am able to use it to look up elusive words. Although I use the app primarily as a dictionary, the introduction to hieroglyphs in the user guide section will be of interest to those just starting out in the world of hieroglyphs.