The Arabic Mac and the Internet
Using Arabic on the Net has become more straightforward in the last decade, so if you have an up-to-date Mac, you can generally just use any normal internet program (web, mail) and assume it works in Arabic as well as English. Web pages in Arabic proliferate, of course, and almost never cause any problems in display.
That is actually a sign of considerable progress, because there were many underlying problems that needed to be resolved before we could get there, not just technical - on the net different computers and different systems had to co-operate - but economic; exotic languages like Arabic were often not worth the effort to bother by those who wrote the software, it seems, even when the solutions existed. So, as late as the late 1990s and early 2000s, Arabic could still be problematic on the net. Software from this period is still around, so these notes below, which mostly were written in the 1990s and refer to software and issues from the "classic Mac", may still provide background. A more general background to how computers communicate in different languages on the net, is in a note on character sets and their importance for the Internet, which could also be useful as background (all is written with the "general public" in mind, as far as that is possible in these topics).
The Macintosh and Internet Arabic under early OS X (2001-2005)
Arabic on the Web
Arabic texts on the Web are increasingly widespread, but although the Mac has been the primary computer for typing in Arabic since the 1980s, we were for a long time starved when it came to access to the Internet sites in that script. That is now a time passed, all current web browsers and almost all current email programs handle Arabic without problem. There is no need to install or do anything to read Arabic web pages, and if you can write Arabic in your word processor, you can do the same in your email program.
However, that was not necessarily the case before ca. 2005. Some of the programs in regular use then did not, and still do not, work with Arabic. Microsoft's Internet Explorer does not, nor does the once very popular email program Eudora. Neither of these are supported (sold) by their companies any longer, but because of their popularity they linger on, in particular on older machines. (An independent group are working to create a new "Eudora 8"; a "beta" version exists that works with Arabic, but this is not officially released yet.)
For those using older OS X system software, particluarly versions up to 10.4 (roughly 2002 to 2005, OS X did not have Arabic in its first year), you may also find support for internet Arabic more spotty than on current machines. As you can read below, there are innumerable different ways a web author can choose to display Arabic. Your browser will try its best to display the Arabic for you correctly. But if the author made too many mistakes, things may come out incorrectly. If so, you must tell your browser how to display it. Many (not all) browsers have an "Encoding" item in the "Display" ("View") menu, pick either "Unicode" or one of the Arabic options (in Firefox, under "More: Middle Eastern"), until the text on the web page is meaningful. What has happened is that the author has not given the information the browser needs for automatic display, so you must set that yourself. However, this is more and more rare, Arabic will mostly appear automatically.If this does not work, or if you see no such choice, then you may be using a browser that cannot display Arabic, apart from Internet Explorer, early versions e.g. of iCab did not have Arabic support. If so, upgrade to the most recent version of a browser that works. Or sometimes the browser seems to display some Arabic, but not other pages. If so, find out (read "About..." in the relevant menu) what browser or system version you are using, and read on, perhaps you will find relevant information for your browser.
NB: "Bug" warning, Safari and Office 2004
Arabic in E-mail in OS X
Of the probably most common email programs on the Mac OS X, Apple's Mail, installed on all Macs, will display Arabic properly and you can write emails in Arabic; and the same is the case for most other current email programs (see reviews for a survey). As mentioned, old Eudora does not support Unicode and thus not Arabic script in OS X. It did so in Classic Mac, see below for more about its behaviour then, but this was not possible under OS X.
Arabic internet before OS X
E-mail: How to Arabize Eudora in Classic / OS 9
Apple's Mail, the OS X choice, does not work in the older OS 9, but there you can make Eudora, the other stalwarth, display and write Arabic, with some modifications. This is a run-down, for those who are still running pre-OS X software:
Standard Eudora from version 2 supports WorldScript and Arabic almost
correctly both in the (free) Light and (commercial) Pro/Paid versions
(there are some minor glitches with the arrow key direction and non-standard
font sizes). In order to send and receive Arabic correctly, you must install
the Arabic EudoraTables file, which
you will find elsewhere on this server (click here
to download). This translates between the various non-Mac versions of
Arabic out there on the net and our kind of Arabic. Follow the instructions
in the ReadMe file.
In addition, you must set up Eudora to display the message in an Arabic font. This is the manner you do this:
Eudora Light / Pro versions 1 and 2These cannot display more than one font at the time. Thus, in order to display something in Arabic, you must select an Arabic font for all text display. This is the method:
Eudora Pro 3 and 4.Eudora 3 introduced the possibility of having multiple fonts in one window, which is however only fully operational in the commercial version, "Eudora Pro". You must, of course, still install the Arabic EudoraTable as mentioned above, and also uncheck "Fix curly quotes" as indicated in that ReadMe. You do not, however, have to select an Arabic default font unless you want to. If you normally use English or any other language, any Arabic text you receive will initially be displayed in a non-Arabic font as unreadable boxes and symbols. To read it:
A common, but unfortunate problem is caused by Arabic Windows users who write in their own kind of non-standard Arabic, but let their mail program label the message as "English". This is wrong on their part, and will lead to their message being incorrectly presented on the Mac. If this happens, what you must do is in three steps:
As for alignment, there is an unfortunate but unavoidable side-effect of the fact that Macs and Windows etc. are different. The Mac has separate Arabic period and colon characters. Windows does not have this, they have a common English and Arabic period. Therefore, any period, colon or similar punctuation in an Arabic text from Windows (or Unix) will cause the line to be broken in two, before and after the period. The text before the period will be displayed to the left, and the text after to the right of the period (as if it had been English). Alignment will not change this, nor is there any other way to do so, short of manually replacing any period, colon or other punctuation with Arabic ones. (Arabic colons, semicolons and question marks do not cause this to happen, as they are separete also in Windows). Annoying, but apparently inevitable. [If it is a long text, I would probably copy the passage and paste into Nisus or another Arabic-capable word processor that does not have this problem].
To write a message in Arabic, just choose an Arabic font from the Text: font menu and type away. Make sure that you choose an Arabic table from Change: Conversion, preferably Mac -> ISO Arabic (the standard choice). When sending, you will be asked whether to include Style information or not; I would normally choose to remove style information, as few other programs can use this (if you are sending to another Eudora Mac vs 3, however, it may be useful for the receiver).
Although Eudora Light shares most of Eudora Pro's resources, and can actually display multiple fonts, it doesn't have the ability to change them. Thus, it lacks the Edit tool and Text menu, which are crucial for Arabic. So, in effect, you are reduced to the choices of Eudora 1/2 above, and set the Arabic font as a default font in order to read it.
Arabic on the Web before OS XBefore the time of Unicode, different computers used different methods in writing Arabic, and many computers did not have Arabic support at all. Thus, someone who wanted to put Arabic on the web could not assume anything about the capabilities of the machine that should read it. She therefore had to choose between different methods of including Arabic text on the page:
NetscapeNetscape has finally, in version 7, become fully Arabic compatible. It displays all types of Arabic text correctly, without the adjustment and line confusion problems displayed earlier. It is a big and demanding browser (it is a 35-MB download, and asks for about 30 megabytes memory), but if your computer can handle it, it must be the best web browser just now for Arabic text.
This is not true for previous versions of the program, a run-down for those considering such installations: Netscape 6.2 appears to display Arabic, but does not; the letters are reversed, so the text becomes unreadable.
Netscape 4.7 is "out of the box" only able to present ISO (that is, Mac) Arabic pages. It is not able to display Arabic Windows, except in one of the adaptations below, and not Unicode/UTF text at all. It also, like Internet Explorer, suffers from the "meta bug" that means that many of the ISO-produced pages are actually also unavailable. (This is also applies to earlier versions of Netscape, from 1.1, the first that was able to display ISO Arabic text). Thus Netscape seems to be the least capable browser today, at least in its standard form.
In order to make Netscape 4.7 display even those pages it understands in Arabic, you must tell it that you wish to use an Arabic font for such pages, Netscape is not capable of understanding this by itself. You set that in Netscape's "Preferences" menu (under "Edit"). Open this, and click on the Appearance: Fonts category. Where you see "For the Encoding" and a sub-menu, choose "User Defined" from that menu, almost at the bottom. Then, select an Arabic font [those with unreadable names!] for both Variable and Fixed width font. The bottom part should normally stay with "Use my fonts" options.
Then, each time you reach an Arabic page that you suspect Netscape may understand (it says "Mac Arabic" or something), go to the Character Set item on the View menu, and select "User Defined". The page should then reappear in the Arabic font, readable if Netscape can understand it.
As for Arabic Windows pages in Netscape 2-4, there are actually two adaptations that can be made so that these earlier versions can display such. One requires you to purchase something called the "WinArabic script" which adds fonts and resourcse adapted to Arabic Windows to the Mac Arabic system. This utility, which is produced by a Moroccan firm, will also work with Explorer and other Internet programs, but is best only to be used for Net access, it is not compatible with standard Mac Arabic and should not be used in standard word processing and other programs. It is to be found at http://www.d-ventures.com/, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org (the full version costs about $40, I believe). User reports say it works, although with some limitations. I have not heard whether it works with Netscape 6.
The other way is free, but requires you to modify the Netscape application itself (versions 2, 3 or 4). It is actually quite safe, but you should preferably be familiar with the ResEdit application before you attempt this. If you do not know what ResEdit is, try to find someone who does. The process is as follows:
You can now choose between 'Arabic (Win 1256)' or 'User Defined' when you come across web pages in Arabic and you do not know which of the two it is. Arabic Windows pages do not seem to suffer from the "meta" bug described above.
One minor bug that I have found in many of these Arabic Windows solutions, both in Netscape and below, is in forms you fill in (such as "search"). Some servers do not properly understand Arabic text I ask for, when I say "find 'misr'", it replies "no "kisr" found". This may be the problem of the server, not the browser. Also, in many cases, you will find that alignment is not perfect, or that a period or parenthesis in a line can cause the words before the period to appear to the left of it, and those after to the right, causing some confusion. Registering the browser as "Arabic" in the Language registry may or may not help, as the case may be.
[Another quirk with Netscape version 2-4, quite unrelated to Arabic, is that it uses its own conversion format concerning European non-English symbols ("Latin 1"). Pure Latin 1 leaves some characters, about 30 of them, undefined. Both the Mac and Windows have defined these characters to contain certain symbols that Latin 1 does not include, such as "smart quotes", bullet, TradeMark symbol, Sigma, etc. All Mac network programs have agreed on a way to include these spare symbols, so they travel correctly from Mac to Mac, although they will not translate correctly to other kinds of machines. Except Netscape, which from version 2.0 changed its translation table for these undefined characters, for reasons known only to itself. Thus, Netscape 2 and up stands in a world of its own on the Mac side. This does not concern real accents etc., which are properly defined, but can be a drag. For this reason, I have extracted the original Netscape 1 conversion table, and made into a resource file; whith the help of ResEdit you can install this into Netscape 2 to make it conform to the Mac practice. Click here to download. You must know ResEdit to perform this operation. Netscape 6 does not have internal conversion tables, it seems to take its character conversion from the Mac OS's TEC resources.]
Mozilla / FirefoxAn independent offshoot of Netscape is called "Mozilla" (it has recently been re-released under the name "Firefox" for OS X). It looks a bit like Netscape, and like it, it handles Arabic correctly. The sum is about the same as with Netscape 7: It supports all character sets - MacArabic, ISO, Windows Arabic and Unicode - it selects an Arabic font automatically, and also avoids the "period line mangling" bugs that all other browsers suffer from (below). The only caveat is that it is a huge and demanding application, it requires 20-28 MB memory (as opposed to 3-4 for iCab and 4-10 for Explorer, but similar to Netscape 7).
Internet ExplorerMicrosoft Internet Explorer 5 can read some Arabic text under OS 9, but not all text. If the web text has been written in Unicode, you can make Explorer display it, in this way:
IE in older versions can accept ISO (Mac) Arabic, but not Windows Arabic, except in the same kind of adaptations as for older Netscapes above, with the WinArabic script from Morocco, or by modifying it with ResEdit. (I have not had tried this with the later versions of IE, but the same xlat as worked for Netscape, also worked with IE 2; someone with experience with ResEdit can no doubt modify the resource if needed to later IE support). As mentioned, IE seemed to suffer from the same meta bug as Netscape did; and it may even extend to Arabic Windows pages, unlike Netscape, but this is not properly confirmed.
iCabOne of the best solutions come last; it is one that few people familiar with Netscape and Explorer have ever heard of. It is a new, small and fast web browser especially made for Mac (that is why you haven't heard of it) in Germany (one more reason). It is not especially made for Arabic, but unlike the two behemots, it has taken Arabic into consideration, and can display Mac Arabic, ISO Arabic, Arabic Windows and Unicode out of the box, with no trickery or user settings, or even visits to a menu: Arabic simply appears on the page. This is the way it should be.
iCab, can be downloaded from www.iCab.de. It is still in development, so not everything works perfectly. In earlier versions, some html codes on Arabic Windows (in particular ) were displayed as code rather than interpreted, this has been corrected in the current versions. ICab plans to charge people $30 for the full version once it is fully developed (but say that there will also be a smaller free version for download). We will have to wait and see for that, the current version you can download for free.
As mentioned above, you do not need to make any settings for iCab to present Arabic pages in Arabic. That requires that the web providers have "labelled" their pages correctly, so iCab can know it is supposed to be Arabic. If not, iCab has Character Set menus that work like those of Netscape and IE, but unlike them it has Arabic as options, both Windows and Mac, in the character set menu. iCab works also on older machines, I have tested it on an old Colour Classic with System 7.1 from the early 1990s, and it worked, although it was fairly slow under these conditions (you couldn't make current Netscape or IE to even start up, however, on such a system). The Arabic worked, but without the automatic display of Arabic text, that requires OS 9 (or possibly 8.1); on older systems, you have to select an Arabic option from the menu.
Arabic pages in Unicode also require OS 9 (or 8.1 with extras) to display, because they require a system element that appeared in that OS (the "TEC" extension). -- As for other OS 9 browser, Opera does not yet support Arabic or any other non-Western character set.
-- Opera 6 (discussed below) is also reported to work with Arabic under OS 9, this remains to be tested --
There do however remain a few glitches in many Web browsers, some for logical reasons, or because Arabic has not been specifically considered. One concerns periods, colons and other punctuation. They may cause a line to become muddled up. (This is because the browser sees all periods as "English", and, thinking in English, insists to display the part of the line before the period to the left of it, and the new sentence after the period to right of it. Neither Netscape 7 or Mozilla seem to suffer from this bug). Some remedies may be, (i) to use the Language registry to "register" the browser as an "Arabic" application. This may make it organize the line in proper order. If not, the same may be achieved by (ii) using the Mac's "Text" control panel and change the overall system direction from left-right to right-left while reading these web pages. That will take care of the problem in most cases, but apparently not in all; depending on how the web pages have been coded. Such minor, but irritating glitches will probably be with us until a stable, universal character system is in force in a few years' time.
For browsers in early versions of OS X (10.2-up), the below may still be relevant (not every update has been checked):
The browsers that do display Arabic have access to all kinds of older character systems, including Windows Arabic, old Mac (ISO) Arabic, etc., so those differences have disappeared with OS X, and the problems with right-left justification and confusion of words on a line seem also to be gone. However, you are mostly stuck with one Arabic font, the all-Unicode Lucida Grande. Most browsers do not list other Arabic fonts at all.
Under OSX 10.2, some browsers had display bugs that made e.g. some letters of a word turn up in larger size than others. These problems seem to have gone away with 10.3 and the latest versions of the browsers mentioned. Opera (tested version) repeats the problem with punctuation messing up the line order known to OS 9 browsers, discussed above. The other OS X browsers do not.Chimera, based on Mozilla displayed the text correctly right-adjusted, others often use some sort of centre-adjustment; a minor problem but not nice-looking.
You can also run older or non-carbon versions of browsers under the Classic environment in OS X. Since Classic works as OS 9, and you can add Arabic resources to it as you can to OS 9, those browsers should work in the same way there as they do under OS 9.
Basically, however, it seems that reading Arabic pages on the net from a Mac is possible in a number of ways. In OS 9, Netscape 7, iCab and Mozilla stand out, the preferred browser today would be Netscape, but it is also a much bigger and "heavier" browser than iCab. iCab is also a fast and good solution, but with one or two annoying bugs in the Arabic text display.
The specific Web authoring programs are still evolving, and many people, including myself, prefer to use our standard word processors for Web authoring. Thus, I have not made an extensive survey of such Web authoring programs. I have, however, not yet come up with any that does support Arabic editing. Significantly, Netscape 3.0 Gold, while it will display any Arabic text from the net correctly, just as the earlier Netscape 1 and 2, cannot handle writing Arabic text for new files. Thus, my advice, until anyone tells me otherwise, is to use any normal text editor or word processor that can handle Arabic, such as TexEdit, muEdit, SimpleText or any other, and add the HTML formatting codes manually (or with home-made macros. Unfortunately, BBEdit, a commonly used text editor for the Web, does not handle Arabic. See the survey of programs that support Arabic.)
I personally use Nisus for all my Web work, English or non-English, because of its superior text handling features that makes supporting a large Web archive (like the present one) a much more manageable proposition. It also has various built-in Web authoring tools, which may be sufficient for you so that you do not need to actually see any formatting code (although the HTML options are so few it is not very complicated to use "raw" code) - however, I would then upgrade to version 5 or higher, where these tools have improved markedly. Thus, if you already have Nisus because of its Arabic capability, I would look closely at it before going anywhere else.
When you author Web pages in Arabic on the Mac, there are a few things to notice:
The safe characters, which are common to the Mac and ISO Arabic are,
In HTML theory, all Arabic (and other non-English) should actually be coded in a particular way, thus instead of the "alif" character, one should type in the code Ç, you will see this in most manuals. However, this formal requirement is ignored by all real-world texts I have seen, they all contain the real text, which does not appear to cause any problems, so this rule must be considered obsolete.
As discussed above, some modern Web browsers (such as iCab) can get the correct script and font if you label the web page with what character set you use. The format for this is, in the <head> section, <meta content="text/html; charset=ISO-8859-6">. However, this is the very code that causes Netscape and IE on the Mac not to display it in Arabic, so there is a choice which problem you wish to cater for.
Excursion: Diacritics and web pages (OS X)
A small OS X-related note: You can now use diacritics in Web pages, giving full transcription. The simplest, but technically messiest way to do so, is to write your text in Word 2004, using a Unicode font such as JaghbUni, Gentium or others, typing diacritics as you would any text. Then "Save as web page". This page will then display, with diacritics in place, in browsers that support Unicode (on the Mac, Safari and Firefox, but not Internet Explorer).
here to download) you will also find tables for the most common Arabic, Hebrew and Persian character sets (ISO 8859-8 and 8859-6, Arabic Windows and ISIRI-3342)
To install, you simply drop the desired file into the YA-Newswatcher Tables folder that the program has created when you first used it. To display any Arabic message in the correct format, open View: Article format and choose an Arabic font as well as the correct Article Text Conversion table (such as "MacArabic <- ISO Arabic") from the relevant menus in the dialogue box. Use the same menu to write a new message in Arabic.
You can also choose default fonts and conversions for particular groups if any happen to start using Arabic script, from the Newsgroups Settings: Article options dialog box.
Knut S. Vikør