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  • Arabic on the Mac under OS 9 and earlier

    In the "Arabic FAQ" I comment on Arabic on the Mac as it works under OS X and recent software. As Apple no longer supports Classic on new machines ("no-one uses Classic anymore"), I have removed most references to Classic and OS 9 from the "Introduction" part, as it may just confuse new users.

    But of course Apple is wrong, Classic is still used. As you cannot get it onto new machines any more, the information on how to install Arabic may be obsolete. But since the notes I wrote still exist, I have moved much of that older information to this "legacy software" page, which then partly relates to Classic under OS X, which is still relevant to some, partly to older OS 9 or earlier machines, much of which is perhaps historical only.

    On the Arabic Mac page, there are also some comments relating to upgrading Arabic from Classic to OS X, if you have decided to make the plunge.

    Issues related to Arabic in Classic

    From 2006, Apple has broken the bridge to older software, in that the new Intel-based Macs cannot run any programmes from before 2000. But older Macs with OS X up to and including system 10.4 can run older software in what is called the "Classic environment"; which is a way to trick older programs that do not actually work under OS X into believing that the Mac is really using OS 9. The older programmes are unaware of OS X, and relates only to the OS 9 system inside the Classic "bubble". Thus, it cannot utilize the Arabic you may have activated in OS X.

    To have Classic programs (such as Nisus 6) work with Arabic, you must install Arabic separately in Classic, in the separate System folder that you see with a "9" on its icon. That is actually a regular OS 9.2 system, and Arabic there is like Arabic on an OS 9-only computer. However, installing languages to Classic requires some special considerations. For one thing, Apple stopped providing non-European scripts on their Classic install disk [if they even gave you such a disk]. If you cannot find anything like a "Language Kit Installer" on the disk, you must find these Arabic 9.2 resources elsewhere, and install manually.

    Installing Arabic in Classic: The DIY manual.

    If you can find a proper Classic Installer program to install Arabic, use that, of course, but you must thus in many cases install the Arabic resources manually. If you have access to an older, OS 9-based Mac, you can for example copy the required Arabic bits from it, and drop each file in its proper folder in the OS 9 / Classic system folder, but still, you need to know where each goes. So, these are the revelant and required files for Arabic in Classic / OS 9, and their proper place:

    (i) the WorldScript I extension, in the Extensions folder
    (ii) the Arabic script module, in the System file [the "suitcase" called System]
    (iii) Arabic fonts, and at least the al-Qahira font, in the Fonts folder
    (iv) the Arabic Settings control panel in the Control panels folder

    There may also be more keyboard layouts for Arabic, as optional and separate files. They also belong in the System file (not the System folder, but the file inside it that looks like a suitcase). Notice, however, if you are looking for these files in an older OS9-based machine, that active items in the System file are invisible (to prevent you from crashing the machine by pulling them out): among them the Arabic script module. Restart with extensions off to make them passive, and thus visible.

    To install such in "real" OS 9, you could just drop all of them on top of the (closed) System folder icon, and they would be placed in their correct sub-folders automatically.

    This does not work in Classic. For one thing, dropping files on top of the System folder icon to have them sorted does not work; you must place each item manually in its correct folder, as indicated. However, under OS X, there is no way to put anything into the System file suitcase, and Arabic only works with the script/keyboard that goes in there. Stymied. There are two ways out of there:

    • The first is most convenient, but only works in OS X 10.3/10.4: Place those files (Arabic script + any keyboards) into the folder called Appearance inside the Classic System folder (the files must lie individually in the Appearance folder, not inside a subfolder).
    • If you do not have 10.3, see if your Mac can start directly ["boot"] into OS 9, sidestepping OS X altogether: Check in System Preferences : Startup Disk. If you see a System folder 9 listed as an option there, select and click on Restart. That gives you a regular OS 9 machine for the moment, and install Arabic as you would under OS 9, below. Use the Control Panel Startup Disk to get back to OS X, now Arabic will work also in Classic.

      However, new Macs cannot boot into OS 9, on the machines that can run them, the only realistic option is to upgrade from 10.2 to 10.3 or 10.4.

    In any case, if installation was correct, you will upon restart of Classic / OS 9 have a keyboard menu with your national flag in the menu bar. If you can't see anything like that, installation was not successful, but if you do and you can see "Arabic" in this menu, the Arabic is installed properly. If it is there, but is grey (inaccessible), that means the program you are in does not support writing in Arabic.

    As for fonts, they must of course be placed in the Classic system folder's Fonts folder, to be useable in Classic. But OS X will also use fonts in that folder, so you do not need then to have a separate copy in the OS X Fonts folder for the font to be used by both systems. Now, OS X can use many (but not all) OS 9 type Arabic fonts, in particular the regular Apple fonts, Baghdad, al-Bayan etc. But those Arabic fonts of the same name provided with OS X are of a type (.ttf) which OS 9 cannot use - you can go up, but not down. So, you must get hold of the older, OS 9 versions of the fonts for Classic (and these are then available to both Classic and OS X programs). There seem to be a number of OS 9 Arabic fonts available commercially still, but I hae not found any freeware fonts that can be used for Classic. For more detail, see the Arabic fonts page.

    -- Some people may be aware of the SheepShaver program that allows you to do something similar to Classic, but also on current, Intel-based machines. It is a bit tricky to get up and running, but unlike in Classic, its OS 9 is fully self-contained within its window, with its own Finder. You can therefore install Arabic in it as you would on a physical Mac of that age. Notice, however, that Sheepshaver does not run Classic's OS 9.2; the newest software it takes is 9.0.4. You can however also install systems 7.5 through 8 on it, with Arabic in place.


    Issues relating to running Arabic under OS 9 or earlier

    The texts below were mostly written before the appearance of OS X, and are partly historical, some of it may be useful to people still running OS 9, or to using Classic programmes.

    How Arabic worked in OS 7-9.

    These were standard features:

  • Automatic context analysis: There is only one key for Arabic "b". The system automatically selects whether the isolate, initial, medial or final form of "b" is appropriate, and changes this if you e.g. add another character afterwards. Notice that only the letter value "b" is stored on disk, not the form: this is only formed dynamically on display.

  • Of course the writing directon switches automatically to from right to left when you write in Arabic. You can combine English and Arabic on any line, when you switch to English in an Arabic text, the writing direction changes automatically. It looks funny the first time you see it, but it works correctly, also if there is a line break in the middle of the "other" language.

  • Many fonts, of course. In the basic package you get five or six Truetype or Postscript fonts, you can buy many others, both headline, text and fancy fonts. In a well-behaved program, the font follows the keyboard: when you switch from English to Arabic (through selection in the Keyboards menu or by pressing Command-Space), it automatically switches to the last Arabic font you used.

  • Ligatures. Special combinations of characters are given particular joint shapes (e.g. lam-mim-mim is displayed stacked vertically). It depends a bit on the font how many variations there are. The selection of shapes isn't perfect -- lacking are e.g. "Allah" and dagger alif (but there are Arabic fonts that contain some of these, as well as the "saam" formula as a signet etc.) -- but it is pretty good. You can turn these special ligatures on or off in the "Arabic settings" control panel.

  • Keshida (lengthening the strokes inside a word for proper justification); again something you can set in the "Arabic Settings" control pamel, where you have various alternatives.

  • Various ways of inserting Arabic or Roman numerals, you can choose either of these as default (again in "Arabic Settings"). You can choose if the numerals should appear in "real Arabic" (Mashreqi) or "European" shapes (as they e.g. to in the Maghreb), and whether groups of numbers are typed right to left (1986 typed 6-8-9-1, as on an Arabic typewriter) or left to right (type 1-9-8-6); selected by using the number keypad on your keyboard or by pressing the Option key when typing numbers etc.
    Notice that if you want the numbers inserted automatically by a program (e.g. page numbers) to appear in Arabic, you should turn on "Use Arabic numerals" ("al-shakl al-arabiyya li'l-arqam") in the Arabic settings control panel.

  • Lunar or solar calendar. Rather a show-off item; some versions of the Arabic system let you choose to have the Mac work either under the Christian or the Islamic calendar; and there are various options for how the Hijri date is calculated. This is defined in the "Arabic calendar" control panel. Perhaps this was not an essential item, it seems no longer to be included in the recent versions of the Arabic system packages. But the functionality is still there. If you install the Arabic Calendar control panel from an earlier Arabic (ALK) system, select 'Hijri' and choose an Arabic font in the 'Appearances' control panel, you will see that lists in the Finder windows use the Islamic calendar. (I'm sure this is not recommended by Apple, however.)

    So how Arabic does it get?

    To get Arabic on your Mac, you can do either of two things:

  • Install a complete Arabic Macintosh System on your Mac. This works just like any other System Upgrade: You get hold of install CDs or disks parallell to the US System disks, and use the Installer program. This gives you a completely Arabized Mac, it will start up saying "Marhaban" instead of "Welcome" and all the menus, the Trash can etc. will be in Arabic. This includes all the error messages the computer may fire at you. You can still write in English on a fully Arabic Mac, but you may have problems with other European languages, like mine (Scandinavian). This would be the normal situation for a user living in the Middle East.

  • Less drastic, and more common in the West, is to install just those elements that makes the Mac understand Arabic on an English (French, German, or whatever) Mac. In this case, the machine retains its original language as the one you will see most often; Arabic is only added as an option that you use when you need to, and which causes no problems when you don't need it. The only way you can see that such a Mac has Arabic is in the Keyboard menu in the menu bar, which sports a crescent when you use Arabic, and your national flag when you write in your own language. You retain, however, exactly the same capabilities for Arabic as on the fully Arabized Mac (we call it "localized" when the menus appear in the local language).

    In order to get the former option, the fully Arabized Mac, you would most normally go to an Apple dealer in the Middle East, where such set-ups are standard, and they would prepare the machine for you. If you are reading this, it is more likely that you are in the second category, and wish to add Arabic capabilities to a Mac that otherwise will be used in Western languages. We will therefore focus on this in the following.


    How do I get hold of Arabic?

    What kind of Arabic resources you need, will depend on what operating system your Mac is running. By and large, mix-and-matching leads to complications and mostly will not work, so if you have a Macintosh Operating System 9 (OS 9 in the shorthand we will use), you should have the Arabic made for OS 9, etc., with some exceptions that we will detail. Since Arabic has been around for a while, we will talk you down from the newest to the oldest, which is also a history lesson. (Notice that I have myself not used OS 8 much, so what I say here is based on reports from others.)


    OS 9-9.2

    With OS 9, Arabic returned to being free for Mac users, after having been sold commercially for a while, and is included as an option with every Mac sold (together will all other languages). To install it, you do the following:
    • Insert the OS System Install CD (the one you used to install the System, or which came with the computer), and click the "Mac OS Installation" icon.
    • In the first panel, click "Continue".
    • You are asked to indicate disk, accept the default (your hard drive).
    • So far so good. In the next box, you are asked if you want a new installation of the System. You do not want that. Instead, click on the button "Add/Remove".
    • Then you get to a long list of options of what to add or remove. Scroll down until til you find "Languages", and select it. In the small drop-down menu beside the item, select "Customized Installation". Make sure nothing else is selected in this long list; only Languages and Customized, before moving on.
    • In the list of languages that appear, choose the "Arabic" option. Click OK and the installation will commence.
    • After the restart, notice that the standard installation, while it includes all you need, will only add a couple of Arabic fonts. You will want more; there is a folder of them on the Installation CD. Check the folder "CD Extras", "Language Kits CD Extras", click on "Arabic.img", this creates a disk image where you will find a Fonts folder. Drag the fonts you want to your hard disk's System : Fonts folder (but note: In a couple of these combinations, some bugs have appeared. See the bug warning concerning some of those fonts, below.)
      For a graphical walk-through of the process, check here.

    If you have OS 9 with Arabic and update to OS 9.1, you must first un-install the Arabic or any other language kit you have, install 9.1, and then re-install the language kit you want from the OS 9.1 CD. The on-line upgrade that you can download does not contain the language kits, only the CD (which you have to purchase) does. Also, the OS 9 language kits do not work under 9.1, so you cannot re-use the OS 9 Arabic resources.

    OS 8.5-8.6

    In OS 8.5 and 8.6, a cut-down version of Arabic is included for free, for the purpose of reading Arabic web pages (to little avail, see Web below. Incidentally, Microsoft is currently doing the same for Arabic Windows, without telling anybody about it). This is called "Multilingual Internet Access" (MIA). To install it, you use the Installer program on the System 8.5/8.6 install CD and click on "Customized Installation". This will present options for five different scripts, among them Arabic. Select the one(s) you want (and only this) and install. (See more detail on this from the Macintouch helpline, and from Apple). As far as I can establish, the MIA modules for Arabic for 8.6 and 8.5 are interchangeable or identical, but they will probably not work on earlier OS 8 versions (at least Apple claims so).

    However, for full use of Arabic, you will want a more complete Arabic installation, with more than a single font and including the various control panels that let you regulate the use of Arabic. For this, you will need the Arabic Language Kit (below, under 7.5). If you have an earlier version of the Language Kit, you will also need to run the OS 8.5 [8.6] Language Kit Updater, which you can find in the "Language Kit Update" folder inside the "CD Extras" folder on the OS 8.5/8.6 system install disk. You probably also need to use the updater if you upgrade the Arabic from OS 8.0/8.1, but you do not need it if you move just from 8.5 to 8.6.

    OS 8.0-8.1

    These system versions work with the Arabic Language Kit (below, under 7.5). If you have earlier versions of the ALK you will also need to run the OS 8 Language Kit Updater, which comes on two floppy disks, or can be downloaded from Apple.

    OS 7.5-7.6

    The OS 7.5 marked a great transition in the use of Arabic resources, and each sub-version of 7.5 accepts slightly different elements, and some disparate and somewhat illogical combinations have been reported to work. However, the main setup appears to be like this:
    • 7.5.0 accepts both the older "7.0.1" and "7.1" Arabic resources (below), as well as the "Nisus 7.5" package and the Arabic Language Kit package that appeared at this time.
    • 7.5.1 does not accept the 7.0.1 and 7.1 resources, but will accept the Nisus 7.5 package as well as the ALK.
    • 7.5.2 has been reported to behave both as 7.5.0 or as 7.5.1.
    • 7.5.5 behaves as 7.5.1, only Nisus 7.5 package or ALK.
    I do not have reports whether 7.6/7.6.1 will accept the Nisus 7.5 package, but since that is hard to get hold of anyway, for practical purposes anything between 7.5.1 and 8.6.1 requires you to purchase the Arabic Language Kit to work in Arabic on the Mac.

    Arabic Language Kit
    This Arabic Language Kit (ALK) is a product that was sold by Apple. Its contents was basically the same as you got in older (and newer) version of Arabic, that is, WorldScript, the Arabic resources, the Language Registry and similar, and a set of Arabic fonts (and Arabized versions of Simple Text etc.). The advantage was that it as a package was easy to get hold of, even regular mail-order firms sold it, the disadvantage of course that it cost money - about $100 unless you got it bundled with some other software. After releasing the OS 9 Arabic for free (that is, bundled with the OS), Apple has stopped selling the language kits, but you may still find remaining copies sold by Nisus or other firms for users of pre-OS 9 machines (the OS 9 bundle will not work on pre-OS 9 Macs). Notice that the Arabic Language Kit gave you neither more nor less than any other version of Arabic discussed here (bar an extra font or two), it was a marketing package.

    The ALK was produced at least in two versions, 1.0 and 1.0.1. To my knowledge there is no major difference between them, and they can both be used on all machines running from 7.1 to 7.6.1, while under OS 8 they both need to be updated (see OS 8 above). You can use the updater on either 1.0 or 1.1. Apple at the time said that OS 8 support was to be included in future versions of the ALK, and I have seen this referred to as "ALK 2.0". I have not had it confirmed whether or not this version ever became commercially available; but it in any case gave the same result as using 1.0.x together with the relevant Language Kit Updater (see OS 8, above). Notice that the updater will only work if you have Roman as your primary script (see below for primary scripts).

    We mentioned the "Nisus package". Nisus is a word processer that is often used with Arabic or other non-European languages (below). For a period they split their product in two: a non-copy-protected version that only worked with Roman script, and a copy-protected version that required a hardware dongle to work (this division was removed with Nisus version 5.0). When you bought the "dongle version", which they called the "language key", you also got the system resources required to write Arabic, Hebrew, Cyrillic and Central European languages. These were the same elements that Apple itself made, but packaged by Nisus. When you installed these, the installer checked which OS your Mac was running, at the time the options were 7.1 or 7.5, and installed the relevant set of Arabic resources [quietly, without telling you that there was a difference]. This latter is what we here call the "Nisus 7.5 package", it is what the Nisus installer put on a Mac running 7.5.x. As one can see, it was fairly obscure way of getting hold of the resources, but that package lasted a little longer than the more common 7.1 Arabic reources, at least through all versions of 7.5.x.

    OS 7.1

    Under OS 7.1 you can use either the 7.0.1 resources (below), or the 7.1 resources that the Nisus package (above) installs, or the Arabic Language Kit. All will work fine and give identical functionality.

    OS 7.0.1

    This is the last version of the Macintosh operating system that was distributed freely, from 7.1 Apple started selling it as a product. OS 7.0.1 was freely available for download (although officially "for developers") on Apple's ftp site, in all its language versions including Arabic, so anyone who had a Mac capable of running OS 7 could download the full Arabic package and install. The Arabic-specific resources from this bundle, similar to those later sold by Apple and Nisus, were distilled from this package and made available on the Web as a separate bundle (including from this website). However, when the ALK was made available, these free downloads were removed to avoid competition. This 7.0.1 package works with Macs running from 7.0.1 to 7.5.0.
    OS 7.0.1 does not work with the Arabic Language Kit, for this you must have at least 7.1.

    OS 7.0

    OS 7.0 does not work with any Arabic. You must upgrade to 7.0.1 or higher.

    OS 3.2 - 6

    Under systems before OS 7, you cannot add Arabic resources to an English Mac in the manner described above. You must use a completely Arabized Mac, with Arabic menus etc. Thus you cannot either, as standard, combine several non-European scripts on a single Mac - although it was technically possible, the first Arabic Mac I saw, in an Apple developer's office in Paris back in the summer of 1987, was running English, Arabic and Greek at the same time. That was a version of System 3.2 (which also existed at least in Chinese and Japanese variations). The Arabic system was then still in development (dated May 1987, it was called AB1-NM' - Nizam Makintush al-'Arabi). The following year an Arabic version of OS 4.1.1 appeared to the general public, now under the name of "Arabic Interface System 2.0". It was based on a common system resource called "Script manager". From System 6, the Arabic versions started to use the same numbering as the Roman systems, and was regularly released until 6.0.8, the last of the pre-OS 7 Macintosh systems.

    The Arabic-only Mac OS 4-6 was less useful in Europe. Someone (me) therefore hacked a version of the Arabic system 6.0.7 so that it worked as English dominant, but had Arabic capabilities, the same as the later OS 7+. This version is still available at the download area of this site, although it is of course only of historical interest today.

    The DIY manual: What to install?

    It is highly recommended that you use a proper Installer program to install Arabic. However, for the Do-It-Yourself interest, here is a description of what the Arabic resources include, for OS 7 through OS 9:

    (i) the WorldScript I extension [or its predecessor, the Arabic extension]
    (ii) the Arabic script module and
    (iii) Arabic fonts, and at least the al-Qahira font.
    (iv) the Arabic Settings control panel
    (v) the Arabic Calendar control panel [under OS 7]
    (vi) something called the "Pack7Patch" extension, whose function is opaque to me, but relates to the numbers [OS 7.0 only].
    If you have OS 7 and a PowerMac, you also need to make sure that the WorldScript Power Adapter, which came with your machine, is still in the Extensions folder. Not needed or to be used for OS 8.

    Strictly speaking, only the 3 first elements are required, but you will normally install all. They are very small, apart from the fonts only a couple of hundred K or less, and you do not need more memory or hard disk to use them.

    You install them like any other System extension or font, by dropping the whole kabundle on top of the closed System Folder icon. That should put everything in its correct place, but it it doesn't, here is where they go:

    * The WorldScript I / Arabic (depending on your version) and Pack7 extensions in the extensions folder
    * The Arabic script (+ keyboard if separate) in the System file
    * The Arabic (Arabic Settings) and Arabic Calendar cp in the control panels folder
    * All the fonts, incl. the al-Qahira font (the Arabic system font) in the Fonts folder [Extensions folder under System 7.0.1]

    If installation was correct, you will upon restart have a keyboard menu with your national flag in the menu bar. If you can't see anything like that, installation was not successful, but if you do and you can see "Arabic" in this menu, the Arabic is installed properly.

    Notice that when Arabic (or any other non-European script) is installed on your Mac, the Arabic script file in the System file becomes invisible -- so that you can't cause the Mac to crash by pulling it out. Restart with extensions off in order to see the script file, e.g. if you want to copy it to somewhere else.

    In a couple of these combinations, some bugs have appeared. See the bug list for details on this if you find something strange. If you are interested in the more technical aspects of the packages, click here for a list of the WorldScript resources, as they appeared in the 7.1/7.5 Language Key package marketed by Nisus. They are basically the same in later versions of the system.

    What is WorldScript anyway, and what is a "script"?

    What we have described above for Arabic is in principle true for most of the writing systems of the world, Apple has similar choices for Chinese and Japanese, for different Indian scripts, Thai, Cyrillic, Greek, Polish and other European languages, as well as for Hebrew and Persian (Persian is part of the Arabic package, more on it below). There are even solutions for Syriac and perhaps also other less-used scripts, some made by independent developers. More than that, you can combine as many of these different scripts and alphabets as you want together on one Mac, writing Russian, Arabic and Japanese in the same document.

    What holds this together is small item hidden in System folder which Apple calls "WorldScript", and which regulates how these various scripts interact. You do not need to know anything about it, nor do you have read what follows in this paragraph, but we will include it anyway as it may help understand how these things work -- you may sometimes find computer people talk of "WorldScript" and as those of us working in Non-European languages in the West are very often left to our own devices, a smattering of geekness may probably come in useful.

    WorldScript is not a program, you cannot see it (except by inspecting the System folder). Nor does it by itself allow you write Arabic or other scripts; it is rather a common basis for letting Arabic or other scripts operate. So, WorldScript is a part of the Arabic (or Hebrew etc.) package.

    Since Apple's usage of "language" and "script" may be confusing, some words about the names may be in order:

    The Mac divides the world's languages on two levels: writing systems, or scripts; and (national) languages within scripts. Scripts share a common way of handling text as well as a common set of characters; thus the Arabic script handles writing from right to left, and e.g. the context analysis of letter shapes described above; the Hebrew script also does right-left, but not context analysis; the Chinese and Japanese how to operate their huge character sets, etc. Apple operates in theory with about 12 scripts world-wide; thus Roman, Greek, Cyrillic, Arabic, Hebrew, Thai, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, Japanese and Korean and others. [There is in any modern Mac also a product called "AppleScript", but forget it in this context, it has nothing to do with any of this, and it is very bad of Apple to use the same term for two quite different things.]

    Thus, a Mac with Arabic has the WorldScript extension plus various specific Arabic system extensions specific for Arabic, plus of course Arabic fonts. You must have all three, Arabic fonts alone are useless without the extensions that make them work as Arabic; Worldscript or fonts are useless without the Arabic-specific extension, and so on. If you add Hebrew, you add the Hebrew-specific extensions and fonts, the same WorldScript takes care of both. Etc., for any other script. Of course, if you let the Installer program handle installation for you, it will put in whatever is required, so it is normally preferably to use a proper Installer program rather than do-it-yourself, as you in the latter case will have to remember all that must be included.

    WorldScript comes in two forms; the resources required to handle large character sets like Chinese and Japanese are grouped in the WorldScript II extension, those with character sets of a standard size, inclduding Greek, Arabic and Russian, are grouped in WorldScript I.

    Roman is the name of the basic script / writing system that all Macs have; and it covers the languages in Western Europe, including English (all languages that can be written with the normal fonts you get on the Mac). Within each script, each of the languages has its own "language set", which includes a keyboard layout, date and time conventions, how to sort alphabetically etc. Thus, Norwegian, English and German are all languages with the Roman script.

    What script rules over the others: the Language Registry

    Two further remarks on how the Arabic script works on the Mac:

    When you install an Arabic system on a Mac, it may be Arabized in three different ways, giving three different levels of Arabic behaviour:

    • The most complete is to make everything Arabic, from you turn it on and it says "Marhaban" instead of "Welcome", when all menus and everything on screen is in Arabic. Programs may still use English, but the Finder and System appear in Arabic. That is known as a localized system, all-Arabic.
    • Or you can maintain English (or another Western language) as the computer's main language, so that the System and Finder is localized to English, and Arabic becomes an addition.

    However, if you do the latter you can still decide whether Arabic or English is dominant, or the "primary" script of the computer. This is because of the special nature of English on the computer. While you normally switch to the particular English (or "Roman" as it is called, i.e. West European) script when you write in English, technically English is also a part of the Arabic script (and all other non-European scripts). This for technical reasons, the programmers can operate in English within Arabic without having to switch to the English script. Thus, even if Arabic dominates the menus, it can still display English characters. Thus you can have,

    • Arabic as the dominant script of the Mac, but with menus and Finder localized to English (using English dialogs to speak to you), or
    • English as the dominant script, with menus and Finder only displaying English, while Arabic and other scripts only appear inside applications as a font choice alongside the Western fonts.

    The last option will be the most common for Western users of Arabic, but it creates certain problem if you use programs made for the Arabic market, where menus etc. are meant to appear in Arabic letters, see below.

    The reason why you have this issue of "dominance" in the first place, is because English and Arabic are not the only scripts in the world. Since you can add many different scripts, Hebrew, Russian, Japanese, to the same Macintosh, one of these has to be the one that dominates over the operating system. The system can't handle having some menus in Arabic and some in Chinese, as this may lead to logical inconsistencies. So one script dominates, and this is called the primary script.
    In principle, menus and dialog boxes will only be displayed in this primary script, and secondary scripts only inside applications in places which allow you to choose a font. An exception is often the font menu itself, as a font is logically is linked to a particular script anyway; but some programs will display any non-European font names in their own Fonts menus in Chicago, making them unreadable. On the other hand, a program with Arabic as the primary script will also display its menus and dialog boxes in English, as Arabic "includes" English, as we mentioned. You know which script is dominant by noticing which icon appears in the menu line when you turn on the computer, or which keyboards are listed at the top of the keyboards menu.

    Thus you end up with three options that all allow you to type in Arabic, but otherwise make the computer behave differently: Arabic dominant + Arabic localized // Arabic dominant + English localized // English dominant + English localized. (Check if you are following us so far: why is the fourth option, English dominant + Arabic localized not possible?) The important element here is which script is the dominant one, as this governs the way the computer works. Localization is mainly a cosmetic matter, whether it is says "File" or "Malaff" on the Finder menu.

    In previous versions of the Arabic system, this was an important issue, since there could only be one primary script for the Mac itself and all its programs; which meant that if the primary script was Roman (English) you simply could not use software made in the Middle East which had all its menus in Arabic, you would not be able to read the menus. Therefore, the system included some tools, one control panel from Apple called Script Switcher, or a program called Nisus Script Exchange which allowed you to change the primary script to Arabic (which displayed Arabic menus in Arabic, but could confuse some English programs) or English on restart.

    In current versions, this has however been alleviated. Now, in addition to the system itself, each program can have its own primary script, different from that of the Mac overall. Thus, you can have some "Arabic-primary" programs even when the Mac itself and most other programs are English dominated. You tell the Mac which program should run "as if Arabic was the primary script" in a tool called the Arabic Language Registry, which the installer places in the Apple menu of your machine. Registering the application there will make it work with Arabic font menus, in some cases with right-left writing direction as dominant or other settings which was controlled by the primary script of the system.

    Second comment: Dominant text direction

    This is the most invisible of all, and many regular users of Arabic are not aware of this distinction: You can set which System text direction should be the primary, or default, one -- right to left or left to right -- independently of what is the primary script. You set this in the standard Text control panel. Here you will see an arrow saying Left-Right or Right-Left if you have Arabic or Hebrew installed.

    By text direction I do not mean which way you write, typing is always from right to left when you use an Arabic font and from left to right in English. But there are other aspects of the order of things which are important. One is alignment of the text, in Arabic you want the right-hand margin to be straight, with lines ending unevenly on the left. Many people "fix" this by setting the word processor to "Align right", which appears to solve this problem. But this only goes a part of the way. What if you want to a first-line indent in a paragraph? The processor will indent the first line on the left, because it believes this to be the beginning of the line, even if it is aligned along the right edge. For this to work, you want to tell the program that no, everything should run right to left; it should mirror-image all controls; indents, tabs and everything.

    This becomes even more critical if you have some words in English in the middle of the Arabic text. The Arabic system will allow this, but in order to organize the Arabic and English correctly on the line, it will make a check: <Arabic words 1> should come first, then <English word> and last <Arabic words 2>. Now, since it still believes that the general order of things is from left to right (remember, your typing direction right-left is only within the Arabic block), it will put <Arabic words 1> at the left edge of the line, <English word> in the middle and <Arabic words 2> at the right. Exactly the opposite of what you want.

    Hence the need to determine the overall writing direction of the program. Registering the program as Arabic in the Language Registry may work for some programs. But many of the programs that are especially adapted for Arabic will also allow you to do this within the program, often (like Nisus and WinText) with a large arrow on the ruler that you click to change from right to left or back. Whenever you do so, all settings, margins, tabs and indents switch over to its mirror image and back again. And, importantly in a mixed-language text, both allow you do this for each particular paragraph as well as the whole document, so your paragraphs with Arabic quotes appear properly from the right, while the rest of the English text is not affected by the Arabic choices. Other smaller programswill allow it only for the document as a whole (and the Language registry for the whole program, all you do with it).

    But many programs that do not know about this will not have such an option. Sometimes (like in Microsoft Word etc.) there is nothing you can do about it; but many others that allow Arabic will take its text directionality from the Text control panel. In that case, choose Right-to-left in the control panel, and you will see the mirror imaging on a global scale. Remember that this is dynamic, when you switch back again, all will be reversed in the programs that base themselves on the Text cp.

    Unicode under OS 8 and OS 9

    The vexed question of different types of Arabic on different types of computers is discussed in a separate document on this page. However, one aspect of this which many ask for concerning Arabic on the Mac, is the question of what is called "Unicode". This is standard that shall allow all types of computers, Mac, Windows and all, to use all scripts of the world in the same manner - and as easily - as we use English. It requires, however, that each computer changes how it treats non-European scripts such as Arabic.

    The Mac has actually already included some elements looking towards Unicode from system OS 8, with greater use under OS 9. Thus, you will find in the keyboards menu two items saying "Unicode", but you will also find them always to be grey, that is inaccessible. That is because in order to utilize Unicode, which is a way more complex set-up than WorldScript or other current language adaptations, the application programs will have to be reprogrammed. Until today, basically no program has taken the plunge. Those that have approached the issue are primarily some Internet programs for email or web browsing, and what they do is to "translate" emails and web pages that are written in Unicode to the normal Mac systems and fonts; so what you see in Arabic on your screen is standard Mac Arabic. For this, they use a system extension called "TEC" (Text Encoding Convertor) which appeared in OS 8.0, and was required from OS 8.1, although not of much practical use at that early stage. (As far as I know, TEC can be used already under OS 7.5.x, but there have been different versions of it, and the more recent system versions are likely to be more applicable.)

    What TEC does, then is to convert text "on the fly", that is automatically, not only between between current Mac ways of handling scripts and the future Unicode system, but also between different current character systems, including between Windows and Mac versions of Arabic and many other scripts - as long as TEC is able to recognize what script the text is supposed to be in. It is thus basically a tool for adapting the new to the current and old. Programs that want to write text directly in the universal Unicode, rather than the current WorldScript systems, must interact directly with Apple's Unicode system through a module called "ATSUI". Neither Nisus nor other regular Mac programs do that yet, so you cannot write in Unicode at the moment.

    [For more on Unicode as it appeared in OS X, see the regular Arabic FAQ]

    Keyboards, "Arabic Transliterated", and "Arabic Portable"?

    In the ALK and later versions of Arabic (in the Language CD Extras folder in OS 9, see above), Apple has added a keyboard layout which they call "Arabic QWERTY", which follows the English keyboard: if you press the English A key, you get alif, B give ba, etc. It still requires some learning of where the emphatics and hamza etc. are, but it may be quicker to learn than the standard, unless you are familiar with that. Drag the Arabic-Qwerty file to your System folder, and you will see it as an option in the "flag menu", alongside "Arabic" and "Arabic portable". -- Notice that a change of keyboards (among those of the same script) in the keyboards menu on the menu line is temporary, only lasting for this session. Changes made in the Keyboards control panel (switch script to see the relevant ones) are remembered also after turning off and on the computer. Previously, independents like myself also tried our hands at this, and I include on my web page an alternative transliterated keyboard (on the basis of work by my colleague Albrecht Hofheinz). Some people may find it useful, others not; it is there if you want it. You may find it more familiar if you are a user of the Jaghbub transliteration fonts, as it partly follows this layout. (Click here to download).

    The standard "Arabic Portable" layout, by the way, is what it says, made for the Portables. With the correct setting, the number keys on the top row of the main keyboard operate differently from those on the keypad at the right of the keyboard; one enters numbers right-left, the other left-right. But the Portable doesn't have a keypad. Therefore, this layout instead places the "keypad" behaviour under the top row numbers when pressing Option. It is otherwise identical, and you don't really need it if you don't have a Portable, but it does no harm either.


    Why is the Arabic icon in menu bar grey when I have installed Arabic?

    Many people believe they haven't done it right, because they install the resources, but then find that the Arabic icon in the keyboard menu is grey. However, this is as it should be: Because only one script can be dominant (see above), the Finder will only allow you to write file names in the dominant script, which is normally Roman/English for Western users. And when you turn on the machine, you start up in Finder... Open any application, and you will see the Arabic icon turning black (or green), and Arabic fonts are accessible.

    If you must have Arabic names on your files, you can choose an Arabic font for lists and icons in the Finder. Open the Views (OS 7) or Appearance Manage (OS 8-9) and choose an Arabic font for lists and/or icons. Notice that you cannot, apparently not even under OS 9 themes, select an Arabic font for menus or window title bars. (If you have OS 7, you may have to install Apple's Language Kit Extension (part of the Arabic Language Kit package), in order to see Arabic fonts in the Views control panel.)

    Another common problem which isn't one, is that (under English dominance), Arabic names appear as gibberish in the menu of many programs, including the Font menu of Microsoft Word. This is not a problem; it is simply that, as described above, these programs (and the System) will only use the Chicago font [or its Roman alternatives in OS 9] in menus as well as dialog boxes, and as Chicago does not, of course, contain any Arabic characters, so anything written in Arabic is illegible. But it still works when you choose one of these fonts. In order to read such Arabic text, you must register the program as Arabic in the Language Registry [may not work with all programs].

    What known bugs and problems are there for the Arabic Mac?

    See just above for bugs that aren't bugs. However, here are some real observations:

  • In OS 9 and sometimes OS 8.1 and higher, some fonts have been reported as faulty, in that some character shapes do not appear (one thing to look for is the medial ya, type 'sys' in Arabic. If the "y" here appears as a square box, you have come across this bug). I have not discovered why the bug appears, and apparently it shows itself only in some fonts (I found it myself only in the Bayan font, others have seen it more generally). It may be the font itself is faulty, or that there is an installation conflict. The solution I have found, is to discard the new font that came on the Install CD, and use an older version of the font, if you have an earlier set of Arabic fonts. The earlier versions of the same fonts appear to work correctly under OS 9. If you do not have access to older fonts, it may or may not also work to remove the bitmap fonts (Open "AB al-Bayan" in the Fonts folder, and remove the item(s) that have numbers, leave those that do not: "Al-Bayan 24", or 28, etc. out, "Al-Bayan" and "Al-Bayan (Bold)" stay. Or possibly certain font sizes only). I have not yet tested it fully, but it may be a suggestion to try. I also do not have precise information about when this bug appeared, but I notice that the note on the Language Kit Updater OS 8 says that it replaces a number of the Arabic font, for OS 8.5 it says "to version 3.0", the new ones come with the preface "AB" before the font name. I suspect that these are the faulty fonts; at least for al-Bayan, and that it probably occured already with OS 8.0 or 8.1 (see Apple tech notes for LK Updater 8.0 and 8.5)

    Notice that Apple warns of an incompatibility between WorldScript I (that is, including Arabic) and the ATM Deluxe 4.5 font management utility. I am now running OS 9 with various Adobe products (Acrobat etc.) that previously required ATM, but seemingly no longer do so, so it may be that ATM is no longer as important as it was. In any case, notice this possible cause for problems, and avoid version 4.5 of ATM.

  • If you have a Macintosh LC475 or Quadra 605 (those two models only) and install System 7.0 / 7.1 with Arabic or Hebrew, the machine will crash. There is a bug in those models' ROM chip that breaks with right-left text direction. Solution: Get a specific extension that cures the bug (click here to download it), or upgrade to System 7.5, where this bug has been corrected, or at least to Arabic Language Kit 1.0.1 (or WorldScript 1.1) which includes the bug-fix.

  • If you use fax software from Global Village older than version 2.5, it will crash if WorldScript is installed on the machine (whether you use it or not). This concern the faxing software only. Solution: Upgrade to GlobalFax 2.5, which fixes this bug.

  • However, if you use GlobalFax 2.5 and have the Language Kit Extension installed under Arabic / ALK (not OS 9), the address book slows to a crawl, and basically is unuseable. Solution: Remove the Language Kit Extension.

  • Well, it isn't so much a bug as a warning. Elsewhere, I have mentioned TexEdit Plus as one of the finest freeware text editors that handles Arabic. However, the most recent versions of this program are not Arabic-compatible. This isn't actually the programmer's fault, but he has based his program on a "text engine" called "WASTE" and this doesn't work with Arabic, ufortunately, at least not presently. The latest version of TexEdit+ that can do Arabic is 1.6.4b, a special version made for us Middle Easterners, which you can find at our software archive here and, I'm pretty sure, nowhere else in the world. (Not to be confused - TexEdit without the Plus have version numbers up to about 2.7, and they are all Arabic capable. But unlike the Plus - but like many other text editors - the pre-Plus TexEdit cannot handle files larger than 32K). [1996]

  • If you have bought or upgraded to System 7.5.1, and find (like mentioned above) that the older 7.0.1 or 7.1 Arabic resources no longer work, you must install the proper 7.5 Arabic resources. If you got your Arabic from the Nisus Language Key disks, you already have these available. Their Installer contains both 7.1 and 7.5 Arabic resources, and it picks automatically which version to install. Thus, if you installed Arabic from the Nisus disks originally on a 7.1 machine, what you have got is the 7.1 Arabic resources.You should thus reinstall onto the 7.5 machine from the Nisus disks.

    However - and this is the bug - the Nisus installer does not work properly under 7.5.1. So, what you must do, is:
    - Remove the file "System 7.5 Update" from the System folder and restart.
    - Reinstall the Arabic resources from the Nisus Language Key disks.
    - Put back the System 7.5 Update file. (It is only the Installer program itself that doesn't like it).

    This may or not apply also to Systems 7.5.2 and higher. If you have problems with such a System, try this method also on it.

  • Again not a bug, but a remark relating to mid-1990s Macs: A few of the earliest models of desktop PowerMacs with a PCI expansion bus require an updated version of the WorldScript extension, which is or was at the time available from Apple's Web server.
  • In NisusWriter 4: When you import files from other word processors containing non-Roman script, the Arabic character "t" is deleted. Reason (A bit more technical this): This character has the character code value 202 decimal (CA in hex). In the Roman script, 202 is used for "Option-space". For reasons of its own, the import procedure does not seem to consider Option-space a useful character, so all instances of char. 202 are replaced with 32 (normal space). This means that in any Arabic text imported from another word processor format, the 't's are deleted and replaced with spaces. As far as I can see, this is not NisusWriter's own fault. It uses a standardized procedure called xtnd for import from and export to other word processors (the xtnd system was created by Claris, Apple's software company); and the same fault occurs in other programs that use xtnd. However Nisus is the only of these which can handle Arabic, so the others (and Claris) evidently don't bother about correcting it. It is, however, a serious problem for people who rely e.g. on importing MacWrite files. (In my case, I receive many files written in WinText, which is still more widely used by Arabists here than Nisus. Since there is no direct WinText to Nisus filter, I have to save these files as MacWrite files in WinText, and open them as MacWrite in Nisus. Thus, boom.) I have reported it to Nisus, so we will see.

    Solution: For the moment, there isn't really any proper way around the bug, except perhaps to replace all "t"s with something strange, such as "$$$" in the original file, if you still have it, and then change all "$$$"s back into "t"s when you have got it into Nisus, escaping the bug. Apart from this, if the file originally came from Microsoft Word or MacWrite, and if you have or can get hold of an older version of Nisus, such as 3.4, open the document in this version and save it again. This will import OK, because in version 3.4, Nisus didn't use xtnd for Word or MacWrite, and it will be saved as a proper Nisus file, which can then be read with NisusWriter 4. Notice that this problem only refers to formatted texts, if you import from an unformatted text-only file, the t's are all in place.

  • Nisus writer behaviour: Like all other applications, Nisus may have its quirks. One, which isn't really a bug, but can be annoying refers to footnotes. Assume the following situation, rare to some, common to others:
    You have a text in English, discussing some Arabic matters.
    You have a sentence in Arabic within one of the English paragraphs.
    You put a footnote to one of the Arabic words in the sentence.
    Whoosh: Your Arabic gets suddenly mixed up. You change the footnote marker to an Arabic font, does not help. What has happened?
    Remember what we said above about script direction dominance? What you have here is an English text, so the paragraph should be oriented left to right, and the Arabic should be subservient: Whatever English is before the quote should appear to the left of it.
    However, Nisus considers the footnote mark to be an English character; as if you had written the word "and" in the middle of the Arabic. So, it organized the Arabic as two separate blocks, divided by the footnote mark, and since the paragraph is left-right dominated, the Arabic bit before the footnote is placed to the left of the footnote marker, while you want it to start from the right (but within the Arabic bits, the text of course still is written right to left).
    If the whole paragraph is in Arabic, then the script direction is (or should be: set it thus!) right to left, so the issue does not arise, an "English" footnote follows the main writing order. But you will have a problem if the paragraph itself is mostly English text.
    It seems to be a fixed rule in Nisus that automatic numbers are considered to be "English", irrespective of what font they are displayed in, so there is no proper solution to this conundrum. You can of course reverse the blocks by hand, putting the "last" Arabic part before the note and so on, but that can get tricky.
    It is normally better to fake it in another way: Place your footnote outside the Arabic sentence, before or after, safely inside the English text. Then choose the style "Invisible" for the footnote marker in the text, so it disappears from view. Finally, create a fake footnote mark in an Arabic font and place inside the Arabic sentence (you may also use x-referencing to make it follow the changing number value of the real, invisible, footnote mark).
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    Last updated 21.1.2006