Mac & Arabic

I love Mac but one issue that keeps me from making the full switch to Apple Macs for our home computers is the poor support for Arabic fonts. One recurring issue revolves around Arabic letters appearing disjointed which makes it hard to read when one is used seeing the letters in the words connected together in their various forms.

The reason for the appearance of disjointed letters varies but is common after installing Microsoft Office for Mac. A complete install of Office includes about 70 fonts. Disabling the Microsoft Office Arial and Times New Roman fonts in the Font Book should clear up the disjointed letters issue in most applications although sometimes the issue is more complex.

After reviewing just how many fonts I use on a regular basis which total about 5, I decided to delete all of the fonts installed in my local user directory by Microsoft Office and reverted to the default Mac fonts that are located in my system folder and this also cleared up the disjointed letter issue.

Occasionally though in PowerPoint presentations, Arabic sentences become jumbled such that the words at the end of a sentence come before the words at the beginning. The PowerPoint presentation displays correctly on my PC so I have yet to locate the exact issue with the Mac.

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Author: Ify Okoye

Muslim woman, RN, & rebel with a cause.

22 thoughts on “Mac & Arabic”

  1. Hmmm, sounds like a strange problem.

    Personally, I’ve never run into this type of situation, but then again, I only run OpenOffice in Ubuntu since my needs for Microsoft Word is few. However, I do use the Microsoft fonts, (Times New Roman and Arial), because the default font installation in Ubuntu just looks weird.

    But just on a side note, wouldn’t Mac Word or iWork do everything that Word does, too? Or do they give problems converting to .doc?

  2. You know I didn’t buy iWork although I’m sure it’s compatible with Windows and Office Word. I suppose the ubiquitousness and dominance of Word is very powerful and Microsoft’s Word for Mac is amazing, much better and with more features than the one for Windows.

    I’m kinda hoping that Mac’s next operating system Leopard will take care of the problem.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment and for letting me know about Ubuntu.

  3. Dear all,
    i found this entry from last year and i wonder whether you already found a solution for the problem. i am considering buying a macbook pro but it the problem with writing arabic , or specially bilingual in one formated docuement (not taxtpad) scars me off. i am rather convinced that apple notebooks are really good, but i urgently need to type arabic in all kinds of documents…. just remembering the problems i used to have with windows 6 years ago give me the creeps…. so did you find a solution? or do you have to run windows on mac to create bi-lingual documents??
    best wishes
    xenia

  4. Asalamu alaykum,

    It seems the problem with displaying Arabic characters on Mac stems from having some MS Office 2004 fonts installed on Tiger but disabling the Times and Arial families is a work-around.

    I now have a Macbook with Leopard installed and MS Office 2004 and have not had any problems. I really should upgrade to the 2008 version of MS Office but so far so good.

  5. Unless you do a lot of typing in Arabic, I would still make the switch because macs have a lot of amazing features that you cannot find on Windows and the display issues seem to be largely confined to MS Office but there are a number of workarounds.

  6. ya i think i will still switch my pc is not dead yet so if I have to type in arabic, like a paper or something (yes I have to write papers ugh) i can still use my old computer
    and ur right the problem is only in ms office

  7. I have the same problem, and I have Word for Mac ’08 with Leopard. Not only does it not join the letters, but it reverses the order of the letters (so they read from left to right instead of right to left). Has anyone found any solutions for Leopard yet??? And how do I disable my times new roman and arial to get to the letters to join properly?

  8. Eric: I also have MS Office for Mac ’08 and Leopard and it is very inconvenient and disappointing that Microsoft’s Mac division has such poor Arabic language support.

    You can disable the fonts in Font Book, which should be in your Applications folder. I did this for Office 2004 but have left it intact for Office 2008. Arabic displays correctly in TextEdit and various other programs. I

  9. Salaam Alykom,

    am new Mac user, n face the same problem with Arabic letter disjoint n the order of the sentences. Fro your talk above:

    “I decided to delete all of the fonts installed in my local user directory by Microsoft Office and reverted to the default Mac fonts that are located in my system folder and this also cleared up the disjointed letter issue.”

    hmmm, am sorry to ask this, but can u clerify hw to this exactly, am scare to delete something then stick with nothing

    i already check the FontBook, but dont knw if i have to delete all the fonts there!

    i will be glad if u can help me on this

    Best Regards,

  10. I have visited many arabic speaking countries and regret to find out that they practically do not use Mac based computers because of the arabic language problem. It is very strange that Apple omits the huge middle east market because of this reason, let alone the number of computer users in the world including companies that need arabic language for business and other use.
    For myself I am seriously thinking to sell my MacBook Pro and get a pc instead. Sad decision but Apple seems to appreciate it since I see no positive reply from them people, unless they are not able to follow Pc technology in this process.
    Alsharif

  11. I work as a Product Specialist at Apple now and I’ve never had a single ticket about this, we receive escalations from customers and what not that I submit to engineering. If there is no work around you should call it in so they can fix it in their next software update.

    Or you could email me your serial number and I could submit it 🙂

  12. well has any one found a solution to this problem then? Have the mac gurus come up with some revolutionary patch that will solve this disjointed letters issue….mmmm

    1. I heard that you can purcahse a font called “albayan” from micosoft and will works on MS Office 2008 but I cannot find how to buy it. Anyone advice.

  13. It seems I have found the solution to the problem that troubled me as much as most of you, here is what I have done:
    1.) Install iWorks
    2.)Install Arabic language (System Preferences, Language & Text, input sources tab)
    3.) Use Al Bayan fonts in typing Arabic or change the already typed character into that fonts
    The arabic fonts display clearly and without any disjointing.
    Jazaka Llahu Khayr

  14. Hi there,

    Excellent article about getting Arabic to work on mac. I’d like to add that the version of the fonts submitted with MS Office 08 are 2-3 versions older than the ones that come with OSX (Snow Leopard) and as you and the rest have discovered that MS Fonts do not include arabic support.

    For example:
    Arial Font:
    From Snow Leopard:
    Language Afrikaans, Albanian, Arabic, Azerbaijani, Basque, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Catalan, Cornish, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Esperanto, Estonian, Faroese, Finnish, French, Galician, German, Greek, Hawaiian, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Kalaallisut, Kazakh, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Malay, Maltese, Manx, Norwegian Bokmål, Norwegian Nynorsk, Oromo, Pashto, Persian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Turkish, Ukrainian, Urdu, Uzbek, Vietnamese, Welsh
    Version Version 5.01.2x
    Location /Library/Fonts/Arial.ttf
    Unique name Monotype:Arial Regular:Version 5.01 (Microsoft)
    —–
    Microsoft version of the font:

    Language Albanian, Arabic, Basque, Belarusian, Bulgarian, Catalan, Cornish, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, English, Esperanto, Estonian, Faroese, Finnish, French, Galician, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Indonesian, Irish, Italian, Kalaallisut, Kazakh, Latvian, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Malay, Maltese, Manx, Norwegian Bokmål, Norwegian Nynorsk, Oromo, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian, Slovak, Slovenian, Somali, Spanish, Swahili, Swedish, Uzbek, Vietnamese, Welsh
    Version Version 3.05
    Unique name Monotype:Arial Regular:Version 3.05 (Microsoft)
    —-

    I also found this website useful :
    http://www.smi.uib.no/ksv/ArabicMac.html#cimm

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