While it might seem like a bit of a hassle, adding support for the Arabic language on your Mac is a simple, straight-forward process. This is a quick guide to adding the Arabic keyboard to Mac OS X, as well as the softwre to use in order to open and edit office documents in Arabic.
Add the Arabic Language and Keyboard
The first step is to add a foreign keyboard, and that can be easily achieved via the System Preferences:
- Click on the Apple logo on the top-right corner, and open System Preferences
- Under the Personal group, select International
- Go to Input Menu, check Keyboard viewer, scroll through the languages, and select Arabic
- Check Show input menu in menu bar for quick and easy access
You will notice that your Mac OS X’s native language flag has appeared on the bar across the top (for example, USA flag for US English). In order to start typing in Arabic, simply click on that flag, and select Arabic from the menu that appears. If your keyboard does not have the Arabic alphabet printed on, you can select “Show keyboard” from the flag menu for access to a visual keyboard then you can use your mouse clicks to type. Of course, it is an inconvenience, and you are much better off either getting the letters printed on, attach transparent stickers with the Arabic letters on the keyboard buttons, or purchasing and attaching an external USB keyboard.
Opening and Editing Arabic Office Documents
Many Mac users choose to install Microsoft Office for Mac (the latest of which is the 2008 edition) to use programs such as Word, Excel, or Powerpoint. Aside from the fact that it is yet another Microsoft product with stability issues and unexpected flaws, the software bundle has an attractive and intuitive interface, and helps make you productive and efficient. The only major disadvantage, however, is the lack of support for Arabic. This means that you cannot even open a .doc file, for example, that is written in Arabic.
There are two main office bundles that can tackle this problem: Apple iWork (with Arabic support), and OpenOffice.org. The former could be quite pricey and does not necessarily offer the smoothest transition from its Microsoft counterpart. The latter, on the other hand, is free and open source. Even if OpenOffice.org cannot be considered a direct replacement, it remains a convenient solution as it sits comfortably side-by-side with Microsoft Office without consuming much space or resources in general.
Thus, this is how you can install and configure OpenOffice.org to work as a supplement:
- Go to http://www.openoffice.org/ and download the installation file
- Install OOo on your local machines and move it to your Applications folder
- Open OOo and go to the Preferences menu
- Under Language Settings, select Languages, check Enabled for complex text layout (CTL)
- Select Arabic (Egypt) from the CTL drop-down list
This will result in the ability to type, create/edit office documents, and open files, all in Arabic. The same could be applied to any language, but Arabic in particular tends to scare people off with its apparent complexity, but as you’ve seen, it’s as easy as basic configuration, and a beautiful product from the open source community.