Egyptian blogger from Cairo.
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Arabic Support in Mac OS X

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:

  1. Click on the Apple logo on the top-right corner, and open System Preferences
  2. Under the Personal group, select International
  3. Go to Input Menu, check Keyboard viewer, scroll through the languages, and select Arabic
    The international input menu

    The international input menu

  4. Check Show input menu in menu bar for quick and easy access
Languages' menu

Languages' menu

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.

download OpenOffice.org

download OpenOffice.org

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:

  1. Go to http://www.openoffice.org/ and download the installation file
  2. Install OOo on your local machines and move it to your Applications folder
  3. Open OOo and go to the Preferences menu
  4. Under Language Settings, select Languages, check Enabled for complex text layout (CTL)
  5. Select Arabic (Egypt) from the CTL drop-down list
    OpenOffice.org Language Settings

    OpenOffice.org Language Settings

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.

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73 comments

Abdurrahman Gemei

September 6, 2009

Great article! I am having a problem with Arabic support in iWork ’09. In Pages, it is impossible to select text and even when using right alignment, typing feels awkward.

I might give OpenOffice a try but I got comfortable to iWork and I’m not willing to give it up. :)

Any insight would be greatly appreciated!

Tarek Shalaby

September 6, 2009

I personally haven’t tried to write up Arabic documents in Pages, so I wouldn’t be able to tell you. My guess is that you need to change the “text direction”, not only the alignment. Just like in Word, there’s a button that indicates in which direction the text is written.

I know for a fact that there are people that use Pages for writing in Arabic regularly, so if that doesn’t work, then it’s something else, equally as straight-forward.

Either way, I stand by my recommendation of OpenOffice.org. What’s great is that you lose nothing by giving it a try: you won’t feel its presence, and you can always easily remove it.

Baher Esmat

September 6, 2009

With Open Office i still have the problem of MS Office that Arabic letters are never linked, they always appear separated! any idea why is that happening and how to solve it?

-Baher

Tarek Shalaby

September 6, 2009

@Baher Esmat: if you follow the OpenOffice.org configuration steps above, you shouldn’t face any problems. Try them out and let us know.

Nadya

September 6, 2009

So happy to have found your site. I have the same problem Baher has. Have followed the config steps to the letter, but my Arabic letters still refuse to “link”. The only option that has worked so far is NeoOffice. Would very much prefer OOo or Word. Any suggestions?

Baher Esmat

September 6, 2009

i did enable CTL and selected Arabic from the list!

Baher Esmat

September 8, 2009

IT WORKED!!!! The problem was with the font – any of these fonts should work fine: Al-Bayan, Baghdad, DecoType Naskh, Kufi Standard and Nadeem

Tarek Shalaby

September 9, 2009

@Baher Esmat: Thanks for sharing! On my mac, it worked from the beginning, and with a standard font. I guess it is automatically replaced with a font that supports Arabic, while it wasn’t doing the same with you. So thank you.

@Nadya: Try out any of the fonts Baher has mentioned and let us know.

taha

September 15, 2009

shalaby,

can we also assume that we can type/edit arabic text in GIMP as well?

Tarek Shalaby

September 15, 2009

@taha Of course! As a general rule, any open-source application comes in a ton of languages. Especially with software that boasts such an immense community behind it, language will never be a problem.

Not only can you install the Arabic version of GIMP, but you can also install the standard English version, and then type in Arabic inside.

There’s just one little step you have to take to make that possible. When you open GIMP, it automatically open X11, which is the platform on which GIMP is allowed to run on a MAC. Go to X11 > Preferences and check “Follow system keyboard layout”.

Using Arabic in GIMP on Mac OS X

Therefore, when you change the flag in the bar across the type to the Arabic language flag (thus changing the input to the Arabic keyboard), X11 recognizes that and lets you write in Arabic in any of the applications that are running on it (in this case, GIMP).

taha

September 16, 2009

thanks! i’m assuming it is the same way running GIMP from ubuntu

Andrew Heiss

October 30, 2009

Bean (http://www.bean-osx.com/Bean.html) is another super lightweight option for Arabic word processing. It’s basically a fancy wrapper for the Cocoa text fields built-in to OS X and works fantastically well. It can open Word files fairly well, but mostly works with rtf.

Tarek Shalaby

November 2, 2009

@Andrew I took a quick look at Bean and it seems REALLY cool! It might even be a better option than OpenOffice.org because it’s very light weight, simple and easy to use.

Thanks for sharing, I’ll probably blog about it in the near future and review it in detail.

Anthony

February 8, 2010

Thanks for putting this information together. I was able to get an Arabic doc to display correctly using it!

Mona

March 14, 2010

Tarek! You are a genuis!! Thank you for showing me how to set up the Arabic document on my new Macbook. I just spent 40 min. with the Apple technician who told me that this Arabic cannot be done! wallahi batal ya Tarek! Thank you for your generosity! best, Mona

Tarek Shalaby

March 14, 2010

@Mona: Thanks for your kind words! Glad I could be of help. I’m assuming you were talking to an Apple technician in the US?

I say that because the huge majority of representatives working for the Apple resellers in Egypt are well aware of the Arabization process. In fact, when they sell you a MacBook, they offer bootleg copies of all the software you can think of, and help set them up and get your new laptop to work in Arabic! Gotta love how we Egyptians ‘collaborate’ on so many levels.

Thanks and good luck.

طارق

June 16, 2010

مشكور يا طارق على الطرح المميز

استمر…

mostafa

June 23, 2010

i am able to write arabic in pages , but the problem is with selecting test , its ruined up , if i messed up any word , i have to write the sentence from the beginning , i tried the fonts mentioned above but it didn’t work correctly :S, please tell me what did u do to be able to select text correctly

Mowfak

August 24, 2010

Dear Tarek,

I have MacBook Pro, OS “snow leopard”, have problem to support Arabic characters in Flash CS5!!

Regards
Mowfak Hussin Galy

Tarek Shalaby

August 24, 2010

@Mostafa: Are you sure you’ve selected the right-left align? Because if you’re writing in the English left-right but in Arabic, that can cause some problems. So try to click on the the RTL button so that the cursor starts on the right, and let us know if you’re still having problems.

@Mowfak: The problem isn’t in your Mac, it’s in Adobe Flash CS5, because the application itself does not support Arabic. In fact, Any CS5 will not support Arabic on Windows. The thing is, after the normal release, Adobe releases the ME (Middle Eastern) edition, which adds support for Arabic. I think that’s available now, so you can download the trial and give it a shot. My guess is that, if Arabic is set up properly on your Mac, and you find Flash CS5 ME, you won’t have any problems.

Ramadan karim everyone!

nehal

August 30, 2010

hello tareq,
i knew how to add arabic to my language list and i can write arabic at any page but at Microsoft word, the letters appear but separated. I use mac os x 10.5.4

Thanks in advance

Tarek Shalaby

August 30, 2010

Hi Nehal,

The problem is probably due to the fact that Microsoft Word on Mac doesn’t support Arabic. There are other programs available that you can use. I recommend OpenOffice.org, but there are also other recommendations is you read the comments above.

Good luck!

ِEmna

October 24, 2010

Hello Tarek,

I am using NeoOffice 3.1.2 on a OS 10.6.14. I am writing a text in Arabic with Arabic numbers (123), but I all I get is Hindi numbers ١٢٣. On my NeoOffice settings I have my “Complex Text Layout” set on Arabic numerals, yet they come out as Hindi. By some miracle it worked for a bit with Arabic numbers then back again to Hindi. Any systematic way it could work?

Many thanks in advance,

E

Tarek Shalaby

October 24, 2010

Hi Emna,

It’s funny because even though 123 are called Arabic numerals (for historical reasons), in modern day Arabic, the number are ١٢٣ ! So in fact, the correct and standard way of writing Arabic would include Hindi numbers.

My guess would be to NOT have ‘Complex Text Layout’ set on Arabic, maybe that will work. Let us know how it goes.

sarah

November 29, 2010

thanks,this helped ALOT! however i downloaded open office and my documents now come up in arabic, but the arabic words, the letters within are not joined, it just presents each arabic letter on its own so not making a a whole word as they dont connect?

Tarek Shalaby

November 29, 2010

Hi Sarah,

It might be a font issue. As Baher mentioned above, try any of the following fonts:

“Al-Bayan, Baghdad, DecoType Naskh, Kufi Standard and Nadeem”

Because if you’re using a font that doesn’t support Arabic, then the letters won’t be connected. Let us know how it goes.

sarah

November 29, 2010

ohhhh so it all linked up when i decided to read the comments,hehe i changed the font!begad your a genius! ana aslan sa2lthom today fel apple store and the guy was so clueless he decided to search arabic in office and the first search that came up on google is that ‘itdoesnt work’ so he was like sorry it doesnt work! haha

sarah

November 29, 2010

that was a very quick reply! merci awi again :)

Wissam Sabra

December 14, 2010

hi Tarek… I’ve created a logo for a company on my mac, all that is left is a fancy calligraphy style translation of the sentence… im trying to:

-find a software that types arabic in any font i install (mac)
-convert it into vector to use in illustrator, or pdf would be fine.. does OOo serve those purposes?

Thank you, I stumbled onto these comments after days of research :s… salvation?

Abdelaziz

January 24, 2011

Salams all,

I’d add that though TextEdit supports most of the Arabic fonts available everywhere on the web for download, OOo Writer doesn’t.

In addition to Al Bayan, Baghdad, Kufi Standard and Nadeem, (I have uninstalled DecoType Naskh so I haven’t tried), there’s Geeza Pro in standard in Mac OS X.

Besides, I’ve downloaded the XWZar fonts (http://www.connectnw.com/redlers/fonts/XWZar.zip) and they are gorgeous. Some of them are rather for Farsi, but they work great for Arabic scripting, and they all have italics, bold, and bold italics.

Regards,

Abdelaziz
OOo 3.2.1 / Mac OS X 10.6.6

Mika

February 1, 2011

Hi Tarek,

Guess you won’t get this till the internet’s up again. I’m trying to use my Mac OSX 10 to write in Arabic, which is fine, but I’ve always had a problem getting the numbers, if I’m making a list, right aligned. Even if I have left aligned and the writing is right-to-left Arabic script, the Arabic numbers come up to the left, which makes everything less professional. Any help you can offer would be much appreciated.

Mika

Gillian

February 18, 2011

Hi Tarek,

What a wonderful resource this is!

I have the English/US version of Illustrator CS5 installed on my Mac but I now need to create some vector files featuring Arabic text for use on large roll-up banners. Can I install the trial ME version of Illustrator in addition to the version I already have installed or will that cause problems do you think?

Also I heard (from a not very reliable source) that CS5 now supports Arabic. Presumably that is not true?

I appreciate any advice you can give, thanks.

Gillian

Abdelaziz

February 18, 2011

To Mika

I tried after reading your post. I used both TextEdit and OpenOffice.org Writer and it works just fine, with the following settings:

1. I chose the right-to-left writing style
2. I aligned the text to the right

You seem to use the same settings. Maybe you should tell us the text processor you use?

Regards,

Abdelaziz

OOo 3.2.1 / Mac OS X 10.6.6

Mika

February 19, 2011

Hi Abdelaziz,

I’m using Pages 08

Mika

Abdelaziz

February 19, 2011

Hello Mika

I’m using the Pages 09 demo and unfortunately I cannot get the bullets or number lists correct in Arabic.

It’s worth to note I haven’t found the option to write right-to-left, like in any decent word processor. So I just aligned my Arabic text to the right.

I also note that I have to select text “blindly” with the mouse or the keyboard. In fact, the selected text is never highlighted in my case, but it does work indeed: I was able to “blindly” select text, edit it, copy-paste etc. The only hint that I was in selection mode was the cursor disappearing from the screen when using the mouse. On the other hand, when using the keyboard to move into the text or to select text, it looks like nothing happens, but it does. Move with the arrow keys and type, you’ll notice that :-)

I was personally considering buying a license for iWorks 09, but I won’t until RTL is fully supported.

Hope that helps– well it doesn’t in fact :-(

Abdelaziz

Mika

February 19, 2011

Thanks Abdelaziz,

Yes, that sounds exactly like my case.

I’ve managed to work out where the ‘cursor’ is when selecting blindly, in terms of what to delete, copy and pasting etc, though it is rather annoying, its better than nothing!

Well if you find something that helps with numbering and bullet points etc, pls do post something.

Best

Mika

Hala

May 26, 2011

thanks Tarek, this post walked me through writing in Arabic on my mac.

lems

September 14, 2011

Thank you so much …

Brittany

September 17, 2011

MANY, many thanks! I am an Arabic student at the University and I could not have used my computer for study without this aid. You’re wonderful.

Tawfik Abdel-Moneim

January 6, 2012

I would like to add the following fonts that also work nicely and join the arabic letters; damascus and Abadi MT condensed light and Abadi MT condensed Extra Bold. Only problem I see with spread sheet is how to get column A to appear on the right of the screen? please let me know if you know how for OOo. Thanks you all have been a big help.

Mikhail

January 31, 2012

Thank you very much for this amazing work! I just have one question:

How may I type tenwin of either fathatin or kasratin?

Also, I would like to suggest using a program called xPad, which comes free on Mac OS X Lion (the most recent Mac operating system). You manually choose to type right-to-left and is very fluent.

Thank you, again!

Abdelaziz

January 31, 2012

@Tawfik,

>> how to get column A to appear on the right of the screen? please let me know if you know how for OOo

You select the Format menu, then Sheet and then check “Right to Left” (on my OOo 3.2.1)

@Mikhail

>> How may I type tenwin of either fathatin or kasratin?

I have a keyboard with only a latin layout (meaning no Arabic letters drawn on the keys). So for shakl in general, you have to type the letter first, then the shakl.

Tanwin: Shift+y
Kasratin: Shift+r
Fathatin: Shift+z

Hope that helps

Khalid

April 17, 2012

I want to copy and paste arabic texts to create flashcards to learn arabic using Lion OS ( Mac OS X 10.7.3). Could you please suggest a method. Thank you. Khalid.

nsma samee

June 1, 2012

Intellark is a novel and smart way to typing in Arabic and Urdu. It is designed for multilingual keyboard typists to exploit and transfer their typing knowledge and speed from left-to-right languages to Arabic and vice versa. Learn it now and use it for your next write up.
http://www.intellaren.com/intellark

rabz

June 19, 2012

hi tarek , i did install openoffice but still some files in word in open office or ms mac still jowing some funny arabic characters , any suggestions

Samy

August 16, 2012

Does it works with Excel ?

imogen

October 24, 2012

thank you so much! great advice, especially the idea of changing font!

nejla lyons

January 27, 2013

Hi Tarek, am trying yo open a pdf in Arabic from a website, but macbook pro will not do it – garbled. Greatly appreciate any suggestions. Thanks much

Zineb

February 14, 2013

Thanx a lot Tarek! You simply saved my life! I spent a lot of time dealing with the arabic language issue on my mac until I found your blog.

Thank you again!

Thomas

April 8, 2013

Thank you abdurrahman gemei!!! You mentioned Pages, an Apple software…that was the solution!!! Microsoft Office can not connect my arabic script….so for my M.A. thesis I am typing i j t a h i d in arabic letters that will not connect..looks terrible…I read your post, saw you mention Pages…and the second I started typing EVERYTHING automatically connected letters….right to left..perfect! thanks for reminding me Mac is always the solution! : )

Zain Elrijal

April 8, 2013

Hi

I face the same problem with Arabic font on word. I did installed the open office and moved to application. But had a problem with the third step. A message appears saying the open office.org can’t be opened because it is unidentified developer. So, I can’t go to the next step.

Thanks

Gina

September 2, 2013

Hi Tarek,

Please, where could I find the RTL button you mentioned on the message below, I’m having trouble with arabic text on Pages, if I align the text to the right it looks fine but that doesn’t seem to work with bullet points (I don’t need to type it, just acommodate it on the page).

Please let me know!
Thank you.

@Mostafa: Are you sure you’ve selected the right-left align? Because if you’re writing in the English left-right but in Arabic, that can cause some problems. So try to click on the the RTL button so that the cursor starts on the right, and let us know if you’re still having problems.

karen

September 12, 2013

hi Tarek how can I expand an Arabic letter when I type it on a mac ?
many thanks

nawras

September 16, 2013

hi tarek i wanted to ask about gimp i cant write arabic numbers in it (hindi numbers) what can i do??

Eric

September 28, 2013

I’m able to get the Arabic feature to function, however I am unable to get it to the point where the letters connect (first, middle, last). Anyone else have this problem? Right now it’s just entering individual letters next to one another without adjusting for their position within a given word. Thanks!

Dalal

October 27, 2013

Hi Tarek .. can you please help me out with the arabic letters they never connect. I tried changing the font but that didnt work. when i first downloaded word it was fine then i tried to find a way to change the alignment from left to right to right to left and i messed up the settings!! can you please help me out i have no idea what i did

Javier

November 22, 2013

Hi Tarek, thanks for all the information you posted and the program you suggested. I have tried and followed all the steps you have here and when I try to copy a text in Arabic to this new program, the letters are still separated…… I have also tried to change the source language but still not working. Could you help me out please?? Thanks

Sherif Omran

November 30, 2013

It is possible to write with iworks arabic and it will get connected, but you need a font file that holds data for connecting letters .. I have one called albayan

Hajr

December 15, 2013

Assalamualaikum..
hi!!…thanx 4 suggesting about the open office…
i juz want to share this video…
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vlLk-TyYDDM
this vid.teach how to write arabic text in word (mac microsoft office) via google doc.
kinda easy to learn…hii… :)

Dr. Alkuwairan

January 5, 2014

Thank you so much. It worked.

hosam

March 5, 2014

hello tarek

i recently got mac air with maverick 10.9 installed and have the arabic letter problem with excel it never connect the letters Can you help with that !
all my work is on excel and i can’t view it right

ِEhab

March 30, 2014

hello tarek,

I have tried several programs on my mac and found out, that the best MS office alternative is neooffice, it is on mac appstore, it works perfectly, and allows you to save in doc, rtf, and many other formats that you prefer. pages also write arabic, but the problem with all programs, that they all do the automatic numbering in english.

Peter G

July 22, 2014

I do not write or speak arabic but deliver training which has been translated into arabic for me, both word docs and powerpoints. But all my material was prepared on a wp and, after transfer to my Mac air, the arabic is garbled. Does Open Office allow my Mac to unscamble the garble or just allow someone to type arabic (which I do no wish to do). Any advcie and help gratefully received.

ewa

September 22, 2014

Dear Tarek, Dear everyone,
has anyone made any experiences with Arabic and Scrivener? I am thinking to switch because after switching from PC to Mac I must say OpenOffice just doesn’t really do it for me anymore. or any better Ideas? I am on Mavericks and will wait a bit with upgrading to Yosemite. Also do you possibly have any advice on OCR for Arabic that actually works? Is this maybe an option? http://www.sakhr.com/index.php/en/solutions/ocr
Does anyone know more? Thanks a million for your time!!

Houssam

November 27, 2014

Dear Friends, can any one help me in this. My Microsoft Office 2011 doesn’t read the Arabic. The letters are separate between each other. What can I do. Any help please.

Very Best for all of you

Hala

January 8, 2015

Hi Tarek,

I am using MacBook Pro, people can’t read my Arabic word docs, they receive it empty, but not everyone actually.

I have changed the font but didn’t work.

Any tips?

Thanks!
Hala

Mohamad Shabarek

January 23, 2015

Hi Tarek, wondering if you can help me.

I have the iMac version 10.9.5, i recently transferred important word files from a windows pc to my mac. They are in arabic and they have a logo on top as well as reference numbers in the margin of each page. However the files are not 100% correct. Some words are shown with the letters separated from each other, or sometimes overlapping! I downloaded OpenOffice and went through the instructions as you asked, but how can i use this program in my situation? i don’t need to type any new documents, i just need to be able to use the ones i already have properly!
ps ( i tried opening the word documents i have using OpenOffice, it opens as a blank document )
Many Thanks for any help!

suhail

May 14, 2015

Dear Tarek,

All the above did not work for me .
I have MS office 365 and I am getting the Arabic letters, yet not connected in words.
Is it true Microsoft don’t support Arabic for Office 365 with Mac. Any other way to solve my problem
Thanks in advance

Fidelio

January 24, 2016

Hi ,

i tried to install open offfice , but there is an error as soon as i start install the .dmg file.The error is the following disk image could not be opened.
Please support or help me with this issue.

Many thanks in advance , i look forward to hearing from you .

Hikmat Bushnaq-Josting

March 28, 2016

Dear All, interesting page indeed.
I work on a PC and most people I work with too. I have discoverd that the MAC has a problem if you use an arabic font that it does not have on the MAC (traditional arabic for example is a standard windows arabic font). what happens is, that the MAC shows the arabic letters nowadays due to UTF 8, but the glyph, i.e . the connection is wrong.
If you change the font of the text you can read it. The challenge is however, how to create a docuemtn that automatically shows correctly on Mac and PC without using PDF? Any recommendation is highly apprectiated. BTW, LibreOffice has done nice strides so worth trying.

ali

April 1, 2016

Hi how you doing tarek i need help if you can i need to copy my text indesign file to mac microsoft word

Mo

July 16, 2017

Hello, Thanks tarek for this helpful article.
Im trying to use Arabic in FINAL DRAFT 10. and it seems like there is no way around. so will try to export the PDF and then edit it on another software, but all the softwares ive found seem to also not connect the letters.

Im using MACBOOK PRO , El Capitan.

Pls let me know if you know anyway else,
thanks.

Shokry Gohar

August 17, 2017

Can please tell me how can I insert Arabic symbols using Mac? I want to insert the ت but without the two dots above the letter shape and I was told that this charter can be found in the symbols.

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