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Some Tips for a RTL Language on a Mac

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Because typing a right-to-left (RTL) language like Arabic or Hebrew requires changes in cursor behavior, punctuation can be misplaced in some cases. Below are some suggestions for optimizing the Macintosh application TextEdit (free from Apple) to handle RTL languages.

Note: Portions of this page is based on information provided by Dilworth Parkinson, moderator of the Arabic-L listserv.

Page Content

  1. Selecting a Word Processor
  2. Optimize Text Edit
  3. Neo Office
  4. Apple Mail
  5. Other Applications

Selecting a Word Processor

As of Office 2008, integration with the native Apple RTL behaviors had not been implemented. Therefore many experts recommend combining Office 2008 with another word processor (even if not all RTL options are yet available). Some options include

Optimizing RTL Behavior in Text Edit

Although Text Edit has minimal formatting tools, it is possible to copy and paste text into other applications such as Microsoft Word where the block can be fully formatted.

  1. Open Text Edit on your Macintosh OS X system (it's in the Applications folder).
  2. Activate and select appropriate Keyboard - Apple provides a number of Hebrew and Arabic keyboards. Keyboards for other RTL languages are often available for free - see pages for individual languages for details. These enable basic RTL typing.
  3. Under the Format menu, choose Text » Writing Direction » Right to Left. This moves the text to the right side of the page.
  4. Under the Format menu, choose Wrap to Page. This will ensure that content wraps at the width of a page.
    Note: This provides a padded margin on the right side of the document.

Note that Text Edit documents can be saved in RTF format.

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Neo Office

Set up Neo Office

These steps can help tyou take advantage of all the foreign language tools of Neo Office.

  1. Open NeoOffice, then click Preferences in the NeoOffice menu.
  2. In the Preferences panel, click the arrow to the left of Language Settings to view additional options. Click the Languages link.


    Screen capture of NeoOffice Language Preferences

  3. Check the option for Enabled for complex text layout. A new link on the left called Complex Text Layout will appear.
  4. Select the appropriate language under the CTL menu.
  5. If you want to display Hindi/Middle Eastern numbers (e.g. १,२,३) new Complex Text Layout link in the left. Under Numerals select Hindi.
    Note: "Arabic" numbers refer to Western style "1,2,3" numbers.
  6. The Complex Text Layout pane also lets you toggle between Logical and Visual cursor behavior.

Using Neo Office

  1. Open Neo Office on your Macintosh OS X system.
  2. Under File » New, you can select a new Text Document (word processor), Spreadsheet, Presentation (like those made in Power Point) or other document type.
  3. Activate and select appropriate Keyboard for the RTL language.
  4. Select the RTL Paragraph option in the top formatting toolbar. This will enable true RTL formatting (e.g. bullet points to the left).

    RTL Paragraph (paragraph with right facing green arrow)
  5. Create the document.
  6. You can toggle between keyboards and paragraph alignments as needed.

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Apple Mail

The Apple Mail application (for e-mail) is pre-installed on most Macintoshes and includes Unicode support.

  1. Open Mail on your Macintosh OS X system (it's in the Applications folder).
  2. Activate and select appropriate Keyboard
  3. Under the Format menu, select Alignment » Writing Direction » Right to Left.
  4. Compose and send the message - it will be encoded as Unicode.

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Other Applications

A review of Mac applications for Arabic is available at the Arabic Macintosh. Some applications which have been identified as supporting basic RTL entry include

But you can feel free to experiment as needed.

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Last Modified: Tuesday, 28-Mar-2017 15:25:37 EDT