Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Office For Mac Now Officially Supports Arabic/Hebrew

MS has announced that as of its March update (15.20 for Word), RTL support is included in Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Outlook, and OneNote.

For best results, use one of the Apple Hebrew/Arabic keyboards.  Some users report that 3rd party keyboards do not work right.

Welcome news after 15 years of requests.  Note the new paragraph direction buttons:

Reports from readers about how well it works in Word or other apps are welcome.


Oliver Dyma said...

Unfortunately, entering Hebrew text doesn't work any better for me as in the previous versions. I use the German version but when I enter Hebrew text with a Hebrew keyboard layout the order of letters gets messed up. A space always switches the direction from RTL to LTR so that within a word the letters are basically from right to left but the words are from left to right.
Copying and pasting works better. Word for Mac also recognizes RTL paragraphs I saved with the Windows version. Word and letter order is fine. There is a rendering issue, though, with my preferred font (SBL Hebrew). But I couldn't find a setting to make a paragraph RTL.
In the Windows version, you can set two different fonts for a selection, one for roman text and one for extended scripts. This formatting seems to be preserved in files saved under Windows. But there is no way to see or alter these formats. Sometimes the buttons to increase or decrease the font size do not work for the extended scripts font but only for the set roman font whereas the selection of the font size from the drop down menu works.

Tom Gewecke said...

Are you Sure you are using 15.20? I can't see such problems with the order of letters or words when using a keyboard.

Tom Gewecke said...

PS Are you using one of Apple's Hebrew keyboards? I have seen a comment that the paragraph direction controls may not appear with a 3rd party keyboard.

Smokey Ardisson said...

The problem Oliver describes almost sounds like there's a document or paragraph style that's "stuck" in LTR "mode" and is somehow overriding the word order even though the characters are coming out RTL. (This is all wild speculation, of course, because I don't have/use Word, but I vaguely remember running across a similar-sounding bug in something else a long time ago.)

It's nice to see Microsoft has finally caught up with the rest of the world, though.

Oliver Dyma said...

Oh, I see, Tom.
I do use 15.20 (160305) and a third party keyboard (Biblical Hebrew – SIL). I tried the Apple keyboard and it indeed works way better as it recognizes the RTL direction of a whole paragraph and keeps the Hebrew word order within latin text. But only as long as I stay in the base layer of Hebrew letters.
For Biblical Hebrew I have to use vocalization and accents. When I enter e.g. the frequently used letter „Hebrew letter shin with shin dot“ (U+FB2A) it isn't recognized as a Hebrew letter but instead handled as a LTR letter which messes up letter/word order in LTR paragraphs. In RTL paragraphs, you can tell the handling of this letter by the inverted cursor movement.

BTW thanks for the work you put in the blog! I greatly appreciate it!

Oliver Dyma said...

P.S. 2:

After playing with the input for a while, I can say that it is inconsistent:

When I start typing Hebrew text with the Apple keyboard and switch to the third party keyboard afterwards, I can enter Biblical Hebrew with punctuation just fine. Also the letter "Hebrew letter shin with shin dot" (U+FB2A) is recognized as RTL. I cannot paste it into the text, though, using the symbol browser while regular copying and pasting seems to work.

Once, after switching back to English input, the word and letter order in the English text got messed up. This was resolved by restarting Word.

Two screenshots:

I hope this gets worked out. I really would like to use on my Mac for these texts. I still run Word for Windows in a virtual machine on the Mac because Word for Windows has still a pretty good handling of these LTR/RTL issues in my experience.

Tom Gewecke said...

Normally it is best to avoid stuff like fb2a from the Presentation forms. These are for compatibility with old pre unicode stuff. Shin dot should be made by typing shin plus one of the two dots 05c1/05c2.

Oliver Dyma said...

Thanks for your input, Tom. The composition and decomposition is handled automatically in Windows but I don't remember on which level. (I think the keyboard driver was more sophisticated but I'm not sure.)

I was able to tweak the keyboard layout with Ukelele so that it gets recognized properly as Hebrew. Now, the typing of Biblical Hebrew works flawlessly. I also changed the shin/sin letters to the decomposed forms which really is better. (Unfortunately, several databases use the composed letter forms.)

Anyone who needs the modified keyboard layout may contact me.

(Curiously enough, my Word shows me now the formatting options for complex scripts which it didn't show before.)

Anonymous said...

Oliver, I just happened to Google an issue in MS Word 2016 with the letter "shin" and this blog came up. So here's my issue: I type a Hebrew word, e.g., "ashrey" (Ps 1:1), and I use the SBL Biblical Hebrew - SIL keyboard; the order of letters comes out fine whenever I exclude the "shin"; as soon as I type "shin", the entire order of the letters gets messed up. Why is this happening? Is there a fix for this? I'd appreciate any help!

Lenny said...

Hi Oliver,

I Googled the problem with Shin in MS Word and came across this blog post. Everytime I type a shin, the order of the Hebrew letters gets messed up. How can I fix this??? Thanks!