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Entries in Unicode (1)

Tuesday
Aug032010

Official Word (pun intended): STILL No RTL Text Support in Office:Mac (2011)

Over at the MacMojo blog, the Microsoft Office for Mac team has officially announced that Office 2011—and most significantly, Word 2011—for the Mac will not handle right-to-left text. This means no Unicode language support for anyone writing in languages such as Hebrew and Arabic. So, not only does Word remain fairly useless for native speakers of these languages, but it also has significant impact on any Mac users who are engaged in biblical, Middle Eastern, and Ancient Near East studies.

The announcement itself was sandwiched between two other announcements about language support in the post, "Добро пожаловать ! Zapraszamy ! (And I know I've spelled this right!)." The post itself is written to be a bit lighthearted, but clearly the big news is that yet again, Mac users still do not have RTL support, meaning the Mac version of Word plays second fiddle to the Windows version. Yes, Windows users, feel free to gloat. This is one instance where Windows users have an advantage.

There are other alternatives on the Mac, including Mellel, but Word is such a universal format, used both in the academic and non-academic world that this exclusion continues to put Mac users at a disadvantage, especially those engaged in biblical studies. While a Mac user can request a PDF file from a Windows user who includes Unicode Hebrew in a document, obviously, such a request precludes direct collaboration on a file between users of the two platforms.

What I found most interesting is that  Microsoft's Mac Business Unit managed to blame Apple for the lack of RTL support in their announcement:

Office 2011 relies on the Apple Type Services for Unicode Imaging (ATSUI) as the set of services for rendering Unicode. Due to technology restraints on the text input tools, Office for Mac’s Unicode support doesn’t include languages such as Hebrew and Arabic.

Okay, I'll be honest. I really don't understand half of that. But here's what I do understand: RTL language support is fully supported in specialty word processors on the Mac such as Mellel as well as a host of other programs. Heck, it's even supported here in Safari, where I'm composing this post in WordPress.

Hey, Microsoft MacBU: ‏אָבִיךְ הָאֱמֹרִי וְאִמֵּךְ חִתִּית

Look, I'm not anti-Microsoft like some Mac users. In fact, I use Word just about every day. But if this affects you, I encourage you to give the Microsoft MacBU grief over this. RTL support needs to be added as soon as possible. If it doesn't make the October release of Office 2011, it needs to closely follow it with a point update.

It's not as if this is a new issue. In fact, it feels a whole lot like 2005 all over again.