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Old 03-14-2007, 12:38 PM   #1
glyphjockey
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Originally Posted by bmann View Post
I do all of my Arabic in Word, which does support right-to-left, then print to PDF. Place the PDF in the InDesign.
I know I'm responding to an older message, but I really want to post about the unsuitability of using Word to typeset Arabic. Paradoxically, Farsi script, and other languages written in derivations of Arabic script, actually work better than Arabic does in Word. In Arabic, the position of marks like fathatan and shadda is often entirely incorrect. If there's a way to use kashidas, I haven't found it yet.

Honestly, for short translations, I'd rather choose my medial glyphs by hand from the Glyphs menu in English InDesign than try to fix the unacceptable PDF output of Arabic from Word.
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Old 03-14-2007, 01:18 PM   #2
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Paradoxically, Farsi script, and other languages written in derivations of Arabic script, actually work better than Arabic does in Word.
I don't know whether it's really a paradox: Word or any other WP program is all right for putting one character next to the other, but I've know from reading Unicode that only an application that can understand Unicode's advanced features can be correctly used to honour Arabic's changes in characters to suit the context. I'm almost sure that even Word 12 under Visa does not understand the advanced features yet.

   
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Old 03-15-2007, 01:15 AM   #3
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Well, in many people's opinion, Word is unsuitable for typesetting, period.

Like many appliances designed to do lots of things, it doesn't do them all well, as Michael said. It is excellent for writing shorter documents, mail merge and so on, but not for complex page layouts, excellent typography, or long technical document management, for instance. Just like a hammer is better at knocking a nail in than driving a screw!

If you want proper typographic control, you really need to use a high-end DTP program, not a word processor.
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Old 03-15-2007, 07:41 AM   #4
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Word is unsuitable for typesetting
You've rather missed the particular point that WP programs (of which Word is the one most commonly met) are not suited to highly context-sensitive scripts, such as Arabic, but most DTP programs were equally unsuited until recently. Even InDesign in its usual version cannot, as far as I know (which isn't far), can't recognize what form of Arabic character is most suitable in a particular context, but it can recognize the various glyphs available, thus allowing the typesetter to choose which to use in a particular context. It may be like knowing when to set a long s instead of the usual short terminal s, which is something we may have failed to learn in more recent times.

   
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Old 03-15-2007, 09:50 AM   #5
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often entirely incorrect.
Is it always incorrect? I noticed in InDesign with Lao that if you change the tracking then some of the accents drift to different letters. I wonder if that's the same thing with Arabic in Word.
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Old 03-15-2007, 10:34 AM   #6
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Is it always incorrect? I noticed in InDesign with Lao that if you change the tracking then some of the accents drift to different letters. I wonder if that's the same thing with Arabic in Word.
Wow, another ID Lao user; I thought I was the only one! No, the two cases are probably totally separate. In Lao in ID, those tone marks are separate characters, and the reason they sit above the preceeding character is because the tone marks are kerned into place. So, if you wanted to select just the tone mark and change its relation to the baseline, kerning values, etc., you could, because to ID, it's just another character.

The way that the fathatan, shadda, etc. are rendered in Word is totally different. I can select and delete just the fathatan, but when I select it and try to manipulate its appearance in Word (e.g., Format -> Font -> Character Spacing -> Position), nothing happens. This is a problem because every time you have a fathatan riding over an aleph, Word should be able to use contextual information in the OT font to position the fathatan correctly, and it never does. The only way I've been able to do this is to produce a PDF, and then edit the PDF, changing the position of the fathatan manually. So, the difference between your Lao in ID and my Arabic in Word is that the position of Lao tone marks can be altered just like other ordinary characters in InDesign, but the position of Arabic diacritics is a consequence of information built into the font. If Word could interpret the font information correctly (like IDME does) then the position of the characters would be much improved. In short, it wouldn't look horribly ugly.
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Old 03-15-2007, 11:21 AM   #7
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...WP programs (of which Word is the one most commonly met) are not suited to highly context-sensitive scripts, such as Arabic, but most DTP programs were equally unsuited until recently. Even InDesign in its usual version cannot, as far as I know (which isn't far), can't recognize what form of Arabic character is most suitable in a particular context, but it can recognize the various glyphs available, thus allowing the typesetter to choose which to use in a particular context.
Oddly enough, when I started this thread, I was actually trying (and failing, sadly) to reply to the "arabic fonts in INDD" thread. I'm not trying to disagree with you, but I see no reason why word processing app shouldn't be able to handle complex, context-sensitive scripts. The whole point of building this kind of contextual information into OT fonts is to make it easy for applications like web browsers and word processors to allow correct display and text input of complex scripts. (Well, maybe it's not the whole point, but it's a significant one.)

I can set Arabic type manually in InDesign, if I have to. I can manually nudge the fathatan into place. However, it's a huge hassle, and just as time-consuming (if not more so) than poking little bits of lead into place. Obviously, IDME is the solution if you want to set Arabic type. In its place, it's basically always preferable to use InPage, or ParsNegar, or anything but Word.
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Old 03-15-2007, 12:10 PM   #8
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I see no reason why word processing app shouldn't be able to handle complex, context-sensitive scripts
Well, there's an obvious reason: cost and popularity. If as many people wanted to typeset Arabic script as want to simply type other scripts, every WP program would offer the facility to do so. And all the information that can be in an OT font isn't necessarily, or even usually there.

   
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Old 03-15-2007, 12:20 PM   #9
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Well, there's an obvious reason: cost and popularity. If as many people wanted to typeset Arabic script as want to simply type other scripts, every WP program would offer the facility to do so. And all the information that can be in an OT font isn't necessarily, or even usually there.
Oh yes, that would be the obvious reason. It just irks me that they left Arabic support halfway-done in Word. So, there's enough of a market to hack something together, but not enough of a market to actually spend the time and money in order to do a good job. I do understand the fiscal line-of-reasoning. It doesn't help me when a refugee asks me to help her with some Arabic word processing, and my response winds up being "Sorry, but MS doesn't think that your market segment is worth the work."
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Old 03-15-2007, 01:25 PM   #10
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Having just finished reading an English translation of the Koran which at one point translates the holy text as "the illiterate (the Arabs)"...I can only suggest that perhaps Word was created by someone to keep the illiterate in their darkness.

Surely there is software written by believers, for believers, that works in Arabic. Unless that's heresy, as this translation seems to indicate.
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