Arabic Class

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Arabic on Ubuntu Linux

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I’ve just set up my (Ubuntu Linux) working environment for some serious blogging in Arabic, and figured it could be worthwhile for you too… if you’re not yet a Linux user, it’s never too late to consider Ubuntu. I’m running Ubuntu 7.04 (Feisty Fawn) and had most of Arabic running pretty much out of the box. All you need to do is set the keyboard layout, and find out where to type.

Keyboard Layout

On GNOME (Ubuntu’s standard windowmanager) Arabic can be enabled by going to System > Preferences > Keyboard, clicking the Layout tab and then Add. The one you’re looking for is “Arabic qwerty”.

To actually change keyboard layout, press Alt+Alt (this key is configurable in the System > Preferences > Keyboard under another tab). To know in which language you’re typing, you’ll need a keyboard layout indicator. If you’re already using GNOME, you can just right-click on any panel, select “add to panel” and select “Keyboard Indicator”. This will give you an indicator with a three letter abbreviation of your current keyboard.

I’m more of a visual person, however, prefer some nice flags, which have been removed from all Linux distributions I know for (understandable) political reasons. This is how it’s done:

  • Start a terminal and type in “sudo aptitude install kkbswitch” (or install kkbswitch with your favourite package program).
  • Add kkbswitch to your automatically started programs by going to System > Preferences > Sessions, clicking “new” and putting “kkbswitch” under both name and command.
  • Once you’ve restarted (or started kkbswitch manually for your current session) you can right-click on the boring “1”, click “configure keyboard switch” and then “change icon”. You may have to google a bit to find yourself a nice flag or picture.

Where to type?

To actually know where to type, go to a local or internet store and buy yourself some stickers for your keyboard. Google should be helpful here…

Typing vowel marks / diacritical marks seems to be somewhat more of a hidden feature. These are the shortcuts:

SHIFT+Q = fatHa
SHIFT+W = tanwiin belfatHa

SHIFT+E = damma
SHIFT+R = tanwiin beldam

SHIFT+C = kasra
SHIFT+V = tanwiin belkasr

Open Office

For OpenOffice Writer, go to Tools > Options > Language Settings > Languages , and check “enabled for complex text layout”. I’m not sure exactly what this does but it seems to magically solve a lot of those annoying problems with left to right vs. right to left texts. There is also an option that allows you to select Arabic as your default language for CTL documents. CTRL+SHIFT+D (after selecting) sets text to right-to-left, CTRL+SHIFT+A to left-to-right. There’s also two buttons for this.


Written by klaasvanschelven

January 6, 2008 at 1:14 am

Posted in Uncategorized

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