About the Arabic Script

The Arabic script has two features which make it unique in terms of encoding. One is that it is written from right to left (or RTL). The other feature is that the shapes of individual letters change forms depending on whether the letter is alone, at the beginning of a word, the middle of a word or at the end.

In order to process Arabic correctly, a software must be able to display text from right to left and make sure the letter forms are displayed correctly depending on their positions within a word. Unfortunately, there is incomplete implementation of creating correct letter forms in many software packages.

Other Languages in Arabic Script

The Arabic script is used for other languages besides Arabic, but their local alphabets may include special characters for sounds not found in Arabic. Supporting these languages may require special fonts for extra keyboards and special keyboards.

Fonts for Arabic

Fonts by Platform

  • Windows – Arabic Transparent, Andalus, Arabic True Type, others
  • Mac OS X – Geeza Pro, Baghdad, Al Bayan, DecoTypeNashkh, KufiStandard GK, Nadeem, others

Additional Fonts

Before downloading any fonts, you may want to read Arabic Fonts on the Mac (and Windows). The site gives an overview of issues to look for when reviewing font options.

Note: Open Type fonts are the best option if available. Although earlier versions of OS X had incomplete Open Type support in comparison to Windows, the options have improved in recent OS X versions.

Test Sites

If you have your browser configured correctly, the Web sites above should display
the correct characters. If you have difficulties, see list below for font
and browser configuration instructions.

Typing in Arabic


Windows only has access to the native layout, but phonetic layout may be available for download.


A native Hebrew and QWERTY Arabic and two native Arabic keyboards are available on the Macintosh.

See the Macintosh Keyboard instructions and Arabic Keyboard Layouts (Muhlenberg) for more information.

See also


  • iPhone/iPad: Recent versions of iOS include an Arabic keyboard. You can see updated iOS instructions on the Mobile page.
  • Droid: Multiple utilities are available from the Google Play store. This blog entry on Arabic on Droid explains some options.

RTL Typing Tips

For a person new to an RTL script, typing can be a little disorienting and different from LTR scripts. The RTL page presents some helpful information including how to right align a document and work with punctuation.

Web Development

This section presents information specific to Arabic. For general information about developing non-English Web sites, see the Encoding Tutorial or the Web Layout sections.


Unicode (utf-8) is the preferred encoding for Arabic, especially if more unusual Arabic characters are used or multilingual support is needed. However some other encodings may be encountered.

Historical Enclodings

Some sites may use Windows Arabic (win-1256).

Selected Language Tags

See Using Encoding and Language Codes for more information on the meaning and implementation of these codes.

Specifying Text Direction

Some HTML editors set the direction automatically, but it can also be set manually using the new <dir> and <bdo> attributes. See the Right-to-Left Alignment tips page for more details.


Colloquial Arabic Forms

About Colloquial Arabic

Although most educated speakers learn to read, write and speak in the same Modern Standard Arabic or fusha (a form similar to the Classical Arabic used in the Koran), the spoken or colloquial varieties from each region vary widely. The variation is enough that linguists classify the totality of these forms as a series of closely related languages.

Colloquial Forms include

  • Gulf Arabic (much of Arabian peninsula)
  • Levantine Arabic (Syria/Lebanon/Palestine/Jordan) – comes in various national forms
  • Egyptian Arabic
  • Mesopotamian Arabic – some parts of Iraq (Baghdad) and elsewhere
  • Maghrebi Arabic (North Africa) – comes in various national forms
  • African Arabic forms (includes Sudanese Arabic, Chadic Arabic and Hassaniyya (Mauritania))
  • Maltese Arabic or Maltese
  • Judeo Arabic (written in the Hebrew alphabet)


One local form which is written is Maltese Arabic from the island of Malta. Malta is formally a part of the European Union and uniquely uses the Western Roman alphabet. It’s grammar has diverged further than some of the other forms of Arabic, but shares similarities with North African Arabic forms.

See the Maltese page for additional information writing the accents.

Language Codes

The use of Colloquial Arabic in formal writing is used for most formal publications, but can be found in some television dramas, local poems and local plays. If you are transcribing one of these forms, then it is recommended that one of the following language tags be used.

By Country Code

The following codes, as implemented by Microsoft, assume there is one variety of Arabic per country. The advantage of these codes is that there are utilities such as spell checkers which may be available, however there are colloquial forms which do not conform to national boundaries.

Middle East & North Africa
  • ar-DZ – Algeria
  • ar-BH – Bahrain
  • ar-EG – Egypt
  • ar-IQ – Iraq
  • ar-JO – Jordan
  • ar-KW – Kuwait
  • ar-LY – Libya
  • ar-MA – Morocco
  • ar-OM – Oman
  • ar-SA – Saudi Arabia
  • ar-SY – Syria
  • ar-TN – Tunisia
  • ar-AE – United Arab Emirates
  • ar-YE – Yemen
Africa (Subsaharan)
  • ar-TD – Chad
  • ar-CO – Comoros
  • ar-DJ – Djibouti
  • ar-ER – Eritrea (rare)
  • ar-MR – Mauritania
  • ar-SD – Sudan

Note: The Subsaharan African codes have not been implemented by Microsoft.

ISO-639-3 "Dialect" Language Codes

These ISO-639-3 codes from SIL codes are meant to match linguistic classification of the Colloquial Arabic forms and do not always match national boundaries.

Colloquial Arabic “Dialect” Codes”
Name Code Location
Algerian arq Algeria
Algerian Saharan aao Algeria (minority language)
Babalia Creole Arabic bbz Chad (minority language)
Baharna Arabic abv Bahrain
Chadian Arabic shu Chad
Cypriot Arabic acy Cyprus (minority language)
Dhofari Arabic adf Oman (Salala)
Egyptian arz Egypt
Egyptian (Eastern) Bedawi avl Sinai (Bedouin), Gaza, Red Sea coast
Gulf Arabic afb Persian Gulf (Bahrain, Iran, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen. Zubair & Fau Peninsula
Hadrami ayh Yemen, minority language
Hijazi Arabic acw Saudi Arabia, Red Sea coast
Levantine (South) ajp Jordan, Palestine, Israel, Kuwait
Levantine (North) apc Syria, Lebanon
Mesopotamian acm Iraq, eastern Jordan/Syria, western Iran, Turkey
Mesopotamian (North) ayp Tigris & Euphrates north of Baghdad
Moroccan ary Morocco
Nadji ars Saudi Arabia
Omani Arabic acx Oman, Hajar Mountains
Saidi Arabic aec Southern Egypt
Sanaani ayn Northern Yemen
Standard arb Formal written standard
Sudanese apd Sudan
Sudanese Creole Arabic pga Southern Sudan (minority language)
Tai’izzi-Adeni acq Yemen, except east
Tajiki Arabic abh Afghanistan (minority language)
Tunisian Arabic aeb Tunisia
Uzbeki Arabic auz Uzbekistan (Central Asia), minority language


Arabic Script

Script Basics

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Arabic Computing




Unix and Linux

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