All About Arabic for Programmers


The Arabic script is the most difficult to deal with in software.

This workshop teaches the key aspects of Arabization i.e. the process of adding Arabic support to software systems. It starts with a brief overview of the Arabic culture and follows with the Arabic writing system and its contextual rules, complex ligatures, harakat (vowels), numbers and bi-directional display, etc.

The workshop then covers Arabic data representation in depth: characters sets, encodings, contextual forms, Unicode Arabic blocks and the specific encoding issues for all character classes: letters, digits, neutrals, mirrors, lam-alef, harakat, etc.

With this foundation in place, it moves on to the Unicode Bidirectional Algorithm (UBA) describing basic concepts, rules, character classes, testing tools, development issues, etc. A chapter of common UBA problems and fixes is also presented.

Two more chapters focus on Input and Output. Input concerns the complexities of Arabic data entry and editing, including strange UBA side-effects and how to mitigate them. Output is about modern UI design issues including common controls, font selection, justification, etc.

The remaining chapters review Arabic/bidi support on major platforms: one chapter each for the Web, Android and IOS.

Target Audience

This course is intended for software/app developers, web developers, testers and team leaders, or anyone involved in Arabic support that has some technical background.


After taking this workshop you will be ready to start arabizing your product. You will know the main issues and common pitfalls and you will know the solutions. You will know what requirements to consider, what changes your software or Web site or app requires, and how to implement those changes.


The agenda described below is for a 1 ½-day session (with exercises, 2 days are required).


This workshop presumes that attendees have already taken the "All About Internationalization" workshop, either onsite or in the self-paced eLearning format.


  1. Arabic Culture
    • History of the Arabic script, calligraphy, religion
    • Arabic in today's world
  2. Arabic Writing System
    • Basic Arabic alphabet (abjad), Persian vs. Arabic, Romanization
    • Contextual shapes, kashida (tatweel), harakat, lam-alef and other ligatures
    • Numeric display, digit shapes, decimal and thousands separators, mathematics
  3. Arabic Data Representation
    • Logical vs. visual order, contextual forms vs. characters
    • Legacy encodings (ASMO, ISO, Windows) & the Unicode Arabic blocks
    • Representation and transcoding for: letters, harakat, numbers, neutrals, mirrors…
  4. The Unicode Bidirectional Algorithm (UBA)
    • Basic concepts: Base direction, language insertions, directional runs
    • Neutral character rules and mirror characters
    • Numeric classes, rules, examples
    • Bidi controls: RLM, LRM, RLE, LRE, RLO, LRO, PDF.
    • New Unicode 6.3 directional isolates: LRI, RLI, FSI, PDI.
  5. Arabic Data Entry & Editing
    • Arabic keyboard layouts and usage: selecting language and direction
    • Entering text: sliding ("push-mode"), "jumping neutrals", mirrors, etc.
    • The bidi cursor: selection operations with keyboard and mouse
    • Quirks of bidi editing
  6. Selected UBA Problems & Fixes
    • Hanging neutrals & parentheses
    • Adjacent insertion reversal, mirrors or numbers on the wrong side
    • Phone numbers, MAC adresses
    • Embedded UBA problems: inside Word, PowerPoint, browsers, etc.
    • A bug in Arabic Google Maps!
  7. Arabic Data Display
    • Fonts: harakat support, ligatures, font pairing, font attributes
    • Line wrapping and justification
    • Layout: directional images, graphs, bidi forms, bidi digits, 2-column bidi form…
    • Common controls: navigation, undo/redo, progress bars, buttons, ratings, sliders…
  8. Arabic on the Web
    • Text metadata: encoding, language, direction
    • Arabic HTML
    • Arabic CSS
    • Arabic Email


Each attendee will receive a 400+ page booklet, with ample room for notes, complete with table of contents and glossary. The booklet is designed to serve as a practical easy-to-use reference “book” for regular use during an internationalization project.

Pierre Cadieux

About our Instructor – Pierre Cadieux

Pierre Cadieux is a veteran with over 35 years' experience in internationalization of software, Web sites and mobile devices. He has taught internationalization at the Université de Montréal. Pierre has been technology editor for the LISA newsletter, VP Technology at ALIS and director of technology at Bowne Global Solutions.

At ALIS, Pierre pioneered the transparent handling of Arabic and Hebrew languages and created the core bi-directional technology licensed by Microsoft.

As Director of Localization Technology at Bowne Global Solutions, he carried out research and analysis on multilingual Web sites and published the first generic model of Globalization Management Systems.

Additionally, Pierre holds a B. Sc. and M. Sc. in Computer Science.