Microsoft's Hebrew, Arabic snub: your pain

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Letters Your letters continue to flood in about the lack of support for Hebrew, Arabic and right-to-left languages on the Macintosh.

Several bring home what a nuisance it is.

What the current situation requires is that after I write an article in my English-Hebrew word-processor for Mac (Nisus), I have to use another special program (Kesharim) to transform it to word Hebrew-English (for pc) - for that is the prevalent format used here in Israel.

This solution works for word processing (charts, however, don't transfer well). However, for Excel (in Hebrew) there is no solution to transfer from
one platform to another, from Mac to PC or vice versa.

Naturally, the situation should be different. One should be able to use Microsoft Office in Hebrew in both platforms. The current situation of refusing to localize Microsoft Office for Mac users (even though the expense would not fall on Microsoft !) is an improper use by Microsoft of its monopoly.


(Dr.) Jordan Penkower
[Dept.of Bible; Bar-Ilan University]

… was one of many from Universities.

Absence of Hebrew support in Microsoft products is also what has almost killed Macintosh in Israeli consumers homes. Only enthusiasts (like myself) who are consciously willing to deal with all the Hebrew related problems to buy Macs. Yeda simply cannot come to Israeli consumer and offer its products. No sane father will buy Macintosh for his kids while they cannot do their school homework in Hebrew on it (again, I'm talking about .doc and .xls formats).

Michael Green
Jersualem Bay

I share the frustration felt by those around the world who speak Arabic and Hebrew. I am an Iranian-American that has used a Mac for many years. My father has used Nisus Writer and the Mac (from System 7 to Mac OS 9) to publish several books in farsi. This summer, he will become a "switcher" and purchase a Windows system for the first time in ten years.

When it comes to Mac OS X, it seems that Apple seems to be the party at fault. They have wholly embraced many languages (most prominently Japanese) but have decided against support for many other languages. I have written to Apple via various channels and have not received any answers from them regarding this matter. It seems that Apple is no longer interested in marketing it's products to those outside of the United States.

I suggest you knock on Apple's door. Perhaps you might be able to get a better answer from Mr. Jobs and company.

Neema Aghamohammadi

Scholars everywhere are affected by the lack of support.

Dear Microsoft and Apple! I am a non-Jewish student of the Old Testament. If it is true that Microsoft is not supporting Hebrew in Office then I am one user who will suffer greatly. The absence of Hebrew support has hugely impacted the ability to work on Hebrew class-projects with friends and has vastly limited my browsing the internet for Hebrew fonted material which is essential for my program.

Would you please work together to make Hebrew and Arabic work as effortlessly in Microsoft applications for Mac users as it does on PCs? I will buy Office X at the drop of a hat if it supports Hebrew documents and fonts--even if I must pay $10 more. Presently Office for OSX is a great product, but right now me not having it is for this reason mainly. Thank you for considering my input . Looking forward to buying your product.

Richard Kearns

And Hebrew support would find a new market for Microsoft:

I represent my 500 Mac clients in Israel that wish to be able to use their Macs for more then
Video editing, By having a Hebrew Office for Mac.

We all fill very bad about not being able to communicate in Hebrew E mails, And that we are forced to buy Virtual Pc and other strange solutions in order to write a simple letter in Hebrew.

We would be more then happy to offer our clients an original Microsoft Hebrew Solution.

Danny Natovich

I find it laughable that Microsoft repeatedly voices its dedication to the Mac, and yet here is a clear example of Microsoft holding the platform back.

Thanks for keeping us informed.

Aryeh Selekman

And as we pointed out, it doesn't just affect Hebrew scholars.

My daughter is an Islamic Art History scholar who is currently writing her PhD dissertation. She has used Macs since high school and has always relied on the language capabilities, i.e., Arabic and Persian, of her system over PCs. She cannot migrate to OS X until Apple figures out how to support all the semitic languages in X.

Her essential tools are the Apple Arabic and Persian language kits (increasingly more difficult to install even in Mac OS 9.2), MS Office 2001, and Linguist's Software's Semitic Transliterator for Macintosh.

What used to be a given--a piece of cake--now appears to be a very low priority in Cupertino.

Mary [full name supplied]

We received many, many emails advocating OpenOffice X as an alternative, and this one giving a plug for KDE:-

Hebrew support in KDE3 flows like milk and honey.

The Sabras (particularly ex kibbutzniks) should ditch the Redmond Goliath and join us in the Promised Land.

Next Year in GNU/Linux!


Nick Mailer

All and well and good, but as Dov Cohen, who has fought for the issue and who complained to the Israeli Antitrust department points out:

They don't do the job. OpenOffice and all the rest of the Microsoft Office alternatives are simply not as good, nor will ever be good as MSOffice which was adopted as the standard here by all governmental agencies and policy makers (sad, but true). Asides that, the critical issue is that there *is* a Macintosh version of MS Office, but they simply don't want to deliver it to the local language. Asking them to develop a Mac version is one thing, that isn't reasonable, but asking them to develop a certain level of localization considering the fact that their refusal is somewhat - wierd, is reasonable.

Anyway, OpenOffice is too far away from being MacOS X native, you need all kinds of patches and stuff to make it work, and even then...it still lacks Hebrew support (but it *does* support Arabic). How can you "tame" an old fashion user to start installing all kinds of Unix helpers and patches and only then download, compile, and install such a package such as open office? it's impossible.

They want it "out of the box".

Thanks Dov.

We certainly erred in overstating Mac OS X R-L language support.

I would just like to point out that, unlike OS9, there is not yet any Hebrew (or right to left) language support in OSX. Rumors have it that Jaguar will include it, but... Until Apple puts it into the OS MS can’t do much (and neither can Nisus who makes the multilingual NisusWriter, still works great in Classic, BTW).

Christian M. M. Brady

We also had several letters pointing out that Yeda hasn't exactly done a great job of supporting Apple in Israel, with low-visibility promotion a consistent theme.

So, any news of an official response from Apple or Microsoft?

Well not really.

Apple France got back to tell us to go and ask Microsoft.

But a member of Microsoft's Macintosh team - speaking in a personal capacity - pointed out that Microsoft would still be left with the burden of QA issues, such as testing.

Since our appointed Waggoner Edstrom flak wouldn't even leave us her direct line (unprecedented, in our experience) we guess this still ranks as the lowest of priorities for both Microsoft and Apple.

Two suggestions from readers.

You can voice your requests for improvements to Microsoft products at this page.

And why not mail switchers@apple.com - as a couple of you already appear to have done - and remind Apple why you don't want to switch back? ®

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