Microsoft boosts languages, proofing tools in Office 2011 for Mac, Unicode right-to-left support missing

Summary:The forthcoming Mac version of Microsoft's Office suite will be localized for several more languages as well as pick up improved proofing tools. However, Mac language blogers complain that there's still no right-to-left (RTL) Unicode support.

The forthcoming Mac version of Microsoft's Office suite will be localized for several more languages as well as pick up improved proofing tools. However, Mac language blogers complain that there's still no right-to-left (RTL) Unicode support.

On Mac Mojo, the Office for Mac team's blog, International Project Manager Eric Paquin detailed some of the language and tools news:

I can reveal that we are adding 2 new languages to the Office family – Russian and Polish! We have come a long way since Office 2001 where we only offered 6 languages (English, Japanese, French, German, Spanish, Swedish). By 2008 we added Italian, Dutch, Finnish, Danish and Norwegian. The two new additions bring our offering to 13 languages!

He said that proofing tools will get a "makeover," since the Mac version will use the same APIs as Office 2010 (our Windows cousins!). He said that developers that make third-party Windows proofing tools will be able to more-easily offer Mac versions, and Microsoft can spread its tools to other languages, starting with Catalan, Czech and Turkish.

One application diverges from the others - Outlook. Since Outlook is using Webkit at its core, it benefited from Apple integrated proofing tools. Although more limited and with less languages available (“only” 12), it opened up new possibilities such as language detection which means, if you frequently send mails in different languages, you don’t have to go to your Tools menu to change the language option every time you write in a different language.

However, Paquin said there will not be "full right-to-left support" for languages such as Arabic and Hebrew.

This news was a big disappointment to Joe Weaks at Mac Bibliblog. According to a recent post by Weaks, Microsoft's excuse is that Mac OS X's Unicode APIs aren't up to the task and he quotes from what appears to be a Mac BU document [I couldn't find the source]:

With each version of Office for Mac we have to prioritize updates. While we will be adding new language support there will not be full right-to-left support for languages such as Arabic and Hebrew.

Office 2011 relies on the Apple Type Services for Unicode Imaging (ATSUI) as the set of services for rendering Unicode. Due to technology restraints on the text input tools, Office for Mac’s Unicode support doesn’t include languages such as Hebrew and Arabic.

We understand support for RTL languages is needed and it is something we have on our priority list. However, at this time, we don’t have any updates on timing.

Weaks countered that this excuse was "hogwash" and the support problem is the result of Microsoft refusing to support Apple's Cocoa tools. However, he said some beta testers reported that Arabic documents created in an application that does support Unicode RTL will open "correctly" in some Office 2011 applications.

Meanwhile, Hebrew Unicode RTL isn't being supported in Office 2011, Weaks said.

If you will think outside the Office suite box, there are Unicode alternatives for the Mac. I own two strong Unicode word processors: Nisus Software's Nisus Writer Pro and RedleX's Mellel. Both are excellent programs and have different strengths for the wide range of writing tasks. Nisus Writer Pro very easy to combine different languages, RTL and left to right, in a single document, while Mellel offers many tools for text control in a long, structured document.

Topics: CXO, Apple, Collaboration, Hardware, Microsoft, Software

About

David Morgenstern has covered the Mac market and other technology segments for 20 years. In the recent past, he founded Ziff-Davis' Storage Supersite, served as news editor for Ziff Davis Internet and held several executive editorial positions at eWEEK. In the 1990s, David was editor of Ziff Davis' award-winning MacWEEK news publication a... Full Bio

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