apple pages 5.0 finally supports hebrew

In the last week, Apple has released a flurry of software updates, including updates to its iWork productivity software. While there are some who are unhappy with the changes, the good news is that Pages — Apple’s versatile word-processing application — now supports right-to-left and mixed direction text entry.

Previous versions of Pages would allow entry of Hebrew, but the cursor would remain at either end of the Hebrew text. Attempting to click into the middle of a Hebrew word would leave the cursor at the end of the word giving the user no idea that they were able to edit the word or what would happen when the next key was pressed. Now this has been fixed, and Pages (and presumable Numbers and Keynote) correctly inserts and edits Hebrew text.

The difference/improvement is easily illustrated in the following screenshots. First, Pages 4.3 (the previous version):


Here you can see the cursor to the left of the Hebrew text even though I had clicked into the middle of the Hebrew. Furthermore, Pages was clearly incapable of coping with the niqqud (the vowel points) which are pretty messed up.

Compare this with Pages 5.0:


The cursor is now correctly positioned in the middle of the Hebrew text, the niqqud are well placed.

For any existing Pages users, or for people purchasing a new Mac, the update is free.

In short, Pages has gone from useless for Hebrew to entirely usable. At last.

using apple’s pages app for hebrew

Apple’s Pages word processing/document editing/layout program is appealing in many ways: it is easy to use, powerful, and produces very nice looking documents. One big problem for those of us who want to include Hebrew or other right-to-left language text within our documents, however, is that Pages on Mac OS X simply cannot handle it. Sure, you can type some Hebrew into Pages, but try editing it and you’ll soon discover that it is well-nigh impossible.

Well, that’s almost true. As it turns out, the iOS version of Pages (for iPods, iPhones, and iPads) can handle Hebrew editing reasonably well (see the image which shows the cursor sitting in the midst of some Hebrew, something you simply cannot do on Mac OS X).

This is good news, because while there are a number of solutions to writing mixed language documents on Mac OS X (such as Mellel or Nisus Writer Pro), the options are quite limited on iOS.

Perhaps the only glimmer of hope for Pages on Mac OS X is that it has been quite a long time since an update was released and, given the improvements made in TextEdit on Mac OS X and Pages on iOS in handling RTL languages, maybe any new version of Pages would improve support (although, AFAIK, there’s no indication that a new version of Pages for Mac OS X is to be released any time soon).

mac os x 10.7.3 improves hebrew support

Apple has just released Mac OS X 10.7.3 which normally wouldn’t warrant a mention here except that it includes improved Hebrew support. Apple’s update notes include the following:

Add Catalan, Croatian, Greek, Hebrew, Romanian, Slovak, Thai, and Ukrainian language support.

Of course it would be nice if they told us exactly what this means for Apple’s apps and Hebrew, but any improvement in Hebrew support is greatly appreciated!

don’t buy from apple’s mac os x app store in australia

At least not if you can avoid it. Why? Simple. Apple’s pricing will cost you. For example, Mellel currently costs $41.99 AUD on the App Store. The non-App Store price is $39.00 USD. Now that the Australian dollar is worth more than the US, buying it direct works out to something like $37.00.

Unfortunately, while iOS App Store suffers the same disparity, it is more difficult to get around the Apple version of the exchange rate.

mellel 2.8 makeover

Mellel is a word processor for Mac OS X which handles multi-lingual texts rather more effectively than most of the available alternatives. The latest version, 2.8, was released a few days ago. That update includes a powerful new “track changes” option. However, Mellel is in need of a cosmetic makeover, its brushed aluminium appearance and buttons are very much showing their age.

It is possible to go some way towards addressing this issue. My attempt has resulted in this:

To achieve this, download this file, unzip it, and copy the resultant directory’s contents into the Resources of the Mellel application (right-click on Mellel, choose Show Package Contents, then go into Contents, Resources). The images in the ZIPped folder should overwrite the Mellel versions and, next time you launch Mellel, you get the updated appearance!

As always, make a copy of the Mellel app before you mess with the Package Contents!

happy new year from accordance (and me)

The new year has arrived and the smoke from the fireworks has cleared (mostly). I am over fireworks, they just don’t get me excited any more.

On the positive front, however, there has been great anticipation over the arrival of Accordance for iOS and it has finally appeared. I have not, to this point, felt that there has been any app available which would make an iPad a particularly compelling purchase, but perhaps this will be it (of course now I’d be rather inclined to await iPad version 2).

If you’re an Accordance user with an iPhone, iPod, or iPad, you really ought to get this app. After only a brief play it makes sophisticated searches much easier than the other iPhone Bible software I’ve tried.

rtl support in snow leopard

Well, Snow Leopard (MacOS X 10.6) is finally out, so it is time to see how it handles right-to-left languages (I’m primarily interested in Hebrew). Apple’s own claim is this:

For languages that are written right to left, such as Hebrew and Arabic, Snow Leopard now elegantly handles mixing in left-to-right text. It also has a split-cursor option that shows the appropriate cursor direction at the boundary between right-to-left and left-to-right text.

Now it is worth noting that the split cursor function already existed in 10.5. If you were to try TextEdit and switch to Hebrew input in the midst of some English, you would see something like this:

I’ve discreetly highlighted the two halves of the split cursor. The top-right half indicates the insertion point in the L-t-R entry, the bottom-left half is the insertion point for the R-t-L entry.

Now TextEdit appears to operate the same way in 10.6 when mixing Hebrew and English, so it is not clear to me what has been changed. Furthermore, Pages doesn’t handle mixing RTL with LTR any better than it previously did. Mixing Hebrew with English in Keynote previously made a serious mess of things, it may be slightly better, but it remains virtually impossible to reliably edit the Hebrew text because the cursor insists on appearing at one end or the other, not in the middle of the Hebrew if that’s where you’ve clicked.

So what’s changed? The International preference pane now includes a “Bidirectional Text” option under the “Input Sources” which contains a checkbox for “Use split cursor” and another for “Enable keyboard shortcuts.” The help says:

In some applications, such as iChat, Mail, and TextEdit, you can change the direction of text from left-to-right to right-to-left and vice versa. When using certain right-to-left writing systems such as Arabic, Hebrew, Yiddish, Persian, Pashto, and Urdu, you may need to quote words from left-to-right writing systems, such as English. When right-to-left text is mixed with left-to-right text, it is called bidirectional text.

However, I couldn’t get a split cursor in Mail, and (as noted above), I’ve always had one in TextEdit. So, in spite of the options, it’s not clear to me what’s actually changed. It seems there’s still a way to go before Pages and other software reliably handles bidirectional text.

Fortunately Mellel continues to work well with Snow Leopard, and we’re looking forward to the release of Mellel 2.7 in the near future!

why i will be upgrading to snow leopard

Well, there are a number of good reasons, but looking through the list of enhancements is this one long overdue feature:

Bidirectional text.
For languages that are written right to left, such as Hebrew and Arabic, Snow Leopard now elegantly handles mixing in left-to-right text. It also has a split-cursor option that shows the appropriate cursor direction at the boundary between right-to-left and left-to-right text.

You can read more about it here. Hopefully this means that inserting RTL text in the midst of LTR text also works, since there’s much room for improvement in the way Mac OS X handles that as well (Pages and Keynote simply do not handle putting Unicode Hebrew into your documets, fortunately we have Mellel to solve our problems).