To emphasize some of these differences, a well-known fact is that English text is read from left to right, while Arabic script is read from right to left. Arabic text must, therefore, be typeset to reflect this. However, just to confuse matters, numbers always run left to right!
Moreover, Arabic numerals can be written in two ways. There is ‘Western Arabic’, (also known as ‘Arabic numerals’) where the symbols are the same as in English, and there is ‘Eastern Arabic’ (also known as ‘Hindi numerals’) where the symbols take on a different form. The type of numbering format to use will depend on many factors, such as the purpose of the document, the audience that is being targeted, the demographics of the audience and so on. Whichever form the numbers are written in, however, they always run left to right.
Every letter in Arabic takes a different form depending on whether it is isolated, at the start of a word, in the middle of a word or at the end of a word – and each combination of letters is unique.
Additionally, Arabic typeface is very different from English. Arabic words are generally written cursively (joined to each other in groups or entire words).
Finally, while text can be ‘flipped’, images cannot, as this can affect the end design.
All the factors above must be taken into consideration when carrying out Arabic typesetting, so the complexities of Arabic typesetting cannot be overemphasized.
The potential and impact of successfully reaching a large, global Arabic audience have inspired people and companies to try to overcome the challenges presented in typesetting Arabic. The advent of new technology, such as InDesign ME, has made it easier to handle the complexities and demands of Arabic typesetting projects due to its ability to support a large range of scripts and other options.
Another development has been the introduction of Arabic fonts to match an existing English typeface, thereby allowing them to work in harmony. And new Arabic fonts are being produced all the time, allowing the typesetter to use them in conjunction with English and other language fonts.