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(If the following header does not appear in the Arabic script, you might want to click HERE. The question is, What good is "Unicode" for writing Arabic and Persian?)


A silly question, perhaps, given that the drift of our previous remarks was to doubt that "Unicode" is of much practical use for writing anybody's languages. That is indeed where we are going to come out in the end with the Arabs and Persians as well, but since "Unicode" is always good for conferencing and syposiating and verbiage generally, we can postpone the end almost indefinitely.

Conferencing and symposiating and, above all, standard-mongering. So let us begin by mongering the Arabic-script standard. Here are three huge screen shots that have at least the merit of getting most of the "Unicode" Arabic material together in one place:

Arabic Main Page (U+0600) Arabic Presentation Forms A (U+FB50) Arabic Presentatoion Forms B (U+FE70)

As to

Sharmahd Computing GmbH.

and their "Copyright and trademark notice," well, needless to say they are not the official "Unicode" standard-mongers. If you seek the Definitive Word, look at


which site inspires us mostly to think we might take those shudder-quotes away from around "Unicode" about the time when it can be documented in itself and not in PDF and/or GIF.

Speaking of which, it was interesting to cut one of those Java-generated page displays at Sharmahd and paste it into WinWord 9. Pasted as either "unformatted text" or "Unicode unformatted text," everything except the hexadecimal column and row labels just disappeared. Pasted as "HTML text," it looked the same as in IE5, but took forever to load. The fourth try, as "RTF text" made clear what caused the delay. The following picture of the overlap between the HTML paste and the RTF one should explain itself:

200 little pictures as separate links?!

So you see that it will probably speed things up to have made those screen shots, with three big pictures replacing four or five hundred little ones. On the other hand, they are quite large pictures and already this present page loads too slow even off line as it is being composed. We will therefore move on to a new page in just a moment and talk about those tables a little -- you may wish to print them or keep them around in a second instance of your browser for reference -- but first a few words about Sharmahd. They distribute a product called UniPad which is what we used (without mentioning it) to generate the set of files used in the preliminary general discussion of "Unicode."

UniPad is free as a beta version; you can download it and examine it yourselves from the URL above. But you cannot use it for writing in the Arabic script, unless you are satisfied with the letters running the wrong way and not being connected. They promise to support bidirectionality in version 1.0, however.

Also be advised that their raster font and your printer may not get along. That ugly picture of the little "Unicode" text at the beginning of the previous discussion was a screen shot from our fax viewer, since to a lowly Canon BJC-2000 UniPad 0.95 prints nothing but blank pages with a single separator line at the top of each page. On the other hand, free is free.

Furthermore, there is a lot of interesting talk on the Sharmahd site, although they never quite explain exactly why anybody would want "a Unicode plain text editor for the Windows NT, Windows 2000, Windows 95 and Windows 98 operating systems."

And now we will start a

new page

and symposiate about those tables a bit.