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Handling Arabic Text in Dreamweaver MX

This article was specifically written to guide individuals who wish to develop Arabic pages in Dreamweaver, but it should also help individuals who wish to do so in other bi-directional languages like Hebrew or Turkish.

    Dreamweaver MX wasn't designed to handle bi-directional languages, which includes Arabic, Hebrew, etc. Dreamweaver still doesn't even recognize the DIR attribute which is set to 'rtl' indicating that tables and text are to be formatted from right-to-left. Dreamweaver also doesn't support the LANG attribute, which would be set to 'ar' to identify that text that follows is in Arabic. Because of these problems, even after getting Dreamweaver to display Arabic text, it will be very difficult to edit Arabic text and tables won't be displayed right-to-left in Dreamweaver.

    I have found two means of inserting Arabic into Dreamweaver MX, but both means require that you have the Arabic keyboard layout configured either on your Windows or Macintosh operating system. Guidelines on how to install a new keyboard layout can be found at Dreamweaver's website under the article 'Using English Dreamweaver to develop non-English pages'. For those using Windows XP, instructions can be found here, while Windows 2000/NT users can get these details here.

    The first means of adding Arabic to Dreamweaver is by using the 'UTF-8 (Unicode)'. Open Dreamweaver and open the page you want to add the Arabic text to. Change the document encoding to 'UTF-8 (Unicode)' going into Page Properties (press Ctrl+J if you are in Windows) and then selecting it from the Document Encoding drop-down menu. Once the document encoding has been changed, you can paste your Arabic text into Dreamweaver and it will appear correct.

    The second means to add Arabic text in Dreamweaver MX is by adding a line to Dreamweaver's document encoding file. To do this in Windows, locate the directory that you installed Dreamweaver and then go into then go into the directory Configuration\Encodings\, where you will find a file named EncodingMenu.xml. Open the file in Notepad and add the following line to the file.

<mm:encoding name="Arabic (Windows-1256)" charset="windows-1256" fontgroup="UTF-8" macfontscript=0 winfontcharset=178/>

    Save the file, and then open Dreamweaver and change the document encoding to 'Arabic (Windows-1256)' in the file you want to add the Arabic text. Copy your Arabic text and then paste it into Dreamweaver. To be able to type Arabic text into Dreamweaver, you will need to change the current keyboard layout by clicking on keyboard layout indicator in the taskbar to Arabic. But typing or editing Arabic text in Dreamweaver is very difficult, so I suggest that you type the Arabic text in Microsoft Word or Notepad and then insert it into Dreamweaver.

    I tried out the LTR to RTL Macromedia Dreamweaver Extension by Ofir Ben Natan which adds DIR="RTF" to all <P> or <DIV> tags on a page, but for Arabic text, not only is the text right-to-left but tables on a webpage are right-to-left. So the best means of handling it is by adding DIR="RTF" to the <HTML> tag.

Useful Links
Inserting arabic using dreamweaver?
Tips for Developing Non-English Web Sites
Developing Website for Users of Languages Other Than English

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