Right-to-left language features

Microsoft Office supports right-to-left functionality and features for languages that work in a right-to-left or a combined right-to-left, left-to-right environment for entering, editing, and displaying text. In this context, "right-to-left languages" refers to any writing system that is written from right to left and includes languages that require contextual shaping, such as Arabic, and languages that do not. You can change your display to read right-to-left or change individual files so their contents read from right to left.

If your computer doesn’t have a right-to-left language version of Office installed, you will need to install the appropriate language pack. You must also be running a Microsoft Windows operating system that has right-to-left support — for example, the Arabic version of Windows Vista Service Pack 2 — and enable the keyboard language for the right-to-left language that you wants to use.

In this article

Requirements for working with text in right-to-left languages

Select a display language

Keyboard languages

Display right-to-left text

Text direction in Access or Excel

Set right-to-left text, bullets, and numbering

Select ligatures and diacritics

Save right-to-left text in HTML format

Sort in right-to-left order

Code pages

Requirements for working with text in right-to-left languages

Windows Vista or Windows 7

If you are using Windows Vista or Windows 7, before you can use any of the right-to-left features in Microsoft Office, or even correctly display right-to-left scripts, you must Add an input language and enable the keyboard layout for the right-to-left language.

Windows XP

If you are using Windows XP, before you can use any right-to-left features in Office, or even correctly display right-to-left scripts, you must first go into the Control Panel in Windows XP to install the Microsoft Windows complex scripts required. After installing the complex script software, add the keyboard language. For more information, seeSet up Windows XP for multiple languages.

Top of Page

Select a display language

Depending on how you prefer to customize your computer, you can use one language for your display (menus, dialog boxes, and wizards), and type in a different language as needed. If you want both to type in a right-to-left language and see the menus and online Help in that language, you can set the Office display to that language preference. For more information, Set the editing, display, or Help language preferences.

Several right-to-left features in the Office programs use the display language to determine the screen layout direction and the alignment of text within dialog boxes. When you specify a right-to-left user display language in the Set the Office Language Preferences dialog box, the layout of menus, dialogs, and wizards are right to left, but the Microsoft Windows settings remain left to right. To learn how to change the display language in Microsoft Windows, see Change the display language.

For example, when Arabic is selected as the display language in the Office (but not in Windows), you see the following display:

Arabic user interface language

Although the menus are displayed right to left, the title bar remains in English and the Close, Minimize, and Maximize buttons remain in the upper-right corner, as they do in a left-to-right interface. If the Windows display is set up for a right-to-left language, the language in the title bar would also be translated, and the Close, Minimize, and Maximize buttons would be in the upper-left corner.

If you work primarily in a left-to-right language but sometimes need to insert text in a right-to-left language, you can select English (U.S.) for your display language and type in the right-to-left language in most of the Office programs when you want to. To do this, Set right-to-left text, bullets, and numbering for the editing area and enable the keyboard layout.

Change the display language

You can change the text direction from within a Microsoft Office program by clicking the Right-to-left paragraph button in the Paragraph group on the Home tab (this only appears if you have a right-to-left language enabled). Even after changing your display to appear in a right-to-left language, you must have the appropriate keyboard language enabled to enter text in that language.

If your usual display language is English but you want to change it to Arabic, do the following:

  1. Open an Office file, such as a Word document.

  2. Click the File tab.

  3. Click Options.

  4. Click Language.

  5. In the Set the Office Language Preferences dialog box, in the Editing Language list, click Arabic, and then click Default.

    Important    This changes the default editing language for all the Microsoft Office programs.

Top of Page

Keyboard languages

To type using a particular language's native keyboard, you must install the appropriate language pack for that language, and add the appropriate keyboard layout. After adding a keyboard layout for another language and selecting the Language bar to be Docked on the taskbar, a language indicator appears on the taskbar Language bar image and displays the current keyboard language. For example, the language indicator for Arabic is Arabic keyboard indicator. For more information on the Language bar, see Language bar (overview).

Note    The Language bar appears automatically after adding a keyboard for at least one language in addition to English in the Text Services and Input Languages dialog box in Microsoft Windows.

  • To display the Language bar when the language indicator on the taskbar is visible, click the language indicator, and then click Show the Language bar.

  • To display the language indicator on the taskbar when the Language bar is visible, click the Minimize button on the Language bar.

  • To select the keyboard for a different language, click either the name of the current language (on the Language bar) or the language indicator, and then click the name of the other language.

For instructions about how to enable a language-specific keyboard, see Enable keyboard layouts for different languages.

Using the Character Map and ASCII character codes to enter text

Depending on which languages you need, you can enter text by using the Character Map or ASCII character codes. To learn how to automatically insert ASCII character codes using the Symbol gallery, see Insert symbols.

If you only want to enter a little text in another language and don’t want to switch your keyboard, you can use the Character Map, one of the Accessories in Microsoft Windows, to enter text. You can select a character from one of the right-to-left or left-to-right language font pages, copy it to the Clipboard, and then insert the character in your document. For more information about how to use the Character Map to enter text, see Using special characters (Character Map).

Top of Page

Display right-to-left text

Text direction refers to the reading order, alignment, and overall layout of screen elements. When right-to-left and left-to-right texts are used together in the same sentence, paragraph, or control, the combined text is known as "mixed".

When the Office program is set up and enabled to display a right-to-left text environment, the appearance of the cursor varies to indicate a left-to-right run Left-to-right cursor or Insertion point indicating a left-to-right run, or a right-to-left run Right-to-left cursor. The cursor can either move according to the direction of the language recognized (logical movement) or move to the next visually adjacent character (visual movement).

Top of Page

Text direction in Access or Excel

Text in a cell or field can be left-aligned, center-aligned, or right-aligned. In some programs, such as Access and Excel, text can also have Context text direction.

When text has Context text direction, text and numbers are aligned according to the language of the first character entered — for example, text in the cell or field is right-aligned if the first character is in a right-to-left language, and left-aligned if the first character is in a left-to-right language. You can override Context text direction and switch to Left, Center, or Right text direction for individual objects.

Many right-to-left or combined right-to-left and left-to-right programs apply context rules that control text direction and the reading order of text. Boxes, lists, and other elements control the context rules for the text that they contain.

The context rules for the reading order and text direction are as follows:

  • If the first strong character is left-to-right, the reading order is also left-to-right, and the text is left-aligned.

  • If the first strong character is right-to-left, the reading order is also right-to-left, and the text is right-aligned.

  • If only neutral characters are typed, both the reading order and the direction follow the paragraph direction (which can be either left-to-right or right-to-left) until the first strong character is typed.

Any time you change the first strong character from a left-to-right language to a right-to-left language (or vice versa), both the reading order and the text direction change accordingly.

Top of Page

Set right-to-left text, bullets, and numbering

When both left-to-right and right-to-left languages are enabled, the Left-to-right and Right-to-left paragraph buttons are enabled on the ribbon in most of the Office programs. When you click these buttons, you can change the direction of text when entering and justifying text.

Note    In Microsoft OneNote, the Left-to-right and Right-to-left buttons are available by clicking the Paragraph Alignment arrow.

Top of Page

Select ligatures and diacritics

In word-processing programs — such as Word — you can select, find, and replace individual diacritics and individual Arabic characters regardless of whether they are ligated. Each ligature and diacritic is managed as a discrete unit of a right-to-left language word.

The following example shows selecting an Arabic word that has a three-character ligature (as each character is selected).

Word with one ligature selected

Word with two ligatures selected

Word with three ligatures selected

Top of Page

Save right-to-left text in HTML format

You can save files in HTML format for posting on the Web in right-to-left or left-to-right direction. Web pages that have right-to-left direction are marked by using the standard HTML DIR attribute in the HTML file. If the Web browser that you are using recognizes the DIR attribute, the page displays in a right-to-left direction. If your Web browser does not recognize the DIR attribute, the page is displayed in a left-to-right direction.

Tip    To view right-to-left Web pages, use a browser that recognizes the DIR attribute, such as at least Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.02 Middle East, Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.01 for Complex Scripts, or at least Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.

Top of Page

Sort in right-to-left order

Right-to-left sort order is applied wherever possible. This applies to data lists in table view, card view, and icon view, and to group-by lists, contact lists, folder lists, and address lists.

Note    Some server-side views might not sort data according to right-to-left sort order, because they follow supported server-side sort orders.

Top of Page

Code pages

Microsoft Office programs support the following code pages that are available to Arabic, Hebrew, and mixed-text users:


Each code page is identified by a unique code page number. The code page (CP) for Arabic is CP 1256.

  • UTF-8, ISO 8859-6, DOS-720, ASMO-708

    Dari, Pashto, Persian, Uighur, and Urdu use the same code pages as Arabic.


Each code page is identified by a unique code page number. The code page (CP) for Hebrew is CP 1255.

  • UTF-8, ISO 8859-8, DOS-86

    Yiddish uses the same code page as Hebrew.

Top of Page

Applies To: PowerPoint 2013, Access 2013, Visio Professional 2013, OneNote 2013, Visio Standard 2010, Publisher 2013, Project Professional 2013, OneNote 2010, Project Standard 2010, Outlook 2010, Outlook 2013, Publisher 2010, Excel 2010, Excel 2013, Word 2013, Office 2010, Project 2010, Word 2010, Visio 2013, PowerPoint 2010, Visio 2010, Project Standard 2013, Access 2010

Was this information helpful?

Yes No

How can we improve it?

255 characters remaining

To protect your privacy, please do not include contact information in your feedback. Review our privacy policy.

Thank you for your feedback!

Change language