Using right-to-left languages in Office

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 show the menus and buttons right-to-left and/or change individual files so their contents read from right to left.

To compose in a right-to-left language you will want to enable the Windows keyboard language for the right-to-left language that you want to use. See add an input language in Windows and enable the keyboard layout for the right-to-left language.

Click a heading below for more information

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 to both 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, see Change the language of Microsoft Office.

Note: If you'd like to see a short video on how to do this, here's a video at YouTube that a member of the community created showing how it's done. Change Language Office 2016.

Several right-to-left features in 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, dialog boxes, and wizards are right to left, but the Microsoft Windows settings remain left to right.

For example, when Arabic is selected as the display language in Office you see the following display:

Arabic user interface language

The menus are displayed right to left. If the Windows display language is still set to English, 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 language 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 your left-to-right language (such as English) 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.

You can change the text direction from within a Microsoft Office program by choosing 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 an Arabic dialect, do the following:

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

  2. On the File tab, choose Options > Language.

  3. In the Set the Office Language Preferences dialog box, in the Editing Language list, choose the Arabic dialect you want, and then choose Add.

  4. In the Choose Editing Languages table, make sure the newly added Arabic dialect is highlighted and then choose Set as Default.

    Important: When you set the newly assigned editing language as the default, it becomes the default for all your Microsoft Office programs.

To type using a particular language's native keyboard, you must add the appropriate keyboard layout. For instruction on how to add an additional keyboard language see Change the language of Microsoft Office.

After adding a keyboard layout for another language, a language indicator (called the "Language bar") appears on the taskbar, next to the clock, and displays the current keyboard language. For example, in Windows 10, the language indicator for Hebrew is The Windows 10 Language Bar, showing that the currently selected keyboard language is Hebrew. .

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 change the current keyboard language click the Language bar and select the language you want, or press Windows Key + SHIFT to toggle thru the list of installed keyboards.

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. You can choose 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).

Depending on which languages you need, you may also be able to enter small amounts of text by using the Symbol gallery, see Insert symbols.

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.

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.

In Word and other word-processing programs,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

Indic languages, such as Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, and Telugu, might not be compatible with every search option in Microsoft Office. For example, the Match case and Find whole words only options do not work for scripts in these languages. However, these options can still be used to find matching Latin characters in the same document.

Right-to-left languages

Find-and-replace features search text in the order in which the text is entered in the Search box, instead of the order in which it is displayed. Therefore, you can search for strings of right-to-left text, regardless of the direction of the paragraph. You can also search for matches of characters with or without kashidas (Arabic only), Alef Hamzas (Arabic only), or diacritics, such as the Hebrew niqqud. For a list of ASCII and Unicode character codes, see Insert ASCII or Unicode Latin-based symbols and characters.

Indic languages

Indic languages, such as Bengali, Gujarati, Hindi, Kannada, Malayalam, Marathi, Punjabi, Tamil, and Telugu, might not be compatible with every search option in Microsoft Office. For example, the Match case and Find whole words only options do not work for scripts in these languages. However, these options can still be used to find matching Latin characters in the same document.

Southeast Asian languages

Southeast Asian languages, such as Thai and Vietnamese, might not be compatible with every search option in Microsoft Office. For example, the Match case and Find whole words only options do not work for Southeast Asian characters. However, these options can still be used to find matching Latin characters in the same document.

See Also

Check spelling and grammar in a different language

Change the language of Microsoft Office

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