Microsoft Office Word 2010 Bug with Rendering Arabic Ligatures Using Sakkal Majalla Font

If you’re not familiar with Perso-Arabic writing and typography, the paragraph below will help you learn a bit about it. That’s really useful if you’re trying to investigate what went wrong with Microsoft Office Word 2010.

Combined Characters or Ligatures

Combined characters or ligatures are characters that join into one character when placed together. One example is the “ae” combination in English; it is sometimes represented by a single character “æ”. Arabic is a script that has many combining characters.

Historically, the Persian writing in use today, was derived from Arabic; hence being called Perso-Arabic. In Persian writing and typography, Persian ligatures consist of initial, medial, final, and isolated glyph forms of Persian letters joined (sometimes partially-joined) together. As the Middle East is all about complication, there are previous-joiner, next-joiner, bi-joiner, and non-joiner glyphs. The writing system is exhausting, inefficient, development-resistant, and most importantly error-prone when digitally dealt with.

Now back to the game; Windows packs its very own Unicode ligature transform engine. Throughout the years, it’s grown out of bugs—mostly.

How separate Persian letters end up as a ligature

With short-vowels being generally dropped in Perso-Arabic writing, Persian name Komeil consists of four letters. They join in as a single ligature. With Unicode in mind, the table describes how separate Persian letters end up as a ligature.

Microsoft Office Word 2010 Bug with Rendering Arabic Ligatures Using Sakkal Majalla

Ever since I installed Microsoft Office 2010, I noticed a strange bug with the glyph-to-ligature transformations of Sakkal Majalla. More strangely, it’s just this font exposing the bug with Word 2010. I tried to eliminate unfailing possibilities, and came to the conclusion that the combination of Microsoft Office Word 2010 (both 32-bit and 64-bit) and any conceivable Windows results in Sakkal Majjala Arabic glyphs not being rendered properly. The following were thoroughly examined:

  • Microsoft Windows 7 x64 + Microsoft Office Word 2010 x64
  • Microsoft Windows 7 x86 + Microsoft Office Word 2010 x86
  • Microsoft Windows Server 2003 x86 + Microsoft Office Word 2010 x86—with majalla.ttf (Sakkal Majalla 5.01) and majallab.ttf (Sakkal Majjala Bold 5.01) copied from a Windows 7 x86 and installed

Please note systems being tested had the latest updates installed. The problem remains with all sizes and all font styles (regular, italic, bold, and bold italic). With Sakkal Majalla being selected as current font, Microsoft Office Excel 2010 renders any given Persian ligature properly. Also to come to a conclusion about the Word in Office 2010, the same systems with Office 2007 were able to render Sakkal Majalla Arabic glyphs properly inside Word 2007.

Microsoft Office Word 2010 screenshot demonstrating Persian ligature bug with Sakkal Majalla font Microsoft Office Excel 2010 screenshot of Persian ligature Sakkal Majalla font rendering

The screenshot on the left demonstrates Microsoft Office Word 2010 Persian ligature bug with Sakkal Majalla font. On the right, Microsoft Office Excel 2010 is shown rendering the same Persian ligature using Sakkal Majalla font just fine.

A well-respected lettering artist, Mamoun Sakkal (Arabic: مأمون صقال) is a calligrapher and typeface designer who has received international awards in both calligraphy and typeface design. Award winning Mamoun Sakkal, a native of Aleppo, Syria, immigrated to the United States in 1978. He is the founder and principal of Sakkal Design in Bothell, Washington, providing Arabic calligraphy and typography design solutions to major US corporations. Sakkal Majalla, a font included in Windows 7, is his masterpiece if you ask me. It wasn’t that important if this problem was with any other Perso-Arabic font. But for me, other Windows fonts are overshadowed by the beauty of Sakkal Majalla every time I come across typing Persian.

Windows Fonts with Arabic Unicode Subrange

The following is a list of fonts including Arabic Unicode subrange that come standard with Microsoft Windows 7 / Microsoft Windows Server 2008 R2:

  • Andalus
  • Arabic Typesetting
  • Arial
  • Courier New
  • Microsoft Sans Serif
  • Microsoft Uighur
  • Sakkal Majalla
  • Segoe UI
  • Simplified Arabic
  • Simplified Arabic Fixed
  • Tahoma
  • Times New Roman
  • Traditional Arabic

Neither of the above except for the Sakkal Majalla bring out the bug in Word 2010.

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