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OS X Lion: Change the direction of text

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Change the direction of text

In some applications, such as iChat, Mail, and TextEdit, you can change the direction of text from left-to-right to right-to-left, and vice versa. When using certain right-to-left writing systems such as Arabic, Hebrew, Yiddish, Persian, Pashto, and Urdu, you may need to quote words from left-to-right writing systems, such as English. When right-to-left text is mixed with left-to-right text, it is called bidirectional text.

Change the direction of text when using a right-to-left writing system

  • To change the direction of a paragraph, Control-click anywhere in the paragraph, choose Writing Direction (or Paragraph Direction) from the shortcut menu, and then under Paragraph choose Default, “Left to Right,” or “Right to Left.” If you choose Default, the paragraph’s direction is based on the first character in the paragraph.

    For example, if you start a paragraph with an English character, even if most of the paragraph is in Arabic, the sentences in the paragraph are displayed left to right:

    تم إصدار MacBook و MacBook Pro بشكل جديد

    If you Control-click anywhere in the paragraph and choose “Right to Left,” the sentences in the paragraph are displayed correctly:

    بشكل جديد MacBook Pro و MacBook تم إصدار

  • To change the direction of selected text, select the text, and then Control-click in the text. Choose Writing Direction from the shortcut menu, and then under Selection choose Default, “Left to Right,” or “Right to Left.” If you choose Default, the direction of the selected text is set to that of the paragraph in which the text appears.

    For example, if you’re using an English input source, but you begin a sentence with a Hebrew character, this how the text is displayed:

    .is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet א

    If you select the sentence and choose “Left to Right,” the sentence is correctly displayed:

    א is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

Change the direction of text using the Writing Direction menu

  • In Mail, choose Format > Alignment > Writing Direction, and then select an option from the menu.
  • In iChat, choose Format > Writing Direction, and then select an option from the menu.
  • In TextEdit, choose Format > Text > Writing Direction, and then select an option from the menu.

In other applications, check in the Format menu to see if the Writing Direction menu is available.

Turn on bidirectional keyboard shortcuts

  1. Choose Apple menu > System Preferences, click Language & Text, and then click Input Sources.
  2. Select the “Enable keyboard shortcuts” checkbox.
    Note: If you don’t see the “Enable keyboard shortcuts” checkbox, turn on an input source with a right-to-left writing system in the Input Sources pane of Language & Text preferences.
  3. If you want to see a split cursor when the cursor is at a boundary between left-to-right text and right-to-left text, select the “Use split cursor” checkbox.

    The split cursor is often more precise than the single insertion point when working with bidirectional text.

Use bidirectional keyboard shortcuts

  • To change the text direction of a paragraph to right-to-left, press Command-Control-Left Arrow.
  • To change the text direction of a paragraph to left-to-right, press Command-Control-Right Arrow.
  • To change the text direction of a paragraph to the default direction, press Command-Control-Down Arrow.
  • To change the text direction of selected text to right-to-left, select the text, and then press Command-Control-Option-Left Arrow.
  • To change the text direction of selected text to left-to-right, select the text, and then press Command-Control-Option-Right Arrow.
  • To change the text direction of selected text to the default direction, select the text, and then press Command-Control-Option-Down Arrow.
  • To type the Arabic date in the order it’s displayed, using slashes, press Control-Slash to enter each slash.
Last Modified: Oct 30, 2013
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  • Last Modified: Oct 30, 2013
  • Article: PH4372
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