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Arabic language support in the free office suite LibreOffice is set to improve, with an organisation in Saudi Arabia joining hands with The Document Foundation to provide backing, fix related bugs and contribute to the improvement and development of the suite.

The National Program for Free and Open Source Software Technologies (known by the Arabic acronym Motah) at King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology has a program called Motah LibreOffice Project which will make the contributions. The Motah program plans to study different free and open source software products to determine the level of support for Arabic and the suitability of these applications for users in Arab countries.

LibreOffice has been chosen as the first project as an office suite is needed by all computer users.

According to an announcement from The Document Foundation, the body that oversees development of LibreOffice, the project aims to:

  • Study LibreOffice and identify bugs related to Arabic, and validate that the software correctly supports languages written from right to left in all its functions and operations;
  • Work to fix these bugs and improve the LibreOffice support for languages written from right to left. Bugs could be either discovered by Motah team members or posted on the LibreOffice Bugzilla website;
  • Work on simplifying and enhancing the LibreOffice graphical user interface, to enhance the usability of the software; and
  • Work on improving the Arabic documentation as well as improving the Arabisation of the graphical user interface, by reviewing and enhancing the existing translation.

"As the first leading project in the Arabic region to support LibreOffice, Motah program is committed to support Arabic language and its use in modern technologies," the program director, Adbulrahman Alarifi, was quoted as saying in the announcement.

"Through local software engineers, young and open-source enthusiasts, Motah has made its first contribution to LibreOffice 3.6.1 solving several bugs related to Arabic language and RTL format support. Motah will continue solving related bugs as well as improving the Arabic help and documentation as part of its contribution to the Arabic-speaking ICT community.

Modern standard Arabic has around 440 million native speakers. It is derived from the language of the Koran (known as Classical Arabic or Koranic Arabic) and is widely taught in schools, universities, and used to varying degrees in workplaces, government and the media.

More than 95 per cent of the world's population has access to LibreOffice in their native language due to the efforts of a global volunteer community.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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