Simplified Arabic

H_Afash's picture

Congratulation!! I think it will be a great group. Go ahead.

We all know "Simplified Arabic" font which came with Ms windows since the first version -I believed-.

I would like to know:
- Its designer.
- Creation year.
- Any information about it.


Hasan Abu Afash

Vladimir Tamari's picture

Many thanks Aziz I shall devote myself to this and many other delayed tasks after the cataract surgery next month!

khalid's picture

Salamat inshalla. Be well, Vladimir, and come back; there is so much to discuss.

AzizMostafa's picture

Tamari, Praying for your Successful Surgery + Quick recovery. Take care of yourself.

Vladimir Tamari's picture

Thank you Khalid and Aziz I will consider the operations as fixing the outline of the middle 'ain!

AzizMostafa's picture

@ Quadibloc: … recent events in Egypt involving the Coptic Christian minority illustrate what is feared.
How accurate you are!

Both Muslims and Christians held prayers at the square for the victims of the uprising.
Sorry, too late!

quadibloc's picture

I am glad that at the present time, both Muslims and Christians in Egypt are united in seeking greater democratization and progress in Egypt. I hope this continues to be the case, and Egypt becomes a country where everyone enjoys more happiness and freedom.

I am concerned that the Muslim Brotherhood, a part of the opposition coalition, may end up being the group that takes over, because I am concerned that if they do, they will make things worse, rather than better, for the people of Egypt - among, of course, other things. I don't know if you share these concerns, or feel that only the U.S. and Israel have anything to fear from them.

Khaled Hosny's picture

Well, as a general rule, if US and Israel fear something it must be damn good for the people of Egypt.

AzizMostafa's picture

Second Khaled Hosny

khalid's picture

Back to the first question. Although the design of Simplified Arabic has a number of good typographic qualities, the font is actually no more than a marketing exercise. Microsoft needed a robust Arabic font that would make their IE and Office Suite usable by the millions of users in the Arab world (not that they will all actually buy it as Microsoft knows better than me and you). That is why you do not find any designer credited in the font info.

Telling from the correct interpretation of Arabic letters, the font was most likely designed by an Arab designer who submitted the original designs in paper format. The design was then probably digitized by Monotype as the outlines reflect the usual high quality found in the Latin fonts.

The paradigm above also applies to other widely used Arabic fonts such as Yakout, Al Harf Al Jadeed, and Muna by Abdulla Faris. Although Nahib Jaroudi is credited by Linotype, but the font was created to promote other products that use the fonts.

Good and practical Arabic fonts that are driven by the aim of achieving typographic excellence are hard to find.

quadibloc's picture

In searching for information about Arabic typography, to get a better idea of what is required and what is lacking, one of the things I came across was Titus Nemeth's dissertation on the state of newspaper typography in the Arab world.

Having a type element for a Selectric typewriter for Arabic, I had thought it seemed like "Simplified Arabic" was a good idea, since on a typewriter, where successive characters can overlap, merging final and isolated, and initial and medial, by putting the connecting stroke between letters entirely on the first letter of the pair appeared to me to give results indistinguishable from the use of four versions of each letter in hot-metal typesetting.

However, from this dissertation, I've learned that the "Yakout" typeface on Linotype took the "Simplified Arabic" idea to where it did not belong - to the world of hot metal typography, where letters cannot overlap. Even I could see that the result was a travesty of the Arabic script. Worse yet, according to that dissertation, the Arabic characters provided in common Microsoft typefaces with Unicode support like Arial (mentioned in the dissertation) and Times Roman (not mentioned, but looks identical on my computer) are patterned after Yakout.

However, to be fair, some of the worst features of Yakout aren't in fact included in the Arabic characters in Arial; you won't see a little stub of a connector on the initial form of letters. But the distortion of the letter shapes so that on Linotype, where that stub connector couldn't be avoided, at least it would be small, still remains.

Of course, just having the basic four versions of each letter or the equivalent is still not the same as respecting a larger proportion of the calligraphic rules, but it is a reasonable minimum to ask.

John Hudson's picture

I think it is misleading to say that Linotype 'took the Simplified Arabic idea to ... hot metal typography'. Simplified Arabic was invented by Linotype precisely as a mechanism to fit Arabic onto existing newspaper composing machinery. The Yakout newspaper type is the paradigm of Simplified Arabic which, by the way, does not consist simply of two forms per letter instead of four, but of a varying number of forms (e.g. the heh takes four forms).

quadibloc's picture

It may indeed be that the term "Simplified Arabic", as used in this discussion, refers specifically to what Yakout implemented.

However, Yakout does date from 1956, while Wikipedia claims the first Arabic typewriter was made by Philip Wakid and Saleem Haddad in 1914.

(EDIT: Remington was selling Urdu typewriters, and possibly Arabic typewriters, in India back in 1910, I've since found out.)

I know that there was an Arabic element for the Blickensderfer, as well.

And so, my point, that reducing most letters to only two forms actually works reasonably well on a typewriter, not requiring the letter forms to be as distorted as they were in Yakout, I believe remains valid.

John Hudson's picture

Let me know if you find pictures of the layouts for these early typewriters. It would be interesting to see how they worked. The later typewriters I have looked at take a very similar approach to the Simplified Arabic scheme, and I'd be interested to see whether this is consistent with the earlier models or not.

quadibloc's picture

I will. My reference was an ad with only the names of the languages supported, but I'll see what I can find.

A possibility, too, is that a Turkish typewriter may have been first to embody the Arabic script, since the Ottoman Empire would have been more developed and closer to the West - so I'm going to include that possibility in my search.

hrant's picture

Actually Lebanon has historically been the most Western Arabic-using nation.


quadibloc's picture

This typewriter ad,

from 1918, is, I'm afraid, a latecomer...

Thomas Milo's picture

Saad, that Steve of Glyph Systems (Andover MA), was Steven T. Reef, who had a colleague called Susan Cabot. In the late a980's GS developed an Arabic version of Rank Xerox Ventura Publisher together with Layout, now in Beirut, but during that time on Cyprus because of the war. Layout later Arabised Quark Express with the famous Arabic XT . RX Ventura publisher is among the best book making tool ever made. GS had a partner in Colorado Springs, CO named Paul Nelson. He later moved the Microsoft - he is the link with Simplified Arabic and Windows. To my knowledge, Glyph Systems did not design fonts.

hrant's picture

FWIW, I once had a very bad experience with Glyph Systems.


Mamoun's picture

In response to Hasan's original inquiry regarding information on the designer of Simplified Arabic fonts included with Windows, I have the following information:

During Typecon conference in Seattle in 2007

I asked David Berlow, founder of Font Bureau, if he did any design work on Arabic fonts and he told me that he did Simplified Arabic some years ago. He downplayed his contribution because he thought that he did not have much knowledge about Arabic, however, I think his work has much merit for its time.

When I read Hasan's inquiry, I remembered this conversation and wrote to David to request more specific information about this typeface. His response was brief: The font was designed around 1986 while he was working for Bitstream, and Matthew Carter supervised his supervisor. I don't have information about his inspiration or sources for this design, or about the route of licensing from Bitstream to Agfa Monotype to Microsoft.

Simplified Arabic typeface included with Windows and used as the Arabic complement in Arial and Times New Roman is a specific typeface design which is not the same as the general term "simplified Arabic" used to describe the genre of fonts discussed earlier in this post. Simplified Arabic fonts produced by Linotype and other vendors before 1986 must be considered the models on which this typeface is based.

During the past couple of years, I have been doing work for Microsoft to differentiate the Arabic of Simplified Arabic, Arial and Times New Roman. This work aims to make the Arabic in each of these fonts recognizable from the other fonts, and to make the Arabic more related to its Latin companion especially in Arial which is a monoline design. I do not have information about when these revisions will be released by Microsoft.

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