Nassim sets news on BBC Arabic

You may have noticed this already, but I thought I better post it here anyway. Following the redesign of the mother-page of the BBC News, the BBC Arabic launched their redesigned website. It is probably one of the first, and certainly the biggest site yet to use webfonts – Arabic webfonts that is. It uses a custom version of Nassim by Titus Nemeth. The typeface was painstakingly optimized for screen and for web. Hinted by Thomas Grace and mastered into webfonts by Tim Ahrens.

You can read more on Titus' blog.

We will be releasing Nassim through Rosetta Type Foundry this year, see .

Few pictures:

John Hudson's picture

I was about to post this: you beat me to it David.

hrant's picture

Looks both charming and readable - congrats to all involved!

Question: Is the spacing still being tweaked? I ask because the
word to the right of "AOL" in the second image is supposed to
be one word - that huge space in the middle ruins it.


titus n.'s picture

Hi Hrant,

thanks for your positive feedback. The spacing issue you raise is spot-on, but not related to the font, but the only partial OpenType support for the Arabic script on the Mac OS and/or browser used. Windows users don't have this issue as you can gather from the below screen-grab of FF4b on Win7:

There are numerous browser/OS combinations that have similar problems, most notably the flat-out rejection of Google's Chrome of fontfiles containing GPOS or GSUB tables. There is a curious note in the developer's spec noting that:

Some languages such as Indic/Thai/Arabic need GSUB/GDEF/GPOS support. Probably we should support them whenever necessary.

The font files render well with Uniscribe as it has the most complete implementation of "complex script" support, though not perfect either as marks such as quotes do not kern against RTL glyphs.

The technical challenges of "complex script" development attain a different level of complication on the web were user setups and rendering implementations are ever more unpredictable than for desktop development. Also, they are largely undocumented and a fair amount of work is trial and error. If these are exciting new days for Latin-centred typography as it jumps to the web, the work on non-Latin webfonts is a pioneering endeavour.

For the time being, all we are able to do is develop our fonts to spec and as technically sound as possible, provide updates were the situation changes and hope for browser and OS developers to catch up with their support for non-Latin scripts.


dezcom's picture


titus n.'s picture

As a post-scriptum, I should clarify that it depends on the version of Mac OSX and Safari you are using and the latest versions seem to implement GPOS kerning properly.

hrant's picture

>> "Probably we should support them whenever necessary."

Like, yesterday? :-/
I hope they all get their acts together aysap.
(BTW, I was viewing it on FF3.6.15 on WinXP.)


titus n.'s picture

FF3.6 is fine, but to see some outstanding rendering use the brand-new IE9, making sure that the compatibility mode is off (on by default).


John Hudson's picture

Titus: The font files render well with Uniscribe as it has the most complete implementation of "complex script" support, though not perfect either as marks such as quotes do not kern against RTL glyphs.

That may depend on the operating system used, rather than on Uniscribe. There is a wrapper in recent versions of Windows that is supposed to roll common punctuation glyphs into runs of adjacent text, rather than imposing a glyph run break at script boundaries or direction changes. I have not tested this with Arabic though.

Here is now Nassim is looking in the new IE9 with DWrite rendering, with subpixel spacing and positioning, and y-direction smoothing.

[DWrite also has its own shaping engines, so does not use Uniscribe. In theory, the Uniscribe and DWrite shaping engines should produce identical results, but I did notice one discrepancy in WPF (the predecessor of DWrite) so will need to test this in IE9.]

titus n.'s picture

Thanks John for the clarification. I am on a pretty recent Windows version, but have not seen kerning of quotes against Arabic in any implementation on Windows, including IE9.

On the other hand, as Karsten Lücke points out, there is good news from Google that reacted swiftly to the issues with GPOS and GSUB support.

Their updated spec now reads:
Now we support GSUB/GDEF table but haven't shipped to Chromium yet.
Now we support GPOS but haven't shipped to Chromium yet.


Khaled Hosny's picture

@Oussama: a FireFox bug (I assume you are using it), though not entirely FireFox fault because Microsoft's documentation regarding Arabic processing were, unintentionally, silent on the priority of applying 'locl' feature. Should be fixed in future releases, see

arifkarim1's picture

Isn't Nassim the same font used in Tasmeem for CS5?

John Hudson's picture

Nassim is available as an ACE font with Tasmeem, and as an OpenType font from Rosetta Type.

Syndicate content Syndicate content