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Urdu and Languages of Pakistan

See also Arabic for additional information.

Page Content

  1. About Urdu and the Arabic Script
  2. Browser and Font Recommendations
  3. Activate Keyboards for Typing
  4. Typing Right-To-Left (RTL) Languages in Word for Windows New Page
  5. Typing Right-To-Left (RTL) Languages on the Mac New Page
  6. Web Development
    1. ur (Urdu), ks (Kashmiri), sd (Sindhi), pa (Punjabi)
  7. Links

About Urdu and the Arabic Script

The Urdu Language

Urdu is one of the national languages of Pakistan. The language is not related to Arabic, but to languages of Northern India, especially Hindi. In fact, many linguists consider Urdu and Hindi to be the same language written in two different scripts with different technical vocabulary.

During the Mughal period in Northern India, some people in the Hindustan region converted to Islam and began using the Arabic script. This language became Urdu. Others remained Hindu and used the Devanagari alphabet. This language became Hindi.

Because Urdu is close to Hindi, their language uses letters not found in Arabic. Urdu speakers need both Arabic script support and Urdu support. In addition, Urdu is written in a Nastaliq style of Arabic cursive distinct from the letters used for the Arabic language.

Urdu Language Links

Other Languages of Pakistan

Other languages spoken in Pakistan typically use the Nastaliq version of the Arabic script with with extra letters. Neither Microsoft or Apple support these languages directly, but fonts and language codes are available

See also the Devanagari page for information on how using this script for these languages.

The Arabic Script

The Arabic script has two features which make it unique in terms of encoding. One is that it is written from right to left (or RTL ). The other feature is that the shapes of individual letters change forms depending on whether the letter is alone, at the beginning of a word, the middle of a word or at the end.

In order to process Arabic correctly, a software must be able to display text from right to left and make sure the letter forms are displayed correctly depending on their positions within a word. Unfortunately, there is incomplete implementation of creating correct letter forms in many software packages.

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Activating Keyboards for Fonts

In order to integrate foreign scripts into your computer, you must set up "keyboard" or input utilities in your operating system. These utilities will allow you to switch between typing English and other languages in word processors and Web tools. This process will also make sure the correct fonts are installed and available on your operating system.

See instructions for Setting up Keyboards for details.


Other Windosw Applications

1. An Urdu keyboard is available in Windows, but you may have to install it from the Windows System disk because it is a complex script. See the Windows complex Keyboard Instructions for details on how to activate the keyboard.

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2. A phonetic Urdu Keyboard is also available from an Urdu native speaker and developer, but follow installation instructions carefully.

Right to Left Typing in Word for Windows

See instructions for configuring right to left typing in Word for Windows for tips on how to type RTL languages.


Apple does not provide an Urdu Keyboard for the Macintosh, but does provide keyboards for Persian, Dari, Pashto, Uzbek and Arabic. Additional Urdu characters may be inserted from Character Palette in the OS X operating system.

Some third party utilities are available, but have not been tested.

Another option is to run an Urdu word processors under a Windows simulator or the X11 Unix operating system.

Additional Macintosh RTL Tips

See tips for creating Mac Right-to-Left documents (including alternatives to Microsoft Office) for more information.

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Browser and Font Recommendations

Test Sites

If you have your browser configured correctly, the Web sites above should display the correct characters for Urdu Unicode pages. If you have difficulties, see list below for font and browser configuration instructions.


Note: Some Urdu sites are not in Unicode, but provide free fonts to download.

Fonts by Platform

Additional freeware fonts can be downloaded from from the sites below, and some include Persian support. Note that not all these fonts may work on System 9 for Macintosh, but will work in Windows and OS X .

See also

Recommended Browsers

Browsers which fully support Unicode are the strongly recommended. Click link in list to view configuration instructions. You will be asked to match a script with a font.

Note on System 9: Because Unicode support is incomplete in System 9, it may be beneficial to upgrade to OS X if you need to work with Unicode.

Manually Switch Encoding

If you see Roman character gibberish instead of Urdu you will may to manually switch from Western encoding view to the Unicode encoding under the View menu of your browser.

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Web Development

Urdu Encoding and Language Tags

These are the codes which allow browsers and screen readers to process data as the appropriate language. All letters in codes are lower case.


Selected Language Tags

Using Encoding and Language Codes

Computers process text by assuming a certain encoding or a system of matching electronic data with visual text characters. Whenever you develop a Web site you need to make sure the proper encoding is specified in the header tags; otherwise the browser may default to U.S. settings and not display the text properly.

To declare an encoding, insert or inspect the following meta-tag at the top of your HTML file, then replace "???" with one of the encoding codes listed above. If you are not sure, use utf-8 as the encoding.

Generic Encoding Template

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=??? ">

Declare Unicode

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8 ">


The final close slash must be included after the final quote mark in the encoding header tag if you are using XHTML

Declare Unicode in XHTML

<meta http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=utf-8" />

No Encoding Declared

If no encoding is declared, then the browser uses the default setting, which in the U.S. is typically Latin-1. Some display errors may occur.

Language Tags

Language tags are also suggested so that search engines and screen readers parse the language of a page. These are metadata tags which indicate the language of a page, not devices to trigger translation. Visit the Language Tag page to view information on where to insert it.

Inputting and Editing Text in an HTML Editor

One option is to use Dreamweaver, Microsoft Expression or other Web editor and change the keyboard to the correct script. This will allow you to type content in directly with the appropriate script. However, it is important to verify that the correct encoding is specified in the Web page header.

Another option is to compose the basic text in an international or foreign language text editor or word processor and export the content as an HTML or text file with the appropriate encoding. This file could be opened in another HTML editor such as Dreamweaver or Microsoft Expression, and edited for formatting.

Other Web Tools

For Web tools such as Blogs at Penn State, Facebook, Twitter, del.icio.us, Flicker, and others, users can typically change the keyboard and input text. In most cases, this content will be encoded as Unicode.

Specifying Text Direction

Some HTML editors set the direction of the text automatically. but it can also be set manually by using the newer <dir> and <bdo> attributes. See the Right-to-Left Alignment Tips page for more details.

PDF and Image Files

In some cases, your best options may be to use PDF files or image files. See the Web Development Tips section for more details.


Urdu Computing

Windows and Linux

Mac OS X

Urdu Fonts

Note: Mac users can install Windows fonts, but some ligature features may not function correctly.

Other Pakistani Languages

Arabic Computing




Unix and Linux


Arabic Script

Script Basics

Additional Arabic Script Fonts

Create Right To Left Web Pages

These Web sites provide additional information on developing Right-to-Left Pages.

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Last Modified: Tuesday, 30-Jun-2015 15:54:32 EDT