Mikhtav - Write in Hebrew on your Mac


(Hebrew for OS9)

Writing and reading Hebrew on your Mac has become much easier with the advent of System OSX. Now, once you have the essential applications, you hardly have to think about it -you just write in English, Hebrew, or whatever language you desire. The main breakthrough was the use of unicode in many applications.

Here are the simple steps that you need to take to make everything work.

Pull down under the apple on your menu bar and open up System Preferences. Then choose "International".

international system preference

If Hebrew is not on your list on the left, you can click on "edit list" and add it.


Make sure that Hebrew is checked. Next click on "Input Menu". Check "Character Palette" and "Keyboard Viewer". This will make it easier to enter any kind of letter in your text. Also be sure to check "Show input in menu bar".

input menu

Next, pull down the list until you find Hebrew.

You will have "Hebrew" which is the regular Hebrew keyboard layout that you would find in Israel.

Standard Hebrew keyboard layout
Standard Hebrew keyboard layout

There is also "Hebrew QWERTY". This is especially nice if you do not already know the Hebrew keyboard layout. With this you can type a "b" and get a bet, a "g" and get a gimel, etc. You can choose one of these or both. Compare the QWERTY Hebrew and English keyboard layouts below.

QWERTY Hebrew keyboard layout   English keyboard layout
QWERTY Hebrew keyboard layout
English Keyboard layout

(The Hebrew QWERTY keyboard layout for the Mac has been around for years. It has become so popular that an exact copy has been made for use on Windows computers)

Hebrew input

If you look at your menu bar, you should now see a flag next to the clock.
American layout
You can pull down on the flag and change the input to Hebrew
Israeli input


Now let's see how Mail works when we paste some text in an outgoing message.

Hebrew mail message

The only problem is that the final period in a paragraph is placed at the beginning of the final line. The nice thing about Mail is that this is corrected when the message is received.

received message

To make sure that your Hebrew messages are always formatted correctly, you can use this little application by Nir Sofer to set your Hebrew charset as the default. This can interfere if you're sending out and receiving letter in Spanish or other accented languages, but it definitely helps the Hebrew.

Gmail by Google also displays the Hebrew well using a browser.  If you have Gmail set to English, you still have the problem with the final period.

Gmail letter

However, if you go into the Gmail settings...
Gmail language
You can change the language to Hebrew...
Gmail language Hebrew
After you save the settings, it will look like this...
Gmail Hebrew settings
Now, when you look at the message, the problem with the final period has been solved.
Gmail in Hebrew

Word Processing

If you want to do word processing in Hebrew, there are several choices.
textedit nisus express neo-office open office mellel

Of the five, only Nisus and Mellel cost money. However, the price is small and the applications do a very good job with the Hebrew. Textedit, which comes free with all Macs, has only minimal formatting abilility and it has the same problem with the period at the end of a paragraph, as does NeoOffice.

You have to install Xll (a free program from Apple) to run OpenOffice. However, Open Office does an excellent job with the Hebrew and even shows misspelled words.

Open Office page

Nisus Express also does a very nice job.

Nisus express page

Mellel, the choice of many who write professionally in Hebrew, also displays the Hebew well.

Mellel page

The thing to remember with all of these applications is that you need to choose "Lucida Grande" as your font (or another Unicode font) or the Hebrew will be displayed with random non-Hebrew letters.

If you are still running OS9, try this page.

A great source for information on writing in Hebrew on a Mac is the IsraMac mailing list. Join the list and have your questions answered by experts.

If you have any further questions, feel free to write me.

Mikhtav Mac Store