Thanks for coming to, the world's #1 resource for all things InDesign!

A Modern Day Chanukah Miracle. Right to Left Language Features Come to Life in InDesign CS4!

For anyone that’s tried to set Hebrew, Arabic, or any other middle eastern language in InDesign, there have been very limited choices. Among them is to buy the middle eastern version InDesign which is developed and sold by Winsoft under license from Adobe. Other choices are to set the type in Word, create a PDF and place that or to set the type backwards.

If you do this all the time, buying the ME version is a no-brainer, but if you get right to left (RTL) text to set only occasionally and don’t need or want the full blown ME version, you’re left with the very clunky workarounds…until now that is.

With InDesign CS4, Adobe has added the World-Ready Composer which as the name implies supports these RTL language. There’s a catch, though. The features are buried and inaccessible via the user interface. Only through scripting can they be used. So it was really just a matter of time until someone came up with solution.

It may not be as impressive as one day of oil burning for eight nights but lo and behold…two products revealed in one day.

The first is a Windows-only script written by Steven Bryant called idRTL. It adds a middle eastern panel to InDesign to access the RTL features. The cost is $20.00. Further information is available here.

The other option is a cross platform plugin from In-Tools call World Tools. A bit pricier at $149 (intro price is $99 until January 31) but a bit more feature rich, a 20-day demo is available from here.

It’s important to note that both authors state these products are in no way intended to replace the ME version of InDesign but are for the user who need ME features once in a while.

Last but not least, I’m told that any RTL work you do using them will be retained if you open the file with a copy of InDesign that doesn’t have them installed.

Bob Levine

Bob Levine

Bob Levine is a graphic designer and a consultant focused on providing InDesign training and guidance in developing efficient, collaborative workflows to those moving from QuarkXPress or PageMaker. An Adobe Certified Expert in both InDesign and InCopy, Bob has written articles for InDesign Magazine and is an Adobe User to User forums host. He has more than 15 years of industry experience and has been using InDesign since version 1.0. For more background, visit his website, or his blog,
Bob Levine

Latest posts by Bob Levine (see all)

  • - November 30, -0001
Related Articles

21 Comments on “A Modern Day Chanukah Miracle. Right to Left Language Features Come to Life in InDesign CS4!

  1. So it looks like the idRTL plugin doesn’t yet support OpenType fonts.

    The In-Tools plugin doesn’t specifically mention not supporting OpenType fonts, but I also have to wonder if it can deal with the context-sensitive ligatures as the full blown ME version can.

    In any case, it’s nice to know about these. Thanks for the news.

  2. Bob,

    Thanks for the great post!

    For the record:

    I’ve been using InDesign ME since version 2.0.

    I have InDesign CS4 installed on my computer with World Tools and have no intention of installing CS4 ME. There is very little that the ME version has that CS4 with World Tools doesn’t. I recently used World Tools to lay out a Hebrew book with great results.

    Also, the World-Ready Composer supports Indic languages. For Indic support in CS3 check out Indic Plus here:

    I believe that the following is a full list of what’s missing in InDesign/World Tools (there’s a table with feature comparisons on a link from the World Tools product page).
    1) Right to left text is not displayed correctly in the story editor.
    2) Changing the document direction on an existing document — something I’ve very rarely done. (We hope to add this in, in an update sometime soon.)
    3) Spell checking in Hebrew and Arabic. We hope to include a separate bundled plug-in with such capabilities in the future (but no promises!)
    4) Hyphenation in Hebrew. (This is something which should NOT exist — the hyphenation in the ME version is actually a problem for Hebrew text mixed into English paragraphs. Hebrew text should never be hyphenated.)
    5) Keyboard Direction. World Tools includes a function to cancel any keyboard direction settings while not changing the layout. We believe that the existence of Keyboard Direction is a mistake…
    6) Reverse Layout Command. I can not remember the last time I needed this command…
    7) Hebrew/Arabic localized interfaces.
    8 ) Tasmeem (a plug-in developed by Winsoft for composition of Arabic calligraphy). I do not yet know if Tasmeem works with the non-ME versions. I plan on clarifying this point…

    About OpenType fonts: Yes they are fully supported. In fact, there are some commands accessible with World Tools which are not accessible using the ME version.

    There are a few free fonts included in the ME version which you will not get though.

    We are so convinced that World Tools will serve the needs of most users that we are willing to make a no-risk offer:

    Buy World Tools, and if you decide that it doesn’t serve your needs any time in the six months following your purchase, we will discount the full price from your order of InDesign CS4ME or Creative Suite CS4ME (ordered through us). The offer applies to full versions — not upgrades. If you need an upgrade, in most situations it pays to buy the ME upgrade straight away. Here’s a direct link to the InDesign ME product page:

    There are some additional functions included in World Tools not available in the ME version. See the product page for details.

    Another important point:

    Before CS4, transferring files between users when they don’t all use the ME version was a big problem. ME files crashed the regular version. In CS4 this is not the case. Files can be transferred with nary a warning (besides a warning about Hebrew hyphenation). For this reason the need for a lot of ME users to buy both ME and non-ME versions has disappeared.

    For more info on ME products, see the FAQ page on our website.

    Adobe considers the World-Ready Composer beta software. There are a few annoying bugs in the World-Ready Composer which is fixed in the ME version. Here’s a couple:
    1) There’s a bug the non-ME versions, that the last line indent value is doubled.
    2) Export to swf has the page turns on the wrong side.

    Will Adobe fix these in incremental updates? Your guess is (almost) as good as mine!

    There is at least one bug in the ME version which does not exist in the regular versions. See here:

    This is everything I can think of on the topic at the moment. Phew! That was a long winded comment…

  3. Thanks Bob for the Publicity.
    It’s hard to add on to Harbs informative post, but just a few points.
    1) idRTL doesn’t need to support OpenType as Indesign already supports it and isn’t changed by idRTL.
    2) just to make sure no one is confused. Files will open correctly in all versions of indesign if they are CS4 but not CS3 or before.
    3) New features are being added every day. All Updates for CS4 are included free for all customers. Newest Feature is Character and Paragraph Style Support and will be Updated on site later today.
    Thanks again

  4. Great post!

    This is very exciting news for us right-to-left text people. Finally, we can send files to other people and they can open them seamlessly. And now we won’t have to go through third parties to buy the ME version of the software.

    Happy Chanukah!

  5. I have the opposite problem. I have a ME version but my work is in English, how do I stop my punctuation form showing up on the wrong side of a sentence??

  6. Help! I still have a question — even after all this good info. I’m working on a text that’s 2 columns of text per page: 1 column of Hebrew, 1 column of Indonesian – latinized alphabet (with opening and closing pages in full Indonesian).

    Will the idRTL work adequately for this 1,200 page book? My understanding of ME version says it’ll allow for the Hebrew capacity — BUT limit my Indonesian. True?

  7. Note that in-tools has dropped the price significantly, and is now listed on their site as $49. That’s a no-brainer price! Check it out.

  8. All,

    IndicPlus for InDesign CS4 is now available for a special introductory price of 25 USD.

    Apart from standard World Ready Features, it supports Additonal Languages for Page, Paragraph, Footnote and Variable Numbering.

    Feature list in a Nutshell

    1. Ability to use Digits in Arabic, Hindi, Bengali etc..
    2. Use kashidas for letter spacing and full justification
    3. Special Open Type Features required for Ligatures
    4. Set vowels/diacritics positioning
    5. Ability to Justify text in three possible ways to get the desired results (Standard, Arabic, Naskh)
    6. Functionality to “Insert Special Character” Geresh, Gershayim, Magaf, Kashida and Joiner
    7. Support for Additional Languages for page, paragraph and footnote numbering

    – Amit

  9. We are a small company who needs a software to support Spelling , Hyphenation and Typing in Hindi Language in InDesign. Is there any recommendation ?

    Sorry if I am posting this on a wrong blog, It looks like a lot of big shots are contributing to this blog

  10. Hello,

    Our products IndicPlus and SpellPlus can fulfill your requirement. IndicPlus supports Open Type Unicode Fonts for all Indian Languages in InDesign and With SpellPlus you get Spelling and Hyphenation Support for Hindi Language and other Indian Languages. There are more than 100 Languages supported in SpellPlus. Language Experts working in-house have developed dictionary for Hindi Language and it contains more than 1,25,000 Words. Dictionaries for Indian languages are updated at regular intervals.

    Our licensing policy allows customer to use any number of languages and also allows to use the same license for both InDesign and InCopy. You can avail the combo offer for IndicPlus and SpellPlus which costs 99 USD. We believe in “Try before you Buy”. Fully functional Demo version can be downloaded using the following Links

    Link to IndicPlus

    Link to SpellPlus

    Best Regards
    – Viren
    MetaDesign Solutions

  11. @George

    Thanks for the link, it’s working with CS4 for Arabic text, great help.

    Thanks and regards,
    Rehan ul Haque

  12. I’m writing to find out if we could do typesetting for Ethiopia languages using InDesign ME.

    The languages I needed are:
    – Amharic
    – Oromifa
    – Somali
    – Tigrigna

    Does InDesign support? Are there unicodes for the above?

    Any input will be of great help.

  13. I just checked Amharic, and it appears to work correctly in InDesign, as long as you use a unicode font. (I don’t speak it or read it, so take that with a grain of salt.)

    Amharic, Oromifa and Tigrigna all use the same unicode range.

    Here’s a website which has links for free Amharic/ Tigrigna/ Oromifa fonts:

    As far as Somali goes, it looks like there’s more than one way of writing it!

    (Again, I know next to nothing about these languages…)

  14. It looks like Indesign CS5 (none ME) for Mac has a solution for this. In the Paragraph Styles window there is a style sheet called Arabic. If you copy and paste from a website or translation program like Babylon and apply this style sheet to the text box before you paste it seems to work for Arabic text. It even keeps the ligatures.

    I’m so chuffed, I’ve spent all day trying to figure this out. Even tried the free scripts offered here but they did not keep the ligatures.

    Thanks for a great site. Were it not for all this feedback I would not have figured it out.

  15. Oops, sorry. CS5 does not have a default style sheet. The style sheet comes in when you activate the script posted about earlier.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *