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Sunday, 3 April 2016

RTL on Office 2016 Mac –Finally, Third-party RTL Keyboards and Syriac Fonts Now Work! But… the fix is not from Microsoft

Third-party RTL Keyboards
I reported on 10 March 2016 that third-party or ‘custom’ (non-Apple) RTL keyboards, like Syriac, Hebrew TH and Biblical Hebrew Sil, are not recognised as RTL in Office 2016 Mac. They are treated as ‘English’ in the language bar, and type Left to Right. They also will not activate the RTL/LTR buttons.

I found, actually tripped over, a solution. Apple keyboards are in a folder with a file extension called ‘.bundle’, while third-party keyboards have the file extension ‘.keylayout’. Apple keyboards also have a language associated with them. Guess what? Third-party keyboards work if you link the keyboard with a language, and save it as ‘.bundle’. 

I have no idea why Office 2016 Mac is looking only for .bundle and not .keylayout, and whether they may change it in the future. And let me reiterate, all these keyboards work just fine in Mellel and LibreOffice.

So how do you do this link a language to a keyboard and change it with file extension 'bundle'? With an application (free) called ‘Ukelele’ (yes, that’s the spelling and yes, it’s not the correct way to spell the instrument). By the way, there are no shortcuts. You can't change the extension in Finder and hope. And you MUST associate the keyboard with a language. 

Here are the instructions. They may seem complicated, but they aren't really, I've just included a lot of pictures.

1.     Download and install the Ukelele app here: http://scripts.sil.org/cms/scripts/page.php?site_id=nrsi&id=ukelele

The download looks like this.

Ukelele is a Unicode Keyboard Layout Editor (free) for Mac OS X. It’s very safe, and widely used to create custom keyboards.

2.     Make sure you have your third-party keyboard in the Input Source menu, by clicking the Flag in the upper right of your screen. If your keyboard is there, go to #3 below.

For example, let’s change the Syriac keyboard layout. Right now, it’s not one of the Input Sources under the Flag.

Go to System Preferences/Keyboards/Input Sources. Click the ‘+’.

The Syriac keyboard, like most third-party keyboards that aren’t working, will be in ‘Others’. Highlight Syriac JChill and click ‘Add’.

3.     Go to the Input Source menu at the top of your screen (the Flag), and click on the Syriac keyboard.

4.     In the Applications menu, open Ukelele.app

5.     In Ukelele, go to File/New From Current Input Source

6.     In the popup menu, you will see the name of your keyboard. Notice that there is no language associated with the keyboard. Click on the button called ‘Language’.

7.     In the first section, ‘Language (required)’ find the language you want to associate with your keyboard. In this case, Syriac. Click ‘OK’.

8.     The keyboard will now have a language associated with it. Click on the red button button in the upper left corner of the popup to exit.  

9.     Give your keyboard a title in ‘Save As:’. Store it in a temporary area like Desktop. ***And this is the most important. In File Format make sure it is set to ‘Keyboard Layout Bundle, and NOT Keyboard Layout. Click ‘Save’. You will see that your Syriac keyboard now has the file extension ‘.bundle’.

10.  Open Finder and go to Go to Macintosh HD/Library/Keyboard Layouts. Drag and Drop or Copy and Paste the keyboard.bundle into this file.

11.  Now, go to the Flag and click Open Keyboard Preferences. Remove your third-party keyboard by clicking the ‘-‘. Then click the ‘+’. You will see that there is a new menu item called ‘Syriac’. If your keyboard.bundle was Hebrew, it will be in the Hebrew menu. Click on Syriac, find your keyboard and click ‘Add’.

Now try your keyboard, and you will see that it works just fine! And now the third-party keyboards activate the LTR/RTL buttons!

Syriac Fonts in Office 2016 Mac Version 15.20

I suggested in the last post (29/3/2016) that if you want to use Syriac in Office 2016 Mac, don’t upgrade to Version 15.20, but stay with 15.19.1.  This is still a good idea and the above fix for third-party keyboards works in this version as well.  

But another accidental discovery that I made allows you to work with Syriac fonts in Version 15.20. The secret? Save your Word Document as extension .doc and NOT .docx. The fonts work perfectly.  Warning: you must save it to a .doc file when you first use the Syriac fonts, and every time after. Otherwise, Word will revert to Estrangelo Edessa. 

And another warning: this is not a long-term solution. .doc and .docx are very different animals and you will be inviting a rash of compatibility issues. Microsoft Word experts everywhere are cringing at the thought. But .doc does the trick!

Have a great week!



  1. Your method works well still on Word 16.9 (for MAC). Alas, the Coptic font Antinoou (using the .bundle extension from Ukulele) has quite working.
    Do you have any ideas for a solution?

    1. Glad some of it worked. I did not test the Coptic, but i shall take a look now. All best!

    2. The problem that you are encountering is that Microsoft does not support 'custom' fonts on Office 365 for Mac, which includes any that you have to install. https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/295062/third-party-installed-font-does-not-appear-in-the-font-list-in-word-fo

      My experience is that some third-party fonts will work, and some will not. For example, Ezra Sil and Cardo work fine, but as you have discovered, the Coptic Antinoou does not. There is a similar problem with the Syriac Meltho fonts, as noted on this blog. Only Estrangelo works, and that's because it is provided by Apple. I continue to attempt to find solutions, and will post the moment i do. I have attempted various workarounds suggested on some sites without success, including converting from .ttf to .dfont, and back, as well as emptying the caches (as suggested in the link above). If you come up with a solution, I would be happy to post, giving you full credit.

      One clarification that should be made. In your question, you have conflated two issues, Keyboards and Fonts. The Keyboard is controlled by the icon in the upper right corner, near the clock, on your Mac. In this case, Coptic would be your Keyboard. Aninoou is a Font that must be change in your program, in this case Office 365 (Word) for Mac.

      The discussion in the blog for using Ukelele to create a .bundle extension is for Third-Party Keyboards, which were not operating Right-to-Left correctly. Alas, the method will not fix a Font (I've tried). The Coptic Keyboard, which I downloaded (you may have another), works just fine, because it is a Left-to-Right language.

      There are two fonts that will work with the Coptic keyboard - New Athena Unicode, and Titus Cyberbit Basic. I will let you know, if I discover any others.

      It is an irritating reality that all third-party fonts work perfectly on Office 365 for Windows, Mellel, and LibreOffice. Microsoft has evidently decided that they are not going to bother with the font problem, and I suspect it's because they would have to redesign too much of the architecture to make it work.