Call for Action
At March 28, 2012, Jason Warner, Ubuntu Desktop Manager at Canonical Ltd., published a "Call for Topics" for Ubuntu 12.10 in the ubuntu-desktop mailing list.
This is an Opportunity
This is an opportunity to drive RTL considerations deep into the considerations of Ubuntu developers and particularly Ayatana developers.
It would be great if RTL could be represented at UDS.
March 28th to April 30th: Discussions in the list.
May 1st to UDS: Desktop Team will present a review of topics in form of approved blueprints.
May 7th to May 11th: Ubuntu Developer Summit
Approx. two weeks post UDS: Desktop Team presents the 12.10 Plan Review
Our Topic Request
Here is a suggested Call for Topic to send to the ubuntu-desktop mailing list:
--- snip ---
Subject: [Desktop12.10-Topic] RTL support
We, the RTL Team, hope that RTL supoprt can be acknowledged as a requisite in Ubuntu Desktop.
And we suggest that RTL will be given the required attention in this cycle in order to deliver a product that can be used in RTL languages. We believe that with a bit of help from the RTL team we can make 12.10 a release that can be used with RTL languages out of the box again.
Implementing support for languages that are written from right to left (RTL), requires more than just translation. Since RTL users are accustomed to read from right to left, they naturally scan the UI from right to left. Essentially, they expect to see a mirror image of the UI (there are exceptions). So the UI's layout needs to be changed to facilitate this. For instance, text should be right aligned instead of left aligned, and checkboxes are placed to the right of their label instead of to the left of it, vertical scrollbars are on the left side instead of on the right side and so on. Here are some screenshots and there's a good, more in-depth reading about this RTL mirroring at the Chromium project.
How many RTL users are there? Popcon from Sat Mar 31 07:17:47 2012 UTC:
- language-pack-ar 22622
- language-pack-he 11380
- language-pack-fa 6294
- language-pack-ur 4362
- language-pack-dv 3736
- language-pack-yi 3600
- language-pack-ug 3303
- language-pack-sd 2970
- language-pack-ps 2136
- language-pack-ks 1728
Total: 62131 RTL language-support packages.
Obviously, this number does not reflect the actual number of Ubuntu RTL users. One, less obvious reason for why it does not, is that many of the RTL users choose to set their Ubuntu Desktop language to an LTR language. This would mostly be a second language for them, like, English, for example. I would say that the vast majority of the more technical users do this.
RTL languages speakers in the world:
- Arabic: 300 Million
- Persian: 110 Million
- Urdu: 60 Million
- Pashto: 50 Million
- Kurdish: 16 Million
- Sindhi: 21 Million
- Hebrew: 8 Million
Total: 565 Million people! (stats from Wikipedia)
Even though Ubuntu has some RTL bugs, users have enjoyed a reasonably consistent RTL experience; Qt and GTK+ have sufficient RTL support and so do Firefox and LibreOffice. RTL experience has dramatically changed since Unity became default session.
Unity, and Nux, it's underlying toolkit, don't have RTL mirroring support. This means that RTL users get Unity rendered LTR while the rest of the desktop is RTL. Here's a screenshot. Notice that Unity is still on the left side and that the panel is also exactly like in LTR.
We, at the Ubuntu RTL Team, are both trying to develop RTL support (mainly Haggai Eran) and, in the meantime, in order to provide a sane situation in precise, we are working on a fallback from Unity to Unity 2D (which already supports RTL).
By the way, this mistake was also done in Android, giving birth to the most popular issue on the tracker. Unlike Ubuntu, Android's development is closed to the public. In Ubuntu we don't have this "excuse".
The RTL community should have stepped in at the beginning of Ayatana. I hope that we will be able to participate more from now on.
Finally, here are some RTL resources for developers.
Thanks and Blessings,
Shahar and the RTL Team
--- snip ---