Revision 6 as of 2012-04-04 11:25:50

Clear message

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 from the ground up

Dear Friends,

Please allow me to suggest that RTL should be officially recognized in Ubuntu.

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[1] and there's a good, more in-depth reading about this RTL mirroring at the Chromium project[2].

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

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.

Even though Ubuntu has some RTL bugs[3], 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[4]. This means that RTL users get Unity rendered LTR while the rest of the desktop is RTL. Here's a screenshot[5]. 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[6], 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[7] 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[8]. 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.

And here are some RTL resources for developers[9].

  1. https://wiki.ubuntu.com/RTLTeam/RTLScreenshots

  2. http://www.chromium.org/developers/design-documents/ui-mirroring-infrastructure

  3. https://launchpad.net/ubuntu/+bugs?field.tag=rtl

  4. https://bugs.launchpad.net/unity/+bug/654988

  5. https://bugs.launchpad.net/unity/+bug/654988/+attachment/2979647/+files/screenshot.png

  6. https://wiki.ubuntu.com/RTLTeam

  7. https://wiki.ubuntu.com/RTLTEAM/FallBackToUnity2D

  8. https://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id=5597&sort=-stars

  9. https://wiki.ubuntu.com/RTLTeam/RTLResources

Thanks and Blessings,
Shahar and the RTL Team

--- snip ---