A Beginner’s Manual to Typing in Arabic on Your Laptop and Smartphones


Believe me, I am well aware that this may not be the sexiest topic around.

But one of the things that I find people tend to gloss over when they talk about learning Arabic is how to successfully marry Arabic language with technology.

It’s easy to take for granted.

After all, most language learning takes place in the form of old-school resources like books and papers and hardly any thought or explanation is given to how to type, send a text, Google search in Arabic and so on and so forth.

It’s a little ironic, considering how much more of our time is spent online rather than offline.

I personally only came across this problem when I first started studying at Qasid Institute in Amman, when the teacher demanded a full 1000-word essay in Arabic, typed up and emailed to her by the end of the semester.

After panicking for a good week, I decided to just buckle down and sort out how to go about doing this.

As such, here is my manual that will hopefully make your transition from writing to typing Arabic much less painful. Please remember that I am not a techie of any sort (in fact I will be the first to tell you I’m the biggest tech idiot around) so I only went about trying to solve the problem in as few steps and as simply as possible.


How to Type in Arabic on Your Laptop

Now this would depend first and foremost on what operating system you’re using.

If you’re using a Macintosh

You would have to:

1. Go to your System Preferences application

2. Under Personal, go to Language and Text, where you will see four bars at the top, Language, Text, Formats, and Input Sources.

3. Go to input sources and click on the checkbox that corresponds with the language you want to have available. In this case it would be either Arabic, Arabic PC or Arabic QWERTY.


What is the difference between them?

The difference basically lies in the Arabic letters that correspond with individual keys. In the Arabic PC keyboard (pictured above) for example, . would appear as ز while in the Arabic keyboard, it would appear as .

Arabic QWERTY is a different animal in the sense that the Arabic letters match as much as possible with the letters in English by how they sound. So ك would be k and ل would be l. It’s probably a more intuitive keyboard if you’re first starting out.

Here’s what the Arabic QWERTY keyboard looks like, to make it clearer.



After selecting the keyboard, you will notice that at the top right hand corner of the screen, right beside the date and time, a country flag will appear to show which keyboard is currently in use.

In order to change the language, just click on the flag and select from the list that appears one of the keyboard you’ve installed. This comes in especially useful if you need to search on Google for something in Arabic or create any type of document.


Which keyboard do I use?

I personally use the Arabic PC keyboard because it’s the most common. But it really depends on which one you’re most comfortable with, so don’t fret about which one is the best one.

In any case it’s just a matter of time before you get used to it so don’t sweat which keyboard you need to pick.


If you’re using Windows

You would have to follow the steps outlined in this video. I’m a little cautious about giving advice for Windows OS, simply because I’m not using one.


Another alternative solution you can try, if you’re averse to installing new keyboards or if it’s still too newfangled for you, would be to use free online software to type Arabic into. I can’t lavish enough praise on Yamli Editor , I used it for most of my assignments and got away with it, and later on experimented with Arabic Keyboard with much success as well.
How to Type Arabic on your Smartphones

Now don’t fret, I’ve found this to be pretty simple as well. I clearly can’t devise instructions for every single smartphone out there, but I do know how to do this for iPhones and Samsungs. For the rest of you smartphone users out there, you can use this as a sort of template, or even better, trying Googling how to change your keyboard input.

You’re a smart bunch, you’ll figure it out.

Also at this point I would caution not to end up changing the entire language of the phone into Arabic just yet because believe me, you will be kicking yourself when you have to turn something off under Data Settings and don’t know what Data Settings are in Arabic and can’t go back to changing the language back to English because you don’t know where the Language Settings are either and end up frantically pressing anywhere, anywhere on the screen in the hope that your operating language will magically return to English.

Not that it’s uh, happened to me or anything.


So in order to change your language input for iPhones:

1. Go to your Settings

2. Go to General

3. Go to Keyboard

4. Go to Add New Keyboard

5. Choose Arabic

Now for example, if you want to switch from your English keyboard to your Arabic keyboard, open the Messages or Whatsapp application and you’ll have to click on the Globe icon on the left side of the space bar and this will allow you to toggle between keyboards.


For Samsung phones,

1. Click the Menu button

2. Go to Settings

3. Go to Language and Input

4. Click on the Gear icon next to Samsung keyboard

5. Click on input language

6. Select عربية and make sure that the checkboxes are tickes for English and Arabic

On the message screen, simple swipe the spacebar from left to right in order to toggle between keyboards. This website explains it in much more detail than I ever could.


If all else fails, go to either here or here to get any and every tech issue you could possibly have sorted out when it comes to typing Arabic.

Seriously, I should have just posted am empty page with links to both these pages, they are that awesome.

Was this post useful for you? Does technology drive you up the wall like it does us? What other Arabic language-related technological problems have you faced? Let’s face it we probably can’t help you out, but share with us in the comments and hopefully another commenter can!

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