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Subject: marking directionality of text inside a paragraph


I am sending this proposal here according to the recommendation of
Thorsten Behrens.

I read the section about bidirectional text in the OpenDocument
standard [1] and it says: "The writing mode attribute can be applied
individually to paragraph styles, page styles, section styles, table
styles, table cell styles, graphic styles and chart styles." If i
understand it correctly, this means that it cannot be applied to text
inside a paragraph and for that Unicode control characters, such as
RLM, RLE and PDF must be used. In terms of HTML4, this means that it
in OpenDocument it is possible to do something like <div
dir="rtl">Arabic paragraph</div>, but it is not possible to do
something like <span dir="rtl">Arabic sentence in an English

This feature is needed very frequently for quoting foreign names,
sentences from foreign literature or mathematical formulas. For
example, the English name of the company "Yahoo!" will appear
incorrectly in a paragraph of Arabic or Hebrew text, because the
exclamation mark will go to the other side ("!Yahoo"). Currently there
are two solutions for that:
1. Writing the exclamation mark at the other end. This makes it appear
correctly, but it breaks the logical order of the characters.

2. Using the characters LRE and PDF, as the standard suggests. It is
possible, but it is too complicated for almost all end-users: these
characters are not present on the common keyboard layouts and besides,
the concept of invisible control characters is very hard for most
people to comprehend.

Adding this feature will make the life of many Open/LibreOffice users
who write in Arabic, Urdu, Persian, Hebrew and other such languages
easier and it will improve the interoperability with HTML in general.
I should also mention that i am working in the Wikimedia Foundation on
improving the support of Wikipedia and related sites for bidirectional
text; the next generation of the Wikipedia article editing interface
may include support for this feature (based on HTML), so having this
feature in ODF will particularly improve the interoperability with
Wikipedia and related projects, by making it easier to export
documents from OpenOffice to Wikipedia, for example.

A possible challenge in implementing this feature is that the software
must show the user who edits the document that a particular piece of
inline text has different directionality. The directionality of a
paragraph is usually obvious, but the different directionality of
inline text is less obvious (especially when it's set correctly!).
However, this is probably a consideration for the implementers and not
for the standard authors.

Thank you very much for consideration. Please let me know if you have
any questions.

[1] a very large HTML file:

Amir Elisha Aharoni · אָמִיר אֱלִישָׁע אַהֲרוֹנִי
‪“We're living in pieces,
I want to live in peace.” – T. Moore‬

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