Tuesday, August 24, 2010


Writing Hebrew in OpenOffice under Linux
by slaveofone

This quick tutorial is provided to help those who, like myself, are or have been interested in utilizing Hebrew in OpenOffice under the KDE desktop.

I’m going to assume, first of all, that you’ve downloaded and installed the latest stable version of OpenOffice. Apparently, versions previous to 2.0.0 have been somewhat buggy trying to render vowel points/diacritics or nikud. Since I’m using Fedora Core 5, I simply used my package manager to update everything and install any extra language components. It doesn’t hurt to update KDE to the lastest release either.

Next, download the SBL Hebrew font from the Society of Biblical Literature website. This is a Unicode Hebrew font (which means you can copy and paste the Hebrew into other software applications and it will be recognized and displayed correctly). Trust me when I say this Hebrew font looks immaculate.

Once you have the font, install it in your KDE Control Center (kcontrol in the terminal) under System Administration – Font Installer

While you’re in Control Center, you need to enable a Hebrew keyboard (so that when you type, it will display Hebrew characters instead of English ones).

click on Regional and Accessibility – Keyboard Layout – double click on Israel (il) to add it

Note: To enable use of vowel points/diacritics or nikud, go to "layout variant" and select "lyx". Now you can write vowels.

Hit apply.

KDE automatically generated a keystroke shortcut for you to switch easily between English and Hebrew keyboards (CTL+ALT+K). To check or change your keystroke shortcut, go to Keyboard Shortcuts. I changed mine to CTL+ALT+Up Arrow.

Lastly, set up OpenOffice.

Go to Tools – Options – Language Settings – Languages – and check to see that Complex Text Language (CTL) is enabled. Then set SBL Hebrew as your default font in Format – Character – CTL font.

Hopefully, you already have two buttons in your menu bar which change the direction of writing from a "left-to-right" orientation to a "right-to-left" one. If not, the default shortcuts are CTL+SHIFT+A (left-to-right) and CTL+SHIFT+D (right-to-left).

Diacritical marks are:

* SHIFT+E = qamets/quamets-chatuf

* SHIFT+R = dagesh/shureq

* SHIFT+U = cholem/cholem-vav

* SHIFT+P = patach

* SHIFT+A = sheva

* SHIFT+S = dagesh/shureq

* SHIFT+G = cholem/cholem-vav

* SHIFT+H = the mark for shin

* SHIFT+J = chireq

* SHIFT+X = segol

* SHIFT+C = qibbuts

* SHIFT+V = chatef-segol

* SHIFT+B = chatef-patach

* SHIFT+N = chatef-qamets

* SHIFT+M = tsere

Check out the keyboard chart map below and get your Hebrew on.

5 Responses to “Writing Hebrew in OpenOffice under Linux”

* #370

* April 9th, 2007

* 1721

Fantastic post. Took hours to find something which would simply explain how keyboards and Unicode work on Linux. Sadly I’m a newbie to Linux (Ubuntu) and am used to Keyman on Windows systems.



Do you know how to make vowel points a different color than the consonants. I would like to be able to type a consonant, switch the color, and then type the vowel point in a different color, but this doesn’t work. Any ideas? Thanks.

Reply to Josh’s comment


nadav kavalerchik Says:

* #1039

* February 8th, 2008

* 1501

as far as i know the si1452 is a more standard punctuation layout as defined by the Israeli standards institute.

Fedora, Debian and Ubuntu have it ready by default

(along side with lyx)

i use the following configuration in the xorg.conf file to enable Win+NUM for the various punctuation marks.

Option "XkbLayout" "us,il"

Option "XkbVariant" ",si1452"

Option "XkbOptions" "grp:alt_shift_toggle,grp_led:scroll,lv3:lwin_switch"

keyboard layout : http://culmus.sourceforge.net/si1452.html


Reply to nadav kavalerchik’s comment


Philip Aston Says:

* #1105

* April 10th, 2008

* 1506

Assisting with Shul magazine… regrettably I couldn’t get culmus working, but the simple device of adding the font from this website- and your excellent advice- has solved it. And you do have to change the keyboard toggle shortcut, because Ctrl Alt K isn’t recognized in the ivrit keyboard!

Reply to Philip Aston’s comment


zahav Says:

* #1227

* November 7th, 2009

* 0119

This post is quite old, but what I enjoy from it is new. I have tried many ways in controlling niqudot, but this is the best solution I found. Thanks a lot.

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