There are many choices of fonts to use. I’ll list only two here that are easy to use.
- Times New Arabic. All SOAS computers have this font pre-installed. You can download the font for free from http://www.mcgill.ca/islamicstudies/students/arabic/. This website also has detailed instructions on how to install the font and also detailed instructions on how to use it.
- Times New Roman—The other option is to use the customary Times new Roman font. While I used Times new Arabic while writing my dissertation, I now use this font because it is readable on all computers. With Times new Arabic, if the PC of the person you send the file to does not have that font installed, all your diacritics look like gibberish. Plus the font the Times new Roman font looks better especially when italicized. The use of diacritics in Times new Roman is very easy if you carry out these steps just once on your PC.
- There is one basic step that you need to take to make sure that you can use this font without hindrance and that is assigning a shortcut key that will install the diacritic hyphen and the diacritic dot. For the diacritical dot below the letter (as in ṣ), you need to go to the insert tab in MS word, and click on insert symbol. In the font menu choose normal font, in the subset menu choose ‘Combining Diacritical Marks’. As symbols are highlighted you will see on the bottom left hand corner (just above the AutoCorrect button) the name of the symbol and to its right the character code. The symbol you are searching for is ‘Combining dot below’ and its character code is 0323. Once you find that click on the Shortcut Key button and create a new shortcut for the dot. The default cumbersome shortcut is 0323, ALT + X. I have changed it to CTRL+9. So now when you want to type in ṣ, if you assigned my shortcut, you simply type s and then press CTRL and 9, which will insert the dot below, and continue typing. For the hyphen above the vowels you follow the same process but look for the symbol called ‘Combining Macron’ and character code 0304. You can change the shortcut key as described above. The one I have is CTRL+8. So if you assigned my shortcut and you want to type ā, you simply type a then press CTRL and then 8. For the ͨayn, you to go insert fonts and in the same subset a little further down you can see superscript letters. What you want to use is the small ‘c’ (character code 0368). The original shortcut key is 0368, ALT+X which I’ve changed to CTRL+7. So if you want a ͨayn, simply press CTRL then 7 and the small superscripted ‘c’ will appear, after which you can complete your word (if the ͨayn is in the middle of the word be sure to leave two spaces before pressing CTRL+7, otherwise the will overlap the letter before it).
- Other options—There a couple of other option suggested by the McGill University Institute of Islamic Studies website. One is to use Unicode fonts using an MS Word template and the second is to install a diacritic toolbar for MS word for the easy insertion of diacritics’. Detailed instructions for these transliteration fonts are available at: http://www.mcgill.ca/islamicstudies/students/arabic_unicode_font/.