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Short URL: http://scripts.sil.org/Lateef


Arabic Script Unicode Font

Bob Hallissy, 2007-06-22


The Lateef page has been moved to a new web site. Please  click here for the new site.


The Lateef page has been moved to a new web site. Please  click here for the new site.

Table of Contents for this web page:

Updated 2008-12-11

LateefRegOT font is now available under the SIL Open Font License.


Lateef is an extended Arabic script font designed by SIL International for modern Unicode-based systems using either OpenType or AAT (Apple Advanced Typography) for complex-script rendering. It supports virtually all of the Unicode 4.1 Arabic character repertoire (excluding the Arabic Presentation Forms blocks, which are not recommended for normal use). Lateef is currently available in Regular weight only.

Lateef is named after Shah Abdul Lateef Bhitai, the famous Sindhi mystic and poet. It is intended to be an appropriate style for use in Sindhi and other languages of the southern Asia:

Lateef provides a “simplified” rendering of Arabic script, using basic connecting glyphs but not including a wide variety of additional ligatures or contextual alternates (only the required lam-alef ligatures). This simplified style is often preferred for clarity, especially in non-Arabic languages, but may be considered unattractive in more traditional and literate communities.

Character repertoire

Unicode blockLateef
Arabic except for 0600..060B, 060D..0613, 0615..061A, 0620, 063B..063F, 065F
Arabic Supplement except for 076E..077F
Arabic Presentation Forms-A
Arabic Presentation Forms-B
Codepage 1252 (Western)1

A selection of characters from the General Punctuation block, such as various-sized spaces, are also supported; a utility such as SIL ViewGlyph can be used to examine the exact repertoire of each font.

Language specific features

Advanced features

U+06DD ARABIC END OF AYAH 1-3 digits

Software requirements

Lateef utilizes OpenType and AAT technology to provide rendering information needed by application and system software. Usability of the features provided in Lateef will depend on the exact capabilities of your software.

Arabic script is a complex and difficult script, and this complexity is compounded by the fact that Arabic script is used for many different languages and cultures with variations in acceptable calligraphic style. From a computer perspective at least, the technologies used to implement Arabic script are not yet fully mature. The result is that while a given font might work for one set of languages on a given software platform, the same font might not work for other languages or on other platforms. This means that it is very difficult to give an accurate answer to the question of software requirements.

Basic rendering

Lateef is available in versions for two different rendering technologies, OpenType and AAT. The exact behavior varies slightly, because of the differing capabilities of these technologies.


Lateef supports the OpenType shaping features specified by  Microsoft. The result is that Lateef works pretty well in Microsoft Office XP (or later) as well as in most  Uniscribe-based applications such as  Paratext 6 and  Toolbox. At this time Uniscribe has not been updated for Unicode 5.1 and so does not support the Arabic Supplement characters (U+076E..U+077F), nor a few new characters in the 06xx block.

 International Components for Unicode (ICU) includes a shaping engine for Arabic text and thus applications such as XeTeX that use ICU Layout will be able to render text using SIL's Arabic fonts. The ICU Layout library used in XeTeX has been updated to support the Arabic Supplement characters added in Unicode 4.1.

 OpenOffice Writer on Windows is Uniscribe-based and on Linux is ICU-based. See preceding paragraphs regarding Uniscribe and ICU. Note that the character repertoire supported depends on the version of ICU Layout used, and may not yet include the latest additions to Unicode.

If you are aware of specific software environments where these fonts are known to work (or not work), we would like to hear from you.

Apple Advanced Typography (AAT)

The AAT-enabled version of Lateef should automatically render with the proper contextual forms in applications that use the ATSUI (Apple Type Services for Unicode Imaging) text system on Mac OS X. This includes many standard OS X applications such as TextEdit, as well as software such as XeTeX (which can work with both the OpenType and AAT fonts). Note, however, that (like other Arabic fonts) they will not render properly in products such as Microsoft Word, Adobe InDesign, or other applications that use their own text-handling routines rather than relying on ATSUI.

Because of limitations of the AAT technology, diacritic positioning with the AAT-enabled fonts may be less accurate than the OpenType versions, and stacking of multiple diacritics is not well supported (except for a few commonly-used combinations).

Advanced features

Language-specific features in OpenType

For each supported script, an OpenType font provides a set of rules detailing the default shaping behavior. The font may optionally provide alternate shaping behavior to be used for specific languages.2 For example, the shape of U+0647  ARABIC LETTER HEH may need to be slightly different for the Sindhi language than for typical Arabic use.

However, the infrastructure needed to access the language-specific behavior is not yet present in a majority of applications. For example: with the exception of alternate digits, Uniscribe-based applications such as Microsoft Office do not benefit from language-specific behavior. Some ICU-based apps, e.g., XeTeX, can access language-specific behavior.

Optional font features in AAT

AAT fonts do not have the same model of “language systems” as OpenType, but the same glyph variants are accessible through “font features” that can be accessed via the Typography palette in many OS X applications (available from the “gear” icon in the Font panel, when this panel is large enough).


ARABIC END OF AYAH is intended to enclose or hold one or more digits. Uniscribe-based applications are likely to display these properly. Other applications may require the following hack: precede the entire sequence (end of ayah plus following digits) with either U+202D LEFT-TO-RIGHT OVERRIDE or U+202E RIGHT-TO-LEFT OVERRIDE and follow the entire sequence with U+202C POP DIRECTIONAL FORMATTING. Exactly which of these hacks might work depends on your application. (For typesetting with XeTeX, this can be automated using the “font mapping” feature to insert the directional controls needed.)

This character is also supported in the AAT versions of the font. However, at least in version 10.3 of Mac OS X, the Cocoa text system does not render them correctly, and so they will only work properly in applications such as WorldText or XeTeX that use ATSUI directly, not through the Cocoa text framework.


Subscribe to SIL Font News announce list

If you wish to receive announcements about updates to Lateef, or any of our SIL fonts, please go to this page to subscribe: SIL Font News subscription.

Please note: There are two licensing options

Version 1.0 of Lateef was released as copyrighted freeware. All future versions will be released under SIL's Open Font License instead.

In the meantime we have released LateefRegOT 1.001 under the Open Font License. In almost all respects this font is exactly the same as the 1.0 version. The only differences are:

  • The change to Open Font License
  • The addition of SIL TypeTuner tables to make it possible to access alternate behaviors of the fonts. To download fonts with alternate behaviors, visit TypeTuner Web.

Thus you will find two download sections available on this page:

Open Font License

Lateef, version 1.001 and beyond, is released under the SIL Open Font License - please read it carefully and do not download the font unless you agree to the terms of the license.

License details for Lateef:

Copyright (c) 2004-2008, SIL International ( http://www.sil.org/), with Reserved Font Names "Lateef" and "SIL".

This Font Software is licensed under the SIL Open Font License, Version 1.1. This license is available with a FAQ at: http://scripts.sil.org/OFL

Version differences

The only changes between version 1.0 (see below) and this OFL release is:

  • The change to Open Font License
  • The addition of SIL TypeTuner tables to make it possible to access alternate behaviors of the font. To download fonts with alternate behaviors, visit TypeTuner Web.

The Arabic-script typeface Lateef with OpenType font technology, released under the Open Font License:

Lateef Regular (OpenType), Open Font License
Bob Hallissy, Jonathan Kew, 2008-11-05
Download "LateefRegOT_1.001.zip", ZIP archive, 119KB [38361 downloads]

Ubuntu repository

Ubuntu repository on packages.sil.org Installation Instructions
Ubuntu software repository

This font is available in the SIL software repository for Ubuntu on  http://packages.sil.org.

Ubuntu users can subscribe to this software repository and get current versions and updates automatically. See the  detailed instructions about adding the repository.

Freeware License


The following fonts are the property of SIL International. They are distributed as copyrighted freeware. You may use this software without any charge and may distribute it, as is, to others. Commercial distribution of this software is restricted without prior written permission. If you wish to distribute this software commercially, contact SIL for details on obtaining a license. You may not rent or lease the software, nor may you modify, adapt, translate, reverse engineer, decompile, or disassemble the software. You may not make derivative fonts from this software. THE SOFTWARE AND RELATED FILES ARE PROVIDED "AS IS" AND WITHOUT WARRANTY OF ANY KIND.

The Arabic-script typeface Lateef, version 1.0rc1, with OpenType and AAT font technologies:

OpenType for Uniscribe, ICU, Pango-based applicationsAAT for ATSUI applications on Mac OS X
Lateef Regular (OpenType)
Bob Hallissy, Jonathan Kew, 2005-06-02
Download "LateefRegOT_ttf.zip", ZIP archive, 102KB [54154 downloads]
Lateef Regular (AAT)
Bob Hallissy, Jonathan Kew, 2005-06-02
Download "LateefRegAAT_ttf.zip", ZIP archive, 180KB [32625 downloads]

1 Inclusion of basic Latin repertoire is provided as a convenience, e.g., for use in menus or for displaying markup in text files; these fonts are not intended for extensive Latin script use.
2 For details see the Overview section of  OpenType Layout Common Table Formats.

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