How to set text direction "right to left" for Arabic translation?

Dear Survey Solutions team,

I am running an online survey that is translated from English to Arabic (among other languages). Is there a way to indicate that the text direction is right to left? In the Excel translation file the text looks fine, e.g., the numbering starts from the right, alignment is from the right and punctuation is correct (periods in the correct place), but when I upload it, it looks like in the picture below. (Or does it maybe depend on the browser settings of the computer on which the questionnaire is opened)?

Thank you! Sebastiaan

  1. The Arabic text is Aligned left (just like in English) instead of right as it should be in Arabic (the translation column in the translation Excel file is Aligned right).
  2. We have question numbers in the text and these appear at the left of the first line, instead of at the right as they should and are in the Excel file.
  3. Periods at the end of the text are placed on the right of the last line, even though in the Excel file they are placed at the end of the text (on the left). Question marks do not seem to give this problem.

As it should look:

All translations included in Excel are assumed to be LTR languages. When you specify that the translation is “Arabic”, for Survey Solutions it is just as good as “A2” or “Marsian”. It is simply a label which has no consequence for formatting.


#1 - not possible,

#2 use proper Arabic numbers, not the numbers we call “Arabic”:

#3 With the periods, check this topic

It works for me

Perhaps get some consultations from Arabic speakers, they will tell you all the tricks related to entry in RTL and LTR languages.

Thank you Sergiy,

On #1, I did not mean to imply that the programme should recognise the word “Arabic”, but just wanted to know if there was a RTL option that I could somehow enable. Pity there is not. Does it make sense requesting this in the relevant section of this forum or are you already working on it/have decided not to include this option?

On #2, thank you, I will ask our translator to use those.

On #3, when you said it worked for you, did you do as they suggested in the WR forum and use right-Shift+Ctrl with an Arabic keyboard?

Thanks again,


Dear Sergiy,

On point 3, can I ask you again how you entered your period so it appeared at the left rather than the right in your example? I sent the WR link you gave me to our translator, but he is still having difficulties. (Or could the issue perhaps appear only if the text consists of multiple lines?)

Thank you again,


Hello Sergiy,

Sorry to come back to this, but it is giving a lot of issues not to have the rtl language option. Especially when using Latin characters in the translation as well (e.g., quotation marks, *, (), html tags,@, emailaddresses, etc) which are hard to avoid altogether, the word order changes and jumps about, so it is not only a matter of the alignment. I have spoken to several people with experience with Arabic translation and editing Arabic texts , but even so, it looks like we will have to change the text quite a bit in the Arabic (and reduce the number of latin characters by as much as possible), which will mean loss of clarity. I would therefore like to ask again if this functionality can be added to what I really feel is already a fantastic programme.

On the real Arabic (Indian) numbers that you suggested, do you know how to incorporate these in a translation Excel file? If I copy paste the Indian/Arabic character into the file, it is automatically converted to Arabic numerals (I tried copying in this post and the same happens). I managed to include the Indian/Arabic numerals using html code (e.g. ٢٠ for “20”, but I worry that the latin characters of the html code will mess up my Arabic text again).

Any advice appreciated,




  1. Survey Solutions is not doing anything special to the Unicode string which it needs to display. If you managed to type in the text in whatever language (or languages) it should display it as is. Occasionally, displaying the text verbatim may have some undesired consequences, (as for example here) we then fix these specific cases. This issue doesn’t fall into this group.

  2. I am not Arabic-speaker, and have zero knowledge of various challenges that this language presents. Hence it is better to address the whole user community, rather than me individually.

  3. My naive recommendation would be:
    A) open notepad.exe and type your text there. If you can’t type it there - it is a purely user typing issue and should be addressed as such, see here and elsewhere;
    B) once you can successfully type the text you want in notepad, do the same in Excel. My expectation is that it will accept the input just fine and with the same visual result.
    C) after that import the translation into the Survey Solutions. Again, my expectation is that you will see the translated text exactly as seen in Excel.

Only if you have a problem with 3-C can we do anything about it. If the problem is with earlier steps – it is not related to Survey Solutions. You can consult to users of other systems, including ones preparing questionnaires in Excel for their advice.

PS: as explained already the text-alignment (this is different from text-direction!) is not configurable in Survey Solutions, so the paragraphs will appear on the screen left-aligned even if it is an RTL language.

Best, Sergiy

Dear Sergiy,

Thanks again for your long email and for trying to help. The text does move from Excel to SuSo(3C), as shown in the screenshots below (see Arabic text before and after “COMPLETE” (as said before it is the introducion of non-Arabic characters that makes the text jump).

When I copy the text from Excel (into which our translator entered it and where it looks correct) and paste it into Notepad, it also shifts, but I can then press shift+ctrl and it converts it to RTL and displays correctly. Even if I then copy paste from Notepad into Excel again, the problem remains the same (ie. it looks fine in Excel, but once uploaded to designer and tested in the online tester - or uploaded to the server with created assignment - it doesn’t).

Looking online, this issue of jumping text in Arabic when mixed with English/Latin characters is not unique to SoSu, but in other software such as Notepad, you can afterwards indicate the RTL conditions to correct it, which I can’t in SuSo.

I have checked that I saved the Excel file as Unicode UTF-8. Could it be that there is another Excel setting that I might have to change?

Many thanks again!


Sebastiaan, the following images are taken from the OpenOffice Calc program opening the Arabic translation file. Different images correspond to different column width of the Arabic translation. Absolutely no changes were made to the cell content:

Note how the characters adjacent to “COMPLETE” differ between the screenshots.

I believe the Survey Solutions is behaving in a similar way.

This is as far as I can help with this issue.

Best, Sergiy

Thank you again Sergiy for all your efforts. I will look into your last message and see if I can solve it in Open office calc and see if that solves it in Survey Solutions as well.

I wanted to share with you one last thing we found, namely that opening the survey in Internet Explorer, and then going to the menu VIEW, then ENCODING, and selecting “Right to left document” seemed to solve all issues as the Arabic then appeared as it did in the original Excel file (i.e. in the right word order regardless of the presence of English words/characters). We thought we had it solved, but answering any of the single select or multiple select questions in this setting makes the screen jump to the left and the questionnaire becomes invisible until scolled back (which makes this an impractical solution in the end).

(we were not able to set the same VIEW-Encoding-RTL setting in other browsers (firefox or chrome).

Thank you,


Dear all,

I just wanted to share how we dealt with this in the end, in case this is helpful to anyone else. We did not solve the issue, but tried to reduce the problems as much as we could by doing the following:

  • As far as we could, we removed any Latin alphabet characters (as this was what made the text jump).
  • If we really needed Latin characters (e.g. for emails), we placed “enters” (using html tags) before and after the Latin characters if this was feasible.
  • We used ‘Indian’ numerals instead of the Arabic numerals, as the software reads the latter as Latin characters, and causes jumps.

If anyone has found a better solution, I would still be most grateful to hear about this, as this was a painful process with a less than ideal outcome, and I would really like to use Survey Solutions for future surveys that include Arabic translations.

In reference to my previous email, I found that Firefox and Chrome no longer enable setting the RTL encoding manually, because they claim their programmes now automatically detect the correct encoding (a google search showed other people found this automatic detection to be faulty).




Dear Sebastiaan,

thank you very much for sharing the summary!!

Sharing your experience and solutions used to solve the problem, whether perfectly or acceptably is super helpful and is exactly in the spirit of this forum.

Best, Sergiy

Hi there, is this the only solution for this “issue”?

Hi Mproano,

It has been about a year since I had to deal with this, so I am not sure if anything changed in the mean time. I am certainly no expert, but from what I googled back then, I think the problem in part may have been caused by browsers (firefox, chrome) ending the ability to manually set the “encoding” of the website to “right-to-left” (which I assume people did who read websites in Arabic). This was made ‘automatic’ and the browser should therefore recognise the correct encoding itself. From what I googled back then, this didn’t work very well, and there were a lot of complaints, but perhaps it is better now?

However, at the time in IE you could still manually set the encoding, but it created new problems in Survey Solutions that made it a non-option (I think I wrote about it in the post somewhere), so I am not sure if it was the only reason for the problem.

When I spoke to people who designed websites in Arabic they were adament that the Survey Solutions software should facilitate some option for it, and indeed in other software (such as Word, etc) you have to select a “right-to-left” option before the text is presented correctly, but I am no expert and the (very helpful and knowledgeable) members of the Survey Solutions team said it wasn’t possible to do this.

So I am afraid that the short answer is that I really don’t know, but if you (or perhaps the Survey Solutions team) do find a solution for it (if it is still a problem), I would love to hear about it. If you don’t mind, please let me know how you get on.

Best wishes,